BY RATTAN MALL
“THE key message for our Indo-Canadian youth really is that coming to a country like Canada, growing up in a country like Canada, the opportunities for us are just infinite. We can do and be anything we want as long as we dedicate ourselves, work hard, and never give up,” Dave Sidoo told The VOICE this week.
And who better to offer that advice than Sidoo, a highly successful businessman, a leading philanthropist and a highly decorated athlete.
Sidoo, who will be recognized at the BC Sports Hall of Fame gala banquet on April 12, is one of the few who have been inducted into the UBC Sports Hall of Fame, the BC Football Hall of Fame and now, the BC Sports Hall of Fame.
He captained UBC to the university’s first Vanier Cup national championship in 1982 and played six seasons in the Canadian Football League CFL (1983-89) with Saskatchewan Roughriders and BC Lions.
Sidoo was inducted into the UBC Sports Hall of Fame in the Athlete Category and his 1982 Team in the Team Category. He was also inducted in the BC Football Hall of Fame in the Athlete / Builder Category, receiving the prestigious Bob Ackles award.
Sidoo, who was a three-time All-Star and All-Canadian Defensive back, was a record-breaking kick returner during his five-year career at UBC. The David Sidoo Field at Thunderbird Stadium is named in his honour.
Sidoo also resurrected the high school football program in New Westminster Secondary. He has invested millions of dollars in youth sport across British Columbia, including the Canada Basketball Foundation skills camps, supporting Olympic athletes in training and youth sports scholarships.
SIDOO, who was appointed to the Order of British Columbia last year, told The VOICE that all these awards earn him the recognition that helps him get a message out.
He said: “A country like Canada is a place that our immigrant parents came to [in order] to help us get an education and whether you are a mathematician, a violinist, a great pianist or an athlete, if you put your mind to it in Canada, you can do anything you want. And I think that’s what I did.”
He noted: “I stayed away from drugs. I stayed away from crime and bad groups. Growing up in New Westminster in the ‘70s was quite tough. It was a tough place to grow up; it was much like the eastside of Vancouver. And you’ve got to have the discipline. You’ve got to have dreams.
“If you have dreams and you’ve got aspirations to do something in your life, you can make those dreams come true in Canada as a young Indo-Canadian male. You don’t have to go backwards and feel like you’re less in anyway. You are just as Canadian as anybody else and you can achieve anything.”
Sidoo added: “I think that’s what I lived. I lived that life. I am still living it right now. I put my mind to certain things that people say are impossible to do and you are never going to get the deal done and those people won’t deal with you. The words “can’t” and “won’t” just aren’t in my vocabulary. I just keep working hard and keep my head down, and actually anything’s possible.”
SIDOO also had advice for parents. He and his family started Sidoo Family Giving (SFG), an organization actively involved in the community for the betterment of families and at-risk youth of all ages, specifically supporting children’s breakfast programs, youth arts programs, teenage sports programs, and community scholarships.
He told The VOICE with great passion: “I would encourage more and more parents in our community to get their kids involved in extracurricular activities like sports, music, dance, anything like that, any extracurricular activities – get them involved, get them to know other friends and those types of endeavours too because that’s a good group of people to be around.”
Sidoo also pointed out: “You get to meet great role models – there’s coaches in every level … something to get your child’s passion going. Support them in that passion because it could be something that they end up doing for the rest of their lives. We all want our children to be happy and be happy at what they do in their livelihood, because we have worked so hard ourselves and we want our kids to be happy and have good things happen to them as well. And it’s good that they surround themselves with good, likeminded people and parents support their dreams and aspirations. I think that’s really important.”
SIDOO is also well known for his business acumen and success. He sits on the board of many oil & gas and tech companies and has been a founding shareholder of many start-ups. I asked him about his latest ventures.
He said: “There’s a lithium company that I just took public. We have assets in Argentina and I just finished raising $29 million for the company and I listed it public on the Toronto Stock Exchange. I am the Chairman, CEO and President of a lithium company.”
Sidoo added: “A second thing that I am obviously working on – and I am quite passionate about sports – I am trying to figure out a good valuation and a good deal to look at the BC Lions. I love the CFL. I think the cornerstones of the CFL are Vancouver and Toronto – both those franchises have to be strong. I’d be interested in that at the right price. It’s up in the air right now, but at some point it would be nice to get involved there down the road.”
“You’d be owning the BC Lions?” I asked in awe.
“I’d like to at the right valuation,” he replied, noting that there are five or six groups looking at it.
Sidoo added: “At the right valuation it would be a wonderful thing to be involved in. It’s been around for a long time and I am a local kid. I understand the game a little bit. I played at various levels. I helped build back with a great group of alumni our UBC football program from basically oblivion to win the national championship in 2015 and then lose the Western Championship last year. We’ve got a strong, contending team now. For 17 years we didn’t even get into the playoffs and have a chance to win a national championship. We turned that around pretty fast.”
He also noted: “I sit on the Board of Governors at UBC and that’s a lot of hard work, but I love UBC. It was good to me and I want to give back my time and my ideas and expertise.”
But Sidoo said that right now he was working very hard on his lithium company “and just put out some feelers on the BC Lions for now, but nothing concrete yet there.”
AFTER all that, I just had to wonder aloud why he hadn’t stepped into the world of politics that seems to beckon all – well, almost all – Indo-Canadians.
Sidoo responded: “You know I had a couple of offers on some other things which I won’t mention, but I just love my life the way it’s right now and I think I am better to make a difference in the community the way I am right now.”
He then pointed out an interesting fact: “I think our community inherently is quite competitive. … What I’d like to see is things like this – people who get honoured in our community, people who do great things in technology and wonderful things in the retail industry, real estate and sports – we should all celebrate them all and learn from them and learn the attributes of hard work and dedication and perseverance that got them where they are. That’s what I would really like to see because our community’s so strong. If it came closer together, we’d be untouchable.”