Hall: New Canadian citizen Dave Dickenson celebrates Canada Day

Back in the day, Dave Dickenson studied molecular biology at the University of Montana. A three-time academic all-American, the Calgary Stampeders’ head coach/general manager graduated with a 3.84 average out of a possible 4.00.

Clearly accustomed to academic rigour, Dickenson did not shy away this spring when it came to studying for the Canadian citizenship test.

And not surprisingly, he passed.

“I learned a lot about Canada — about the history and the roots and some of the troubles and where we’re at as a country,” Dickenson said in advance of his first July 1 as a Canadian citizen.

“And even the laws. I never quite understood the system as much, because I didn’t have a say in it. So why try to learn it?”

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He has a say now and can finally vote alongside his wife and kids, including daughter Avery who inspired him to take the leap from permanent resident to citizen.

“The main thing for me was my daughter is of age and is voting,” said Dickenson, 51. “And I’m trying to figure out. ‘Why can’t I vote? Shouldn’t I do the same?’”

Both of Dickenson’s parents are teachers. His mom even served as a legislator in the Montana House of Representatives.

So in the Dickenson family, voting matters.

“I feel like there’s a responsibility to the country and, if you can’t really take part in that 100 per cent, maybe you’re not fully immersed,” he said. “I thought it was time to just put that maple leaf on me.”

Back in 1996, Dickenson hit the field at McMahon Stadium for the first time as a reserve quarterback behind the great Jeff Garcia.

Twenty-eight years have passed and Dickenson is a CFL legend in his own right. The Great Falls, MT product is a three-time Grey Cup champion as a player and a two-time champion as a coach.

He’s a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame.

“I’m certainly not giving up my U.S. citizenship,” he said. “I am proud of that as well, but it does feel like Calgary is kind of a part of me now. It feels like this is a place where my roots are. This is where I’m grounded. This is where I fit and enjoy being.”

Back In 2015, Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons became a Canadian citizen some 25 years after moving to Toronto to play for the Argonauts.

The dynamic running back/kick returner is now the Argos’ general manager.

“I didn’t mean to fall in love, but I did,” Clemons said at the time. “I came to Canada to pursue my passion for football. That passion for football has never waned and is only exceeded by my love for this great country.”

Dickenson’s love is perhaps more understated, but palpable all the same.

“I don’t think the U.S. teaches much about Canada to their students,” he said. “Whereas I feel Canadians learn a little bit more about the U.S. and other countries. In the U.S., you kind of get a little singular about learning about U.S. history versus world history or learning more about the country to your north or the south.”

But Dickenson knows a great deal about Canada through real-life experience playing in stadiums from Montreal to Vancouver.

He also knows the national anthem by heart.

“I’ve been to a lot of cities,” he said. “I understand the culture. But the political parties have always been a little confusing to me.

“I didn’t understand necessarily that you don’t vote for your president or your prime minister. You just vote for the party in your riding.”

 In studying for the citizenship test, Dickenson studied the proverbial game film of the country he now calls home.

“It’s more about the past,” he said. “Just trying to learn a little bit about where you live and the treaties and some of the things that you hear about in the news.

“Once you kind of understand history, you see why people have certain opinions and why there may be certain biases and maybe why we have certain laws. I think it does make sense.”

At the April citizenship ceremony, Dickenson looked over to see a young woman crying with joy.

It reminded him of the big picture.

“Sometimes, when you’re here for a long time, you forget that this is a great place that takes care of us,” he said. “We’ve got to understand how fortunate we are to live in Canada.”

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