Recent university graduate Alex Vavilov was born in Toronto, which would typically qualify him for Canadian citizenship except for one thing: His parents were part of a notorious Russian spy ring in North America, the AP reports. That is the conflict at the heart of a high-profile citizenship battle as the 23-year-old Vavilov seeks the right to reside permanently in the country where his parents once lived clandestine lives as deeply embedded spies who are the models for the TV show "The Americans." The Canadian government says he isn't entitled to citizenship and has appealed to the Supreme Court to annul the passport granted to him by a lower court. Vavilov's supporters say a son shouldn't pay for the sins of his parents while critics contend his claim to be a Canadian by birth is based on a fraud.
Some argue Canada shouldn't be quick to forgive the case of the Russian spy couple who lived under deep cover in North America. "We shouldn't be doing anything to encourage activity by the Russian intelligence service, particularly in terms of what's happened recently with the poisoning of individuals," says Richard DesLauriers, the FBI agent who oversaw the arrests of the parents, Andrey Bezrukov and Elena Vavilova, in 2010. Canada's high court agreed earlier this month to take up Vavilov's case and will rule on whether the government has the discretion to take away his citizenship. If it finds in Alex's favor, it would likely allow his older brother Tim to retain his Canadian citizenship as well. "The right to citizenship is a fundamental right when you are born here," says a Toronto lawyer. "You can't punish children for something their parents did."
(Read more Russian spies