An OPCAT Women’s World Cup 2019?

With heightened anticipation FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 has finally kicked off in beautiful France. While our Canadian heroines have yet to kick a ball, Canada’s hopes and dreams are sky high. But will this be the tournament when the Canadian women’s national side finally fulfils its chock-a-block potential?

The high expectancy that Canadian national icon Christine Sinclair may succeed in surpassing Abby Wambach’s superbly impressive world-record tally of an amazing 184 goals will cause many a breath to be held. Just four goals short of this record, the Burnaby, B.C. native has every chance of making footballing history in the weeks to come in France.

Christine Sinclair’s red & white army by Matt Boulton (2012).

As a point of comparison, the men’s international football record is currently held by Iranian Ali Daei with 109 goals, while modern-day football idol (for some at least) Cristiano Ronaldo trails a colossal 99 goals behind Abby Wambach’s current record for women on a ‘mere’ 85 goals.

Our fixation with this record aside, the Canadian women’s squad finds itself corralled in Group E with Cameroon, New Zealand and the Netherlands. While not quite the tournament’s Group of Death, Canada will still have to make more than just a half-decent effort to progress further, starting in Montpellier on Monday evening (10 June) against Cameroon. Thereafter, New Zealand and the Netherlands will undoubtedly prove to be no push-overs.

Christine Sinclair (Trending Twitter Topics from 01.02.2019)

Yet what also strikes this writer about Group E – perhaps somewhat oddly – is that all the footballing nations in the pool have either signed or ratified the OPCAT. Bar Canada, that is.

Cameroon signed the instrument almost a decade ago, while New Zealand and the Netherlands ratified the OPCAT respectively in 2007 and 2010.  

Of all six World Cup 2019 clusters, Group F fares the worst with a 50% OPCAT ratification rate (Chile and Sweden have ratified the instrument, while USA and Thailand have not). In all of the other five groups, at least three of the four footballing nations have either signed or ratified the OPCAT.

In addition to Canada, other ‘OPCAT relegation’ sides include the Republic of Korea (in Group A), China (in Group B), Jamaica (in Group C), Japan (in Group D), and, as previously noted, USA and Thailand (in Group F). Readers can find a full list here.   

What does all this mean? In footballing terms, precious little of course. Yet in human rights terms these statistics are extremely illuminating of how much progress has been made in recent years to advance a crucially important international torture prevention instrument as well as, regrettably, the lamentable extent to which Canada has fallen behind the international pace.

In view of the publication earlier this week of the highly damning Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, Reclaiming Power and Place, and its multiple Calls for Justice in relation to law enforcement and prisons and the treatment of Indigenous women and girls, the swift ratification of OPCAT should be at the forefront of the Canadian Government’s mind.  

No matter, let us hope that there is greater progress on the football fields of France in the weeks ahead than has been with the goal of OPCAT ratification and that the Canadian national women’s side succeeds in rising together to attain much-deserved and long-overdue glory.

The Canada OPCAT Project will be closely following their progress and wishes the team the very best of luck.

Meet the Canadian women’s football squad.

Read Louise Taylor’s new feature in the 8 June edition of the Guardian newspaper, From pink goalposts to blue plaques: a history of women’s football.

Read The OPCAT – A Stuck Record? on Canada’s lack of progress vis-à-vis OPCAT.

Discover how the OPCAT might be implemented in Canada in the 2019 paper, ‘Instituting A National Preventive Mechanism In Canada – Lessons Based on Global OPCAT Implementation’.