Naturalized Canadians a topic in CBA negotiations, CFL sought to reduce true Nationals last season: report

Photo courtesy: CFL

The CFL and its Players’ Association have wrapped up three days of talks on a new collective bargaining agreement ahead of the 2022 season and changes to the Canadian ratio could be one of the issues on the table.

According to a report from TSN insiders Farhan Lalji and Dave Naylor, CBA conversations will focus on three major issues: monetary considerations, player retention, and roster flexibility. The latter point could have implications for the league’s well-established Canadian content quota.

“On the subject of roster flexibility, that’s going to have some impact potentially on the ratio. That doesn’t necessarily mean fewer Canadians, but it could change the definition of a Canadian,” Lalji said. “You could see something along the lines of the naturalized Canadian, like we had back in the sixties, as the league tries to open up the player pool and improve the product more than anything else.”

Ratio discussions this offseason have mostly centered around a desire to mandate a certain number of Nationals on both sides of the ball, but the idea of providing veteran American players with Canadian status has long been a popular one.

The league toyed with the concept during the 2021 season, expanding the starting ratio from seven to 10 spots of which three could be filled by Americans who had spent three seasons with the same team or four in the league.

Americans with that veteran status did not count towards the overall ratio, but could also substitute for an injured Canadian starter, leading to concerns that the rule would be abused — something which the Hamilton Tiger-Cats were accused of doing along their offensive line late in the year.

However, in an article on, Dave Naylor has revealed that the interpretation of that rule was debated by the two sides after it was enacted. The league believed that they were enacting a policy which would allow teams to employ three fewer true Canadians on their roster in favour of veteran Americans and start as few as four in total. The CFLPA fought against this interpretation, which would have caused a significant decrease in Canadian talent, and the league submitted to the union’s point of view.

It appears that the idea will be on the table once again, with the league believing that removing Canadian spots will improve talent and  that incentivizing veteran Americans will prove a solution to the league’s issue with player continuity.

Traditionally, the CFLPA has fought tooth and nail against any alteration to the Canadian ratio, but efforts to more fairly represent their American members in recent years means they are seeking some form of benefit for veterans. While they didn’t see eye to eye with the league on naturalization last time around, evidence suggests they are amenable to the idea in some form.

“The PA is not as down on this concept as maybe they have been in past years,” Lalji noted. “There could be some common ground here.”

Most fans would be thrilled to see their favourite American players achieve Canadian status, but only if it came with an accompanying ratio bump that ensured true-born Nationals weren’t cast aside.

It doesn’t appear that CFL leadership shares that position.