Minister of Citizenship and Immigration v. Alexander Vavilov

(Federal) (Civil) (By Leave)


Administrative law - Judicial review, Standard of review - Administrative law - Judicial review - Standard of review - Statutory interpretation - Canadian citizenship by birth not recognized to a person by the Citizenship Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. 29, “if, at the time of his birth, neither his parents was a citizen or lawfully admitted to Canada for permanent residence and either of his parents was [. . .] a diplomatic or consular officer or other representative or employee in Canada of a foreign government” - Whether the words “other representative or employee in Canada of a foreign government” limited to foreign nationals who benefit from diplomatic privileges and immunities - Whether the Federal Court of Appeal defined and applied the appropriate standard of review.


Case summaries are prepared by the Office of the Registrar of the Supreme Court of Canada (Law Branch). Please note that summaries are not provided to the Judges of the Court. They are placed on the Court file and website for information purposes only.

The respondent, Mr. Vavilov, was born in Canada in 1994. His parents were undercover spies from Russia. In 2010, they were arrested in the U.S. and returned to Russia in a spy swap. On August 15, 2014, the Registrar of citizenship informed Mr. Vavilov that a certificate of Canadian citizenship issued to him in 2013 was cancelled and that the Canadian government no longer recognized him as a Canadian citizen. The decision was based on a report of a citizenship analyst, which concluded that his parents were not lawfully Canadian citizens or permanent residents at the time of his birth, and they were, at that time, “employees or representatives of a foreign government” for the purposes of s. 3(2)(a) of the Citizenship Act.

The Federal Court dismissed Mr. Vavilov’s application for judicial review. It ruled that s. 3(2)(a) targets representatives and employees in Canada of foreign governments, regardless of diplomatic or consular status. A majority of the Federal Court of Appeal allowed the appeal and quashed the decision of the Registrar as unreasonable. It concluded that given the text, context and purpose of the provision, s. 3(2)(a) targets only foreign government employees who benefit from diplomatic immunities or privileges.