The battle to save the Simon Fraser University football program has made it all the way to the Canadian House of Commons and it is finding supporters across party lines.
On Wednesday, NDP House leader Peter Julian, the MP for New Westminster-Burnaby, addressed the issue in a preamble to a debate on Bill S-211, praising community members for their efforts and urging the university to reconsider the discontinuation of the program.
“Madam Speaker, I want to thank members of the community who have stepped up for the Simon Fraser University football team.
As members know, the administration at SFU cut the football program just a few weeks ago. This program has produced some of the best football players in Canada. We have had a remarkable reaction from the public, which put in place a financial plan that ensures the continuity of the program. It is now really up to the SFU administration to reverse its decision and stop the cuts to the program.”
Those sentiments were echoed on Thursday by chief opposition whip Kerry-Lynne Findlay, the Conservative MP for South Surrey-White Rock
“Mr. Speaker, I come from a three-generation family of professional football players. Courage, loyalty, integrity, that is the motto of Simon Fraser University‘s legendary football program that has developed elite athletes from across Canada for 58 years, producing 217 CFL draft picks. Alumni include TSN star, Farhan Lalji; sports broadcaster, Glen Suitor; CFL veterans, Dave Cutler, Rick Klassen, Lui Passaglia; and community leaders like Glen Orris, K.C., a prominent Vancouver lawyer.
On April 4, SFU terminated its football program. The 97 student-athletes on the current roster were blindsided by a press release during exams. Many players depend on football scholarships to pursue higher education. Scrapping this program is a major blow to varsity sports in B.C.
I encourage all sport lovers to join thousands and sign the alumni online petition. Let us save the SFU football program.”
A member of the federal government has yet to raise the SFU issue in parliament. Last week, Surrey-White Rock MLA Trevor Halford spoke in the B.C. legislature and called on the provincial government to take action on the university’s decision.
Simon Fraser alumni have mounted a furious attempt to save the football team since the school announced its immediate discontinuation earlier this month, citing concerns over their lack of conference affiliation beginning in 2024 and the “incredibly complex” application process to move the team to U Sports.
The institution responded to pushback by appointing a special advisor to evaluate the future sustainability of football but remain committed to not playing this fall. Alumni leaders spoke out against that announcement, criticizing it as an attempt to delay the process until public outcry dies down.
A lawsuit has been filed in B.C. Supreme Court on behalf of five SFU players, claiming the decision violated a verbal contract stemming from their recruitment. They are seeking a court order reinstating the 2023 season and are scheduled to be heard in court on Monday, May 1.
In the meantime, 11 football-only inductees have publicly announced their withdrawal from the SFU Sports Hall of Fame. They will return as members only if the football program is restored.
A fundraising drive was held on Tuesday, which raised over $700,000 in support of SFU’s football program. Over 800 pledges were made and their funds were matched by B.C. Lions’ owner Amar Doman and other community leaders. The funds will only be collected when and if the program is reinstated.