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Basketball player Matt Bonner, who previously played for the Toronto Raptors. (Mike Cassesse/Reuters)
Basketball player Matt Bonner, who previously played for the Toronto Raptors. (Mike Cassesse/Reuters)

Bonner denied quick citizenship Add to ...

Despite two years of service off the bench for the Toronto Raptors, American-born NBA player Matt Bonner will not be granted quick citizenship to play for Canada at the world basketball championship.

Bonner's request for a speeded-up approval process was rejected for a second time this week by the ministry of Citizenship and Immigration. Wayne Parrish, chief executive officer of Canada Basketball, accepts that Bonner's Canadian debut will have to wait until after the world championship, set to start in Turkey Aug. 28.

The decision is a blow to the Canadian team. Bonner has made a name for himself in the NBA as a terrific outside shooter and would have been a steadying influence on a Canadian team that has achieved mixed results in warm-up matches. Canada scored impressive wins over China, Serbia and France, but also lost badly to Slovenia and Greece.

Bonner, who plays for the San Antonio Spurs but owns a home in Canada, married a Canadian woman in 2008 and was granted permanent resident status in 2009. Normally he could apply for citizenship only after living in Canada for three years after becoming a permanent resident. In 2006, another aspiring Canadian, bobsledder Lascelles Brown, was granted accelerated approval ahead of a big international competition. But doing so required convincing the federal government of his exceptional service to Canada.

Parrish compared the situation to a Catch-22.

"Matt cannot play for Canada at the world championship until he acquires his citizenship," Parrish said. "However, he cannot acquire his citizenship until he plays for Canada and thus demonstrates his extraordinary value."

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