son of Russian spies regains Canadian citizenship after 10 years of legal battle | Canada

The son of two Russian hidden spies says he feels “immense relief” after winning his long battle to regain his Canadian citizenship. Alex Vavilov was stripped of his citizenship after the FBI arrested and deported his parents from the United States in 2010, exposing their Canadian stories as false.

“The judges declared Mr. Vavilov a Canadian citizen,” the Supreme Court of Canada ruled on Thursday, upholding an earlier ruling by a federal court that the decision to strip Vavilov of his citizenship was unreasonable. The government appealed the decision.

“After 10 long years of fighting for my most basic rights, I can take a moment’s rest. I feel justified that the courts have finally upheld my own beliefs about my citizenship, ”Alex told The Guardian by telephone. He plans to give a press conference in Toronto on Friday.

Alex was born in Toronto in 1994 and grew up with his older brother, Tim, believing his parents to be Canadian citizens Tracy Foley and Donald Heathfield, who later became naturalized Americans. Family life was turned upside down on Tim’s 20th birthday in 2010, when the FBI raided the house outside Boston and arrested Foley and Heathfield in an operation to detain 10 Russian spies, whose cover had been unveiled by a defector.

As it turned out, Tim and Alex’s parents were actually Elena Vavilova and Andrei Bezrukov – career KGB agents who had completed a multi-year training program for Russia’s “illegal” program and had been dispatched. abroad under false identities. They kept their cover even when the Soviet Union collapsed and continued to serve the new Russia.

Earlier this year, Elena told the Guardian in an interview in Moscow that she married Bezrukov in the Soviet Union before leaving for the west, but the couple left separately, arranged a reunion in Canada and then got married. a second time using their new Canadian identity. . They never spoke Russian together and raised their children speaking a mixture of English and French.

In an interview with The Guardian in 2016, the two brothers said they had no suspicion of their parents’ true identities as children, and the raid and upheavals that followed in their lives came as a shock. They said it was unfair that they were being punished for their parents’ decisions.

“I feel like I’ve been stripped of my own identity for something I had nothing to do with,” Alex said at the time. The two brothers also struggled to travel and get visas on their new Russian passports.

Tim won his own case for citizenship last year, meaning the two brothers now have their Canadian identities restored with no further right of appeal for the state and their long legal battles are over.

The court case was based on a provision in Canadian citizenship law that anyone born in Canada is eligible for citizenship, with the exception of employees of foreign governments. The Canadian government had argued that Elena and Bezrukov’s secret work should nullify their sons’ right to citizenship, but the Supreme Court disagreed.

“It has been many difficult years, and I’m sure I still have a lot of challenges ahead, but I can finally once again call myself a Canadian in a way that is indisputable and confident. I hope this can be another step in my goal to return to a normal life, where I am no longer harassed in the name of political differences, ”said Alex.