Henry Burris, CFL quarterback, to receive citizenship help

Playing 15 years in the Canadian Football League and winning two Grey Cups does not earn you Canadian citizenship, as veteran quarterback Henry Burris has discovered.

Henry Burris, 39, has won 2 Grey Cups

Henry Burris seeks Canadian citizenship

8 years ago
Duration 2:24
The Ottawa Redblacks quarterback, a 15-year veteran of the CFL, seen as a part-time worker

Ottawa Redblacks quarterback Henry Burris, who has lived in Canada for many years, says he can't secure his Canadian citizenship because his job is classified as part-time work.

Soon to be 40, Burris is entering his 16th year in the Canadian Football League that's seen him play across Canada from Calgary to Saskatchewan to Hamilton and now Ottawa. He's also won two Grey Cups.

Redblacks quarterback Henry Burris had a difficult first season in Ottawa, as the team only won two of its 18 games. (Aaron Lynett/Canadian Press)
Burris,born in Spiro, Okla., says he has lived in Canada with his wife Nicole for about a decade, and his two sons were born in the country.

The CFL only plays six months a year — June to November — so Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) only grants Burris a temporary work permit for each contract he signs.

He still needs to obtain permanent residency status before he has any chance at Canadian citizenship.

"The CFL, being a player, it isn't deemed as a full-time job," Burris said.

"But if you look at the hours I'm putting in. I'm in at 6:30 and there until five in the afternoon during the key parts of the season."

Burris owns restaurant, runs charity

Burris said he's exhausted after three years and more than $7,000 spent on an immigration lawyer.

He does not want to jump a queue or receive preferential treatment, but said he worries about what his family will do as he nears the end of his career. Burris has two years left on his current contract with the Redblacks.

"I come as a father, as a husband, and as a person who wants to be a citizen and a resident of the great country of Canada, and here in Ontario," Burris said.

Burris, right, played parts of nine seasons with the Calgary Stampeders. He now has an ownership stake in an area restaurant and runs a charity in the city. ((Troy Fleece/Canadian Press))
Burris pointed to his work outside of football as reasons he should be a citizen. He has an ownership stake in The Rock, Wood Fired Pizza & Spirits in Calgary. He also runs The Burris Foundation, which raises money for children's charities in the Calgary area.

"We're investing in the economy, investing into this country because it's done so many great things for us. It's just been great to give back. It would all be a shame to see it come to an end," he said.

CIC to work with Redblacks, statement says

The main roadblock remains being a quarterback in the CFL — a part-time job.

On Sunday, CIC spokesman Kevin Menard released this statement on Burris's quest for permanent residency.

"Mr. Burris has shown a great commitment to Canada over many years, and his community work through his foundation is an example for Canadian youth and all Canadians," the statement read.

"We will work with the Ottawa Redblacks and Mr. Burris to ensure he can remain in Canada."


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