Chil­dren born to Rus­sian spies in Canada should not be handed cit­i­zen­ship: Ot­tawa

The Globe and Mail (Alberta Edition) - - NEWS - JIM BRONSKILL

Rus­sian spies lurk­ing in the Cana­dian shad­ows may toil in se­cret, but they’re still em­ploy­ees of Moscow – and there­fore their chil­dren are not Cana­dian cit­i­zens, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is telling the Supreme Court. In a newly filed court sub­mis­sion, the gov­ern­ment ar­gues the Toronto-born son of Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence agents should be de­nied Cana­dian cit­i­zen­ship, the same ex­cep­tion that ap­plies to any child born in Canada to a for­eign diplo­mat. Ot­tawa is fight­ing a Fed­eral Court of Ap­peal rul­ing that ef­fec­tively af­firmed the Cana­dian cit­i­zen­ship of Alexan­der Vav­ilov and, through a re­lated case, his older brother. Alexan­der, 24, and Ti­mothy, 28, were born in Canada to par­ents us­ing the aliases Don­ald Heath­field and Tracey Ann Fo­ley. The par­ents were ar­rested eight years ago in the United States and in­dicted on charges of con­spir­ing to act as se­cret agents on be­half of Rus­sia’s SVR, a suc­ces­sor to the no­to­ri­ous Soviet KGB. Mr. Heath­field and Ms. Fo­ley ad­mit­ted to be­ing An­drey Bezrukov and Elena Vav­ilova. They were sent back to Moscow as part of a swap for pris­on­ers in Rus­sia. Alexan­der, who fin­ished high school in Rus­sia, changed his sur­name to Vav­ilov on the ad­vice of Cana­dian of­fi­cials in a bid to ob­tain a Cana­dian pass­port. But he ran into a snag at the pass­port of­fice and in Au­gust, 2014, the cit­i­zen­ship reg­is­trar said the gov­ern­ment no longer rec­og­nized him as a Cana­dian cit­i­zen. The reg­is­trar said his par­ents were em­ploy­ees of a for­eign gov­ern­ment at the time of his birth, mak­ing him in­el­i­gi­ble for cit­i­zen­ship. The Fed­eral Court of Canada up­held the de­ci­sion. But in June, 2017, the ap­peal court set aside the rul­ing and quashed the reg­is­trar’s de­ci­sion. It said the pro­vi­sion of the Cit­i­zen­ship Act the reg­is­trar cited should not ap­ply be­cause the par­ents did not have diplo­matic priv­i­leges or im­mu­ni­ties while in Canada. On the strength of the rul­ing, Alexan­der has since been able to re­new his Cana­dian pass­port and he hopes to live and work in Canada – call­ing his re­la­tion­ship with the coun­try a cor­ner­stone of his iden­tity. Al­though it in­volves the same cen­tral is­sue, Ti­mothy’s case pro­ceeded sep­a­rately through the courts. In a de­ci­sion ear­lier this year, the Fed­eral Court said the rul­ing on Alexan­der equally ap­plies to Ti­mothy, mak­ing him “a cit­i­zen.” The reg­is­trar’s orig­i­nal con­clu­sion to the con­trary was “log­i­cal and jus­ti­fied,” the gov­ern­ment ar­gues in its sub­mis­sion to the high court. The par­ents’ pur­pose for be­ing in Canada was akin to other em­ploy­ees of a for­eign gov­ern­ment: “they were ded­i­cated to serv­ing their home coun­try, ex­cept in their case, the em­ploy­ment was car­ried out clan­des­tinely. “The broadly worded for­mu­la­tion of the pro­vi­sion seeks to treat the chil­dren of all em­ploy­ees in Canada of for­eign gov­ern­ments in the same fash­ion, re­gard­less of whether they are the chil­dren of diplo­mats, con­sular of­fi­cials or spies,” the sub­mis­sion says. “The reg­is­trar’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion was rea­son­able and no con­vinc­ing anal­y­sis has been put for­ward to show that it was un­rea­son­able. The de­ci­sion was jus­ti­fied, trans­par­ent and in­tel­li­gi­ble.”

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