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NBA star wants to be Canadian; government won’t let him

Remember Matt Bonner? He was tall and had red hair and played two years for the Toronto Raptors from 2004-06. His nickname was the Red Rocket thanks to his hair colour and his propensity for riding transit around Toronto.

Even though Bonner left the Raptors for San Antonio in 2006, his heart has remained in Hogtown. He lives in Toronto in the off-season, and his wife and daughter have Canadian citizenship. Despite all that, though, Steve Buffery of the Toronto Sun reports that Bonner still can't get approval to become a Canadian citizen as well.

The issue, it seems, is Bonner's place of principal residence (that's a fancy immigration term for "where he usually lives"). Because he's in Texas with the Spurs most of the year, he hasn't been able to establish residency in Canada. It's a situation that's frustrated Leo Rautins and the brass at Canada Basketball.

"Trust me, we've tried everything," said Rautins. "I feel bad for Matt. I don't know if there's anybody who wants to play more (for Canada) than he does."

It's no wonder he's frustrated; the issue's been going on for years now. In 2009, Bonner and Canadian officials thought he'd finished up the paperwork to make him eligible to play in the 2010 world championships. But Bonner couldn't fast-track his citizenship application back then, and he's hitting regulatory hurdles again.

It's a tough position for Canada basketball fans; especially those who became close to Bonner during his time in Toronto. He's a fan favourite, but that's not a good enough reason to expedite his paperwork. Canada's national teams could use a helping hand here and there, but bending federal rules to give an athlete a leg up in order to qualify for a national team is a slippery slope we may not want to slide down.

Rautins hopes Bonner's approved in time to help Canada qualify for the 2012 Olympics. We humbly suggest that in the interim, Bonner could use his clout as a vice president of the NBA Players Association to make sure Steve Nash, Jamaal Magloire, Tristan Thompson, Samuel Dalembert and everyone else he can find reports for duty for the qualifying tournaments, so he'll have a team to play for come 2012.

follow Andrew McKay on Twitter @apmckay

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