The son of a Russian spy couple who lived clandestine lives in Canada and the United States said Friday that he wants a future in Canada after the country’s Supreme Court ruled he can keep his Canadian citizenship.
Alexander Vavilov was born in Toronto, which would typically qualify him for Canadian citizenship. But authorities had ruled that Vavilov didn’t qualify because his parents were part of a Russian spy ring in North America that was broken up by the FBI in 2010.
The high court rejected that finding on Thursday, meaning Vavilov can reside permanently in the country where his parents once lived clandestine lives as deeply embedded spies who were the models for the TV show The Americans.
“It’s a huge relief,” Vavilov said at a news conference after flying to Toronto from Russia. “I am happy to be back in Canada, to be here without this constant doubt in my head, with the ability to finally put down roots and build a life for myself. It’s going to take time. But I’m happy I can move forward with my life and put these problems behind me.”
Vavilov, 25, said he works in finance but said it’s been difficult to find work. He said people trust him, but companies don’t want to be associated with his espionage story. “It’s been difficult, a lot of anguish and stress,” he said.
As he waits for the ruling on his citizenship, he’s been bouncing around countries in the Middle East and Asia. He said it’s “hard to say” where he now resides, though he flew in from Russia. He declined to comment on life in Russia under Vladimir Putin.
Who is entitled to citizenship?
The Canadian government argued he wasn’t entitled to citizenship and appealed to the Supreme Court to annul the passport granted to him by a lower court. The top court upheld that ruling.
Vavilov’s supporters said a son shouldn’t pay for the sins of his parents, while critics contend his claim to be a Canadian by birth was based on fraud since he and his parents lived under stolen identities in the Toronto area and later Massachusetts as they collected intelligence for Moscow.
He said he has mended his relationship with his parents. He said it’s OK now after initial difficulties after they were arrested.
“I understand their decisions now. They did what they did for patriotic reasons. They wanted to help their country to fight for peace and better understanding between the countries,” he said. “Although I suffered through the result of all this, but I have an understanding of why they did what they did. In their position maybe they shouldn’t have had children, but that’s not to say I’m not happy to be alive and be here.”
In the dark about his parents’ dealings
Canada, like the U.S., grants citizenship to anyone 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 thus ineligible. Vavilov’s lawyer argued that they were not official representatives and that all that matters in this case is their physical birthplace.
The parents came to 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. Vavilov had not been to Russia before.
Vavilov said he had no idea his parents were spies and that he was surprised and confused at their arrest. “I thought the FBI had the wrong house,” he said. “I did not believe it.”
The family’s story became the inspiration for The Americans. He said he and his parents have watched the show.
“My parents said they enjoyed watching it, because it at least portrayed the sense of patriotism and the sense of connection. It’s a good show,” he said.
The FBI agent who oversaw the arrests said in 2010 that Timothy Vavilov may have found out about his parents’ secret life before they were arrested.
Alex called it nonsense and said his parents would never have put them in jeopardy by telling them that. The brothers weren’t charged. “He’s over the moon,” he said of his brother.
Their lawyer said no evidence had ever surfaced suggesting the sons knew their parents were Russians or were spies.
Alexander Vavilov wanted to return to Canada for university but was denied. The government ruled Canada would no longer recognize him as Canadian because his parents were “employees or representatives of a foreign government.”
Criticism of the decision
After losing in a lower court, Vavilov won support from the Federal Court of Appeal, which ruled in 2017 that the law applies only to foreign government employees who benefit from diplomatic immunities or privileges. Vavilov was given his citizenship back.
In its decision, the Supreme Court said the citizenship registrar’s decision was unreasonable. Although the registrar knew her interpretation of the provision was novel, she failed to provide a proper rationale, the court said.
Although it involves the same central issue, Timothy Vavilov’s case proceeded separately through the courts and was not directly before the Supreme Court. However, in a decision last year, the Federal Court of Appeal said its 2017 ruling on Alexander Vavilov equally applied to his brother, making him a citizen.
Former FBI agent Richard DesLauriers, who oversaw the arrest of the couple, Andrey Bezrukov and Elena Vavilova, and the other eight sleeper agents criticized the high court’s decision on Thursday. DesLauriers called it ridiculous.
Canadians are still flocking to parks and businesses as country braces for second wave – CTV News
Even though the back-to-school season has coincided with a steady rise in Canada’s active COVID-19 case count and fears that a second wave may soon be upon us, Canadians do not seem to be meaningfully adjusting their behaviour when it comes to leaving the house.
Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist at the University of Toronto, said Sunday that a lot of Canadians seem to be taking a “we can do whatever we want” approach to their life in recent weeks.
“It feels to me like a lot of people just threw up their hands and said ‘I’m tired of this. I’m hugging, I’m going out, I’m seeing friends,'” he told Sunday on CTV News Channel.
That feeling is backed up by data compiled by Google and Apple, which shows that Canadians are spending more time in parks and at businesses than they were even in the first half of the summer, when the country first emerged from its various pandemic-imposed lockdowns.
Google bases its public mobility reports on information gleaned from users of its services who allow the company to keep track of the destinations they visit.
