Russian spies' sons can keep Canada citizenship: court

Top court rules in favor of Alex and Tim Vavilov

Barry Ellsworth  | 19.12.2019 - Update : 20.12.2019
Russian spies' sons can keep Canada citizenship: court


The Supreme Court of Canada ruled Thursday that the two Toronto-born children of parents who were part of a North American Russian spy ring are Canadian citizens.  

In 2014, the Canadian government had argued that the pair, born in the 1990s, were not entitled to citizenship because their claim was based on fraud as their parents used stolen identities. 

But the brothers, now in their twenties, argued that they did not know their parents, who went under the assumed aliases of Donald Heathfield and Tracey Ann Foley, were sleeper spies in Toronto and later Massachusetts. The stolen identities were taken from two Canadians who had died long ago. 

Nine years ago the parents were arrested by the FBI in the United States and the pair admitted their true identities were Andrey Bezrukov and Elena Vavilova. They were eventually part of a swap for Russians who were languishing in Russian prison for spying for the West. 

The Toronto lawyer for Alex and Tim Vavilov had argued that “you can’t punish children for something their parents did. 

“The right to citizenship is a fundamental right when you are born here,” said Hadayat Nazami. 

The government ruling in 2014 that they were not able to gain Canadian citizenship resulted in a court battle that ended Thursday with the decision that the two were entitled to citizenship.

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