Canadian Court allows son of Russian spies to maintain citizenship

TORONTO: The Supreme Court of Canada ruled on Thursday that the son of a couple of Russian spies who lived clandestinely in Canada and the United States can retain their Canadian citizenship.

Alexander Vavilov was born in Toronto, which would normally qualify him for Canadian citizenship. But authorities ruled that Vavilov did not qualify because his parents were part of a notorious network of Russian spies in North America that was dismantled by the FBI in 2010.

The higher court rejected that finding, which means that Vavilov can reside permanently in the country where his parents once lived clandestine lives as deeply embedded spies who were the models of the television show `` The Americans. ''

`` With this victory comes the bitter realization of all the suffering I have had to endure to see my status as a normal restored Canadian, '' Vavilov said in a statement through his lawyer. `` For most of a decade, I was forced to exile myself from Canada. They forced me on the public stage reluctantly and deprived me of my ability to live a normal life. ''

`` Having my citizenship finally respected brings me great joy. '' `` I hope that my long and litigious fight in the courts at least brings some certainty and inspiration to other Canadians who may be defending their rights as I have had to. ''

Toronto-based Vavilov's lawyer Hadayt Nazami said his client plans to return to Canada from Russia .

`` This is a rare case. Even if someone is born in Canada in the future who is a child of spies, we cannot use citizenship laws to punish children when they have done nothing wrong. ''

The Canadian government argued that he had no right to citizenship and appealed to the Supreme Court to void the passport granted by a trial court. The higher court confirmed that decision.

Vavilov's supporters said a son should not pay for his parents' sins, while critics argue that his claim to be Canadian by birth was based on fraud since he and his parents lived under stolen identities in the area of Toronto and later Massachusetts while collecting intelligence for Moscow.

Canada, like the United States, grants citizenship to any person born within its territory with limited exceptions, such as the children of diplomats. The government argued that Vavilov's parents were employees or representatives of a foreign government and, therefore, were not eligible. Vavilov's lawyer argued that they were not official representatives and that all that matters in this case is their physical place of birth.

The parents arrived in Toronto in the 1980s and took the names. Donald Heathfield and Tracey Ann Foley. They then gave birth to two sons Timothy in 1990 and Alexander in 1994 before moving to Paris in 1995 and then Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1999.

In 2010, the FBI arrested a ring of sleeper agents for Russia that it had been following for years in the United States. All 10, including the now well-known Anna Chapman, pleaded guilty and were returned to Russia in a swap.

The family's story became the inspiration for `` The Americans. ''

An FBI agent who oversaw the couple's arrest, Andrey Bezrukov and Elena Vavilova, and the other eight sleeping agents criticized the decision of the higher court.

`` This is ridiculous. His parents are convicted spies, who assumed identities of deceased legitimate Canadian citizens with the purpose of infiltrating the United States under coverage, '' said Richard DesLauriers. `` Giving your children a legitimate status is a perversion of the law. His parents were spies. ''

Prosecutors said the father met in 2004 with an employee of the US government. UU. To talk about nuclear weapons research.

DesLauriers said in 2010 that Timothy Vavilov could have learned about his parents' secret life before being arrested. But the brothers were not charged.

Their lawyer said no evidence had ever surfaced suggesting the sons knew their parents were Russia ns or were spies.

Alexander Vavilov wanted to return to Canada for college, but he was denied. The government ruled that Canada would no longer recognize him as a Canadian because his parents were `` employees or representatives of a foreign government. ''

After losing in a lower court, Vavilov obtained support from the Federal Court of Appeals, which ruled in 2017 that the law applies only to foreign government employees who benefit from immunities or diplomatic privileges. Vavilov received his citizenship back.

In its decision, the Supreme Court said that the decision of the registrar of citizenship was not reasonable. Although the registrar knew that his interpretation of the provision was new, he could not provide adequate justification, the court said.

Although it involves the same central issue, Timothy Vavilov's case was carried out separately through the courts and was not directly before the Supreme Court. However, in a decision last year, the Federal Court of Appeals said its 2017 ruling on Alexander Vavilov applied equally to his brother, making him a citizen.