According to its most recent report for Canada, dated Sept. 11, Canadians are spending 151 per cent more time in parks than they were before the pandemic began.
This can be partially explained by the calendar; of course a park will be busier in September than it was in February. More telling, though, is that based on Google’s data, park usage has steadily increased over the past few months – from 80 per cent above the baseline level in early June to 140 per cent in mid-July to 150 per cent on Sept. 11.
SPENDING LESS TIME AT HOME
Also increasing has been Canadians’ activity in retail and recreation settings – what Google terms “places like restaurants, cafes, shopping centres, theme parks, museums, libraries, and movie theatres.”
At the height of the lockdown, in early April, activity at these establishments was as much as 80 per cent below Google’s pre-pandemic baseline. That number has slowly crept back up ever since, even surpassing it on Labour Day weekend before settling in for a longer stay just below the baseline.
Labour Day weekend also represents a peak in Apple’s mass-collected mobility trends report for Canada. Apple found that requests made for driving directions were 88 per cent higher on Sept. 4 than they were on Jan. 13 (their pre-pandemic baseline), while requests for walking directions were up by 80 per cent. Both numbers were at their highest points in 2020. (Requests for public transit directions were about two-thirds of their pre-pandemic levels, or about four times what they were at the height of the pandemic.)
Time spent in grocery stores and pharmacies has been slightly above Google’s baseline for the past month, suggesting Canadians may be doing more supermarket shopping to make up for the decreasing number of meals eaten out.
The amount of time spent at home, meanwhile, has fallen from 20 per cent in early May to 10 per cent in mid-July to eight per cent on Sept. 11.
Taken together, all of this implies Canadians feel safer leaving their homes now than they did not only early on in the pandemic, but also for most of the summer.
That would certainly make sense if the novel coronavirus was still slowing its spread across Canada – but aside from Atlantic Canada and the territories, that’s hardly been the case.
Canada’s active case count has been rising since early August and is more than double what it was one month ago, according to a CTV News tally. Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia have all begun to re-enact some of the restrictions lifted earlier in the summer. All four provinces show similar patterns in the Google data, with their residents spending less time at home and more time out in public than they were even a month or two ago.
“We know what to do; we just aren’t necessarily doing it as well as we could,” Dr. Brian Conway, president and medical director of the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre, said Sunday on CTV News Channel.
“Certain individuals are making decisions … not to follow all of the public health recommendations, and this leads to an increase in cases.”
IS IT QUARANTINE FATIGUE?
Because of the increasing COVID-19 diagnosis numbers and rolling back of reopenings, there is a rising belief that Canada is on the precipice of a second wave of the pandemic.
Dr. Lisa Barrett, an infectious disease specialist at Dalhousie University in Halifax, told CTV News Channel on Sunday that she believes “some form of a second wave” is already underway in Ontario and Quebec.
“We don’t know yet if it’s going to be a big wave or one of those smaller waves that we can control. That really, really depends on how people manage themselves,” she said.
Dr. Theresa Tam said this week that “the time to act is now,” noting that the daily new case numbers more accurately reflect how society was responding to the virus two weeks ago than how it is responding today.
Of course, the rising numbers do not come as a surprise to Canada’s chief public health officer. She warned in July that Canada could see a “backslide” if too many Canadians continued to ignore public health advice, and cautioned in August that the fall would be a “period of challenge” due to cooling weather and the back-to-school period.
On the surface, something doesn’t add up. The warnings from authorities have been constant and consistent, and are starting to come true – and yet Canadians are still spending more time in public, where contact with the virus is more likely.
One possible explanation is that quarantine fatigue has set in.
Also known as pandemic fatigue, response fatigue and many other terms, quarantine fatigue is essentially the idea that citizens are tired of the pandemic and no longer take the necessary precautions to stop it.
This is why “we can’t let our guard down” is such a common refrain from political and medical leaders – both in Europe, where the World Health Organization is now warning about quarantine fatigue as cases skyrocket, and in Canada, where authorities hope to avoid the same scenario.
Barrett said that Canadians “really need to take to heart” the advice from public health leaders, spending less time outside the home and keeping their social circles to a small number.
“If people are able to do the things that have already been suggested, we may be able to keep a handle on things,” she said.
Canada adds more than 800 new coronavirus cases, 6 deaths – Global News
The number of Canadians who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus grew by 865 on Saturday, while the national death toll rose by six.
There have been 142,654 cases since COVID-19 was first diagnosed in Canada in late January and 9,211 deaths overall.
Across the country more than 7.7 million tests have been conducted throughout the pandemic, and 87 per cent of all cases are resolved.
The number of new cases being reported daily has increased by more than 60 per cent in the last two weeks, and demand for testing has increased sharply as well.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said on average about 849 cases were reported per day in the last week.
“I urge all Canadians to take action now to slow the spread of the virus. In addition to strict adherence with personal protective measures (e.g. physical distancing, handwashing and wearing non-medical masks where appropriate), we must all reduce our number of contacts to a minimum,” she said in a statement.
