Former Canada Soccer president Nick Bontis does not remember using insulting language towards Christine Sinclair when she brought the women's soccer team's concerns to him but has apologised for the incident, he said on Thursday.
Sinclair, the world's all-time leading international goal scorer, appeared before a parliamentary committee three weeks ago to speak about pay equity, equal treatment and other issues surrounding Canada Soccer.
Sinclair said she raised her concerns to Bontis during a meeting last year and he referred back to them later in the gathering, asking: "What was it Christine was bitching about?"
Bontis addressed the incident during his opening remarks to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage that concerns, among other things, Canada Soccer's relationship with its players and financial dealings.
"While I do not recall using the language she referenced, I don't dispute it and my exact choice of words is not the point," said Bontis. "What matters is that she felt I treated he concerns disrespectfully.
"I feel terrible about making her feel this way and I have since communicated with Christine and her agent to apologize personally. It was a mistake, I take responsibility for it and I regret it."
Bontis, elected Canada Soccer president in November 2020, stepped down from the role in February and acknowledged that changes was needed to expedite labor peace with the men's and women's national teams.
The women's national team's last agreement with Canada Soccer expired in 2021 while the men's team, who formed their own players' association last August, are negotiating their first formal deal.
Bontis credited Sinclair, who helped Canada win the gold medal at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, for the positive impact she has made on the sport.
"Few people have done more for soccer or women's sport in this country than Christine," said Bontis. "She has not only inspired millions of young soccer players around the world she inspired me.
"Unlocking the full potential of players who want to follow in Christine's footsteps was a large part of why I got involved with Canada Soccer."