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Baines

RedBlacks QB Burris making progress in citizenship bid

Ottawa Sun Sports Columnist Tim Baines

By Tim Baines, Ottawa Sun

His passport may reveal that he was born in Spiro, Okla., and he knows all the words to the Star Spangled Banner, but Henry Burris says as far as he's concerned, he's Canadian.

Now, it's just a matter of getting the official papers to prove it.

"Honestly, whenever we go back to the States, we feel like we're visiting," said the soon-to-be-40-year-old Ottawa RedBlacks quarterback.

"There are always things we miss, like our families. The thing is it's home, but it's not home. This is home for us. Canada is our home."

As much as he wants to be on the Eh List, in the eyes of the federal government, until recently, he was on the B or C List.

Cue the frustration. A couple of months ago, Burris had already paid $7,000 for an immigration lawyer and they still kept hitting brick walls trying to get permanent residency status, step No. 1 toward Canadian citizenship for him and his wife Nicole.

Things have taken a turn for the better since then.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada, with a nudge from Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (owners of the RedBlacks), directed Burris toward applying through the self-employed category.

The wheels are in motion and he's hoping to send off an application in a week or so.

"This is our fourth category, I think, we've tried," said Burris.

"That's what made it frustrating for us. We've shelled out money. Now the fact they stepped forward and really helped us out -- OSEG and the Department of Immigration -- it means a lot to us that they're helping us find a way to get this done. All they provided was the category we would qualify for. They didn't guarantee us anything, but at least they gave us the right direction to go from there. They didn't give us a timeline. They just said, 'The sooner you can get it in, the sooner we can process things.'"

Since Burris arrived in Calgary in 1997, he's been a positive force, tagged with the nickname Smilin' Hank along the way.

He's won two Grey Cups, a Grey Cup MVP award and what's most amazing is his work off the field may even be better than his stellar accomplishments on the field.

He loves being part of the true north strong and free; now he wants a piece of paper to prove he belongs.

"We've lived (in Canada) for more than 10 years around the clock," he said.

"Both our kids (Barron and Armand) were born here. We've invested in the economy here -- we have a restaurant (Brooklyn Pizzeria and Taps), we have Predator Drilling that we invested in to help start that up. There are a number of things we're involved in, we're giving back. Hopefully that puts us over the hump and helps us qualify.

"Our kids are Canadians, we love it up here. We're part of this community. To be able to continue to live here and not rely on football year to year and have to worry about it, it would be a big burden off our chest."

Burris said his love for Canada goes way, way back -- when his mom Caresse and dad Henry Sr. would pack up the Oldsmobile when school was over and the family would go on summer vacation.

"We were travellers we drove everywhere," said Burris.

"We drove through Detroit, London, Niagara Falls, Toronto, Hamilton, the GTA area. The people were so nice. To me, I thought it was going to be almost like Europe, really foreign. But when we drove through, it seemed like we were in the U.S. The big difference was the metric system.

"The people make Canada what it is. Wherever you go in the world, people love Canadians. We have a sense of security and comfort being here. Why leave that? To me, Canada is just one big community. People look out for each other. The people are so giving and so nice. It reminds me of being in the south. That's the type of society and atmosphere we want our kids to grow up in and be around.

"People work their butts off each day to make this country what it is and we want to be part of that. With the craziness going on down in the States, with racial inequalities, it seems like every week there's a riot somewhere. You don't see that happening here. There are equal rights, people look out for each other."

Burris admits he is even starting to talk Canadian: "There are a few things I say -- 'for sure' and 'no worries.' The first time I ever heard those was in Canada. I can't say 'eh' or 'chesterfield,' I say 'cutlery,' though. There are little things I'm picking on that make me Canadian. When I say them back (in the U.S.), people are like, 'What are you talking about?'"

Soon enough, when the feds cut through the red tape, Henry Burris will be as Canadian as ... Sidney Crosby, Alex Trebek, Seth Rogen, Drake, Justin Bieber and Nickelback (insert deep sigh here).

And Canada will officially be home sweet home.

tim.baines@sunmedia.ca


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