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Another Obstacle to Replacement Players in Canada

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A new obstacle to major league baseball’s plan to use strike-breaking replacement players surfaced Thursday, when it was disclosed that such a move could run afoul of Canadian immigration law.

Canadian immigration authorities said the law prohibits an employer from bringing in foreign workers as strike-breakers. That would appear to prevent the Toronto Blue Jays and Montreal Expos from using U.S. replacement players at Canadian stadiums.

In theory, the Blue Jays and Expos could field all-Canadian replacement squads to comply with the law, but those players might not be allowed into U.S. stadiums. U.S. immigration officials have said they will refuse visas to foreign players being used as strike-breakers.

A spokesman for the Expos said the team’s attorneys had looked into the issue and “we’re still confident in our position that we will be able to play baseball in 1995 in Montreal with replacement players.” He declined to elaborate.

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The Blue Jays, however, issued a statement by General Manager Gord Ash saying, “I believe they (the government) can stop us from using American replacement players in this country.”

The Blue Jays face an additional provincial law in Ontario that includes a blanket prohibition against employing replacement workers. The team is scouting replacement players but only for spring training games. Ash has speculated that the team might have to play “home” games outside Canada if forced to use replacements in the regular season.

The differing reactions by the teams also might stem from their relative positions in baseball’s ongoing labor strife.

Expo President Claude R. Brochu is aligned with the hard-line, anti-union club owners who have been calling the shots for management in the labor dispute. Blue Jay management is more conciliatory, and Toronto was one of three teams to vote against imposition of the salary cap that triggered the move toward replacement players.

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In another example of the Blue Jays’ lack of enthusiasm for replacement ball, the team announced that Manager Cito Gaston and his coaching staff will not associate with replacement players. Instead, they will spend spring training working with minor leaguers who are believed to have a long-term future with the team.

The Blue Jays said it would be counterproductive to post-strike team unity to have Gaston and his coaches work with the strike-breakers.


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