Supreme Court rules both Canada-born sons of Russian spies are Canadian citizens

Nuts, substantively. While I await more commentary from legal experts, believe it merits an amendment to the Citizenship Act to clarify any future similar situations:

Alexander Vavilov, the Toronto-born son of Russian spies, is a Canadian citizen, the Supreme Court of Canada has decided.

In its judgment Thursday, the high court upheld a Federal Court of Appeal decision that effectively affirmed the citizenship of not only Alexander but also his brother Timothy.

Aside from addressing the citizenship matter, the Supreme Court ruling aimed to bring clarity to the nature and scope of judicial review of decisions by administrative officials.

Alexander, 25, and Timothy, 29, were born in Canada to parents using the aliases Donald Howard Heathfield and Tracey Lee Ann Foley.

The parents were arrested nine 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.

Heathfield and 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.

In its decision, the Supreme Court said the 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’s case proceeded separately through the courts and was therefore not directly before the Supreme Court.

However, in a decision last year, the Federal Court said the ruling on Alexander equally applied to Timothy, making him “a citizen.”

Source: Supreme Court rules both Canada-born sons of Russian spies are Canadian citizens

Canada’s diplomatic brass: too white, too male |

Good detailed piece on the Canadian foreign service demographics and head of mission appointments (my examination of the diversity of senior heads of mission – the 16 positions classified at the ADM level – showed 3 women (19 percent) and 1 visible minority (6 percent).

Another illustration of the government being more open in sharing this data:

The Prime Minister is a feminist and there is gender parity in cabinet, but Canada’s foreign service still has a long way to go.

Sources say that the foreign service has negative gaps in regards to the number of women it employs, as well as aboriginal peoples and persons with disabilities.

According to a public report on employment equity in the government for the 2015-16 year, in the entire department of Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Development, 54.8 per cent of employees were women, 2.4 per cent were aboriginal peoples, 3.3 per cent were persons with disabilities, and 14.4 per cent were visible minorities.

However, according to numbers given to The Hill Times from an “internal workforce analysis for the foreign service group,” Canada’s foreign service is significantly lacking in women.

The department has targets for employment equity, and in terms of women in the foreign service, the foreign service has a negative gap of 166, meaning the department would need to employ 166 more women in order achieve equity. There is also a negative gap of 18 for aboriginal people, and 16 for people with disabilities. However, for visible minorities, the department is positive by 64, meaning they have 64 more visible minority employees than required to be equitable, according to the standards set by the Canada Labour Market Availability.

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Employment equity data for the foreign service, provided to The Hill Times by Global Affairs on June 6, 2016.

The document includes data as of March 31 of this year. Global Affairs confirmed the above numbers, and provided a chart demonstrating the employment equity targets and gaps in percentages. According to Eric Pelletier, a spokesperson for Global Affairs, there is a negative gap of 4.1 per cent for women, meaning women are under-represented by 4.1 per cent. It cites that there are currently 48.1 per cent women in the foreign service, and 62 per cent required representation. A negative gap of 1.5 per cent exists for aboriginal peoples, a negative gap of 1.4 per cent for persons with disabilities, and a positive gap of 5.3 per cent for visible minorities. Mr. Pelletier also said that the foreign service is 71.6 per cent anglophone and 28.4 per cent francophone.

Michael Kologie, communications director for the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers (PAFSO), said in an interview with The Hill Times that overall, “if we’re talking about employment equity gaps, we’re doing very well when it comes to visible minorities. We’re doing okay when it comes to persons with disabilities, and where we’re really lacking is actually with respect to women and aboriginal peoples.” He said for women, the gap is “quite significant.”

Artur Wilczynski, Canada’s ambassador to Norway, further confirmed these gaps in an interview.

“I took a quick peek at the stats in terms of the employment equity. In the executive cadre, if you look at visible minorities in particular, there are no negative gaps there according to our reports, but there is still a lot of work to be done for example in increasing the representation of indigenous persons, persons with disabilities and women, and quite frankly, people of multiple backgrounds,” he said.

In a later emailed statement, Mr. Kologie wrote that PAFSO is committed to working in collaboration with Global Affairs to encourage a diverse foreign service, “with special attention on currently underrepresented groups such as women, aboriginal peoples, and persons with disabilities,” adding that visible minorities are well represented in the foreign service.

It has been reported by both The Ottawa Citizen and The Globe and Mail that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has given Global Affairs instructions to diversify the foreign service and to specifically hire more women.

The Citizen’s columnist Andrew Cohen wrote in April that “Justin Trudeau has told Global Affairs that its list of career candidates has too many white males and asked it to do better next time.”

The Globe reported at the end of last month that Global Affairs is choosing two women to fill positions in Israel and in Great Britain, naming Deborah Lyons as Canada’s new ambassador to Israel and Janice Charette as the person to take the lead at Canada House.

The article also pointed out that Mr. Trudeau had told Global Affairs “its list of career candidates has too many white males and promised better representation in terms of gender and ethnicity.” Global Affairs would not confirm whether or not it had received these instructions from Mr. Trudeau, with Global Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion’s (Saint-Laurent, Que.) press secretary Chantal Gagnon saying she wasn’t going to answer that question. She also stressed that Ms. Charette and Ms. Lyons had not yet been officially appointed.

Speaking of official appointments, the Trudeau government will take its first crack at shuffling the foreign service this summer, anticipated in June or July.

Anne Leahy, a former Canadian ambassador, said she expects the announcements to come around the end of June. “I would watch [the announcement] because Justin Trudeau made a point of saying that he wanted more women, more diversity,” she said, adding that she “wouldn’t be surprised” to see that come to light. She said from her own experience, she expects anywhere from 10-15 new heads of mission to be appointed, if not more.

A source from Global Affairs told The Hill Times that the department will have more to say about diversity once the heads of mission shuffle happens, hinting that more diverse nominations might be coming.

The Hill Times counted the number of Canadian heads of mission posted abroad as of October 2015. The results showed that of the 134 heads of mission at the time, 90 were men and just 44 were women. That translates to 32 per cent heads of mission positions being held by women.

Source: Canada’s diplomatic brass: too white, too male |

Trudeau stood up by controversial guest at Chinese New Year event

The challenges of foreign diplomats navigating the diaspora communities and deciding which events to attend and which not, to avoid being seen to favour one side or the other:

While this kind of activity does not constitute any breach of electoral rules, it lives at the complicated intersection of diplomatic protocol and multicultural politics. “That kind of thing is going over the edge,” said Fen Hampson, distinguished fellow and director at CIGI’s Global Security & Politics Program, before Thursday’s no-show. “You’d be seen as courting the opposition, or worse, playing to their electoral song sheet. You can be badly burned if that party doesn’t form a new government and find yourself on the list where calls won’t get answered by a minister if you were seen as dabbling in domestic politics.”

… When asked about how to navigate this zone of pre-election politics, a senior G7 diplomat said that visiting the campaign headquarters wouldn’t be a problem, provided that respects were also paid to the rivals. Going to a fundraiser, on the other hand, crossed the line. Why go if you wouldn’t be contributing financially? “There’s a risk of being seen as being involved with internal politics,” the diplomat said.

Trudeau stood up by controversial guest at Chinese New Year event – The Globe and Mail.