American Athletes and Dual Citizens See The Benefit of Canadian Citizenship

22 Mar 2023

Professional sports brings and keeps many up north

Odell Willis and Adarius Bowman – two players for the CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos –  have both been in Canada for around 10 years. The met while playing for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and they’re now going through the process of becoming Canadian citizens together. Both originally hail from the Southern U.S. and cite the social environment and the culture as something they found appealing and appreciate the health care system, the education system, and the diversity of culture in Canada. Both represent what is a growing trend of athletes who come to Canada pursuing their athletic careers and end up opting to become Canadian citizens.

“I love it over here. You have friendly people and everyone is willing to help each other. No one’s running around killing and robbing people and I love all of the different cultures”. – Odell Willis.

Former Ottawa Redblack  and recent Grey Cup champion Henry Burris is no exception. Originally from Oklahoma, he was a CFL quarterback for 18 seasons for four teams, starting in 1997 (playing for the NFL’s Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers in between). His wire Nicole has lived in Canada full-time since 2005. Their sons, Armand and Barron, were born in Calgary and have dual citizenship.

Honestly, whenever we go back to the States, we feel like we’re visiting. It’s home, but it’s not home. Canada is our home. – Henry Burris

For those athletes who qualify for dual citizenship, the desire to come and compete for Canada is strong as well. Look at Piper Gilles. Her mother and grandmother are Canadian and she desired to compete as a Canadian. To get that passport, Gilles didn’t have to write the normally-mandatory citizenship test or jump through many of the other bureaucratic hoops. Instead her process was expedited by a special provision of the Citizenship Act allowing the minister to reward services of exceptional value to Canada. Same thing for Kaitlyn Weaver – the Houston born dual citizen and even for Chinese born table tennis ace, Eugene Zhen Wang. Competing as a Canadian can often offer a competitive advantage, especially if some athletes are seeking to qualify for the Olympics or worlds as quickly as possible. Swimmer Melissa “Missy” Franklin is an example of this. Both her parents are both from Canada – so Missy has dual citizenship. She can only represent one country competitively, though, and being so fast so young, she had to make the call early in life. Her mother suggested that it might be an easier path to the National Team through Canada -where the depth is not nearly what is seen at American Championship meets. Make a national team – the better your chances at competing at a very high level.