“Most importantly, stay home and isolate yourself from others if you are experiencing any symptoms, even if mild.”
The vast majority of the new cases occurred in Ontario and Quebec, though Saturday’s numbers are incomplete because the territories, Alberta, B.C. and P.E.I. do not release daily statistics on the weekend.
More for health care dollars, fiscal stabilization program changes tops Jason Kenney’s wish list for throne speech
Quebec announced 427 new infections, bringing its total to 67,080. Five deaths were recorded, three of which occurred earlier this month, officials said.
Premier François Legault said Saturday he has tested negative for COVID-19 but would remain in isolation until Sept. 28.
Legault and his wife were tested after meeting with Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole — who has since tested positive.
In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford announced the province would be extending restrictions on private events to all areas of the province.
Earlier in the week, new limits on the number of people allowed to gather were announced for virus hotspots such as Toronto and Ottawa.
“Over the past several days, we have seen alarming growth in the number of COVID cases in Ontario,” Ford said.
“The alarm bells are ringing. And too much of it has been tied to people who aren’t following the rules. People who think it’s OK to hold parties, to carry on as if things are back to normal. They aren’t.”
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Ontario added 407 new cases on Saturday and one new death was announced. The province has seen a cumulative total of 46,848 infections.
Officials in Saskatchewan said they hit a record high in testing on Friday, with 2,873 samples taken. There were 11 cases discovered. Overall, the province has seen 1,787 cases and 24 fatalities.
In Manitoba, 18 new cases were reported Saturday. The province has the lowest cumulative case total in Western Canada at 1,558, including some cases considered presumptive.
Nunavut reported its first two confirmed cases Saturday. The two people diagnosed are workers at the Hope Bay Mine, located southwest of Cambridge Bay, officials said. They are believed to have been exposed to the virus in their home province.
“Hope Bay Mine is an isolated location, and no Nunavut residents currently work there. The risk of COVID-19 spreading in our communities because of these cases remains very low,” Health Minister George Hickes said in a statement.
There are currently no other active cases in Canada’s North. The infections previously announced in Yukon and Northwest Territories — 20 in total — have long been resolved.
Three out of four provinces in Atlantic Canada provided updates on the pandemic Saturday but no new cases were announced. There are only a handful of active cases remaining in the region.
On Friday, British Columbia added 179 new cases, though 40 of them dated back to early August, and Alberta reported 107 new positive tests.
Coronavirus: Yaffe says Ontario is in a wave, but unclear if province has entered the ‘big second wave’
On Saturday, the U.S. coronavirus death toll was poised to reach 200,000, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.
Around the world, more than 30 million people have been diagnosed with the illness, and nearly 954,000 people have lost their lives.
—With files from The Canadian Press, Mickey Djuric, Ryan Rocca and David Lao, Global News
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Canada's green agenda not hijacked by COVID-19: environment minister – CTV News
Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said the pandemic hasn’t hijacked the government’s “big green agenda,” and warned that if left unaddressed climate change will have more of an impact on Canadians than COVID-19.
Wilkinson admitted that the government’s priority is dealing with the pandemic, but said they will be thinking about the investments they must make “in the context of the looming crisis that is climate change.”
“At the end of the day, if we do not address the climate issue, the impacts that we will feel from that will be significantly greater than what we’re feeling from COVID-19,” Wilkinson told Evan Solomon during an online exclusive interview with CTV Question Period.
Speaking to reporters as he announced his intention to prorogue parliament in August, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the throne speech will give the government an opportunity to build a recovery plan that allows Canada to “build back better.”
“This is our chance to build a more resilient Canada, a Canada that is healthier and safer, greener and more competitive, a Canada that is more welcoming and more fair. This is our moment to change the future for the better,” Trudeau said at the time.
However, insiders have told The Canadian Press that the throne speech will have three main priorities: measures to protect Canadians’ health and to prevent another lockdown; economic supports through the pandemic; and eventual rebuilding measures.
With the focus on the pandemic apparent, questions are circulating about the level of green investment that will actually be borne out of the looming throne speech. Green Party Leader Elizabeth May is among these skeptical onlookers.
Speaking to Solomon on Wednesday during an episode of CTV Power Play, May said she’s made it clear to the prime minister that if he plans to leave real climate action out of the throne speech, he won’t be getting her party’s support.
“I made it very clear to the prime minister: without a commitment that we live up to the requirements of the Paris Agreement…we can’t vote confidence,” May said.
“When Joe Biden calls Donald Trump a climate arsonist, I don’t want to be calling Justin Trudeau a climate arsonist. He’s got a little bit of time left.”
Further raising the concern that the pandemic might be putting green initiatives on the back burner, the Liberals have also failed to plant a single one of the two billion trees they pledged to get in the ground over the next 10 years.
When pressed on the delay, Wilkinson admitted the pandemic has been a factor in slowing the tree planting efforts.
“The two billion trees commitment remains, it will be something that we will be looking at doing going forward. As you well know, we didn’t have a budget this year because of the pandemic and we’ve been living with this pandemic for six months,” said Wilkinson.
With files from The Canadian Press and CTV News’ Rachel Aiello
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