Citizenship law leaves Toronto man's newborn twins stranded in Kenya
A Toronto man whose twins were born via a surrogate in Kenya says he’s hit a roadblock in bringing the newborns home because of Canadian citizenship rules.
“I’m still speechless. I feel like I’m in a movie,” Joseph Tito told CTV News Channel Sunday.
“I feel like this happens to people not in Canada.”
Tito hired a surrogate mother in Kenya, where he found the surrogacy process for a single man cheaper than in Canada.
The surrogate delivered healthy twins on Nov. 30. Tito, who had flown to Mombasa with his mother, met his new daughters Mia and Stella, moments later.
After a few weeks in Kenya, Tito was making final preparations to fly his family back to Canada. A meeting Friday morning at the Canadian High Commission in Nairobi revealed that it wouldn’t be as simple as he thought.
“Because I’m second –generation Canadian, my children are not eligible for citizenship,” Tito said.
A law passed in 2009 removed the ability of Canadians born outside of Canada to pass on their citizenship to children who were also not born in the country. Because Tito was born in Italy to a Canadian mother, his children are not eligible to automatically become Canadian citizens.
“Before I even started this journey, I looked into this and I contacted the High Commission here in Nairobi, I spoke to them on the phone, I gave them my passport number, I spoke to my clinic," he said.
“If I would have known this from the beginning, I would have worked around it and figured it out."
Tito plans to return to the high commission Monday morning to plead for a solution. If he strikes out there, he’ll try the Italian embassy, although he doesn’t expect to have much luck with his birth country either, as surrogacy arrangements are illegal in Italy.
The blogger said he has been told that making a formal application through the Canadian system could take six to 12 months – time he was expecting to spend raising his daughters in Toronto.
“Hopefully they expedite it,” he said.
Immigration lawyer Joel Sandaluk told CTV News that people who have Canadian citizenship using surrogates abroad may not consider all the steps involved.
“A lot of people go into these situations thinking that the biggest problem is going to be the adoption without really paying much attention to what they’ll go through in order to bring people to Canada from a foreign country, especially if they’re bringing children to Canada permanently,” Sandaluk said. “It can be extremely time consuming and traumatic for the children as well as for the parents.”
The law does include exceptions for people who were born while their parents were working abroad for the federal government or became parents while working a federal job abroad themselves, but neither of those situations apply in Tito’s case.
Tito said he wants to see the Canadian government change the law so situations like his are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. He also said the headaches he’s enduring in Africa haven’t made him rethink his decision to pursue surrogacy abroad.
“If I had to do it over again, a thousand times over, I would – because they are truly a blessing,” he said.
In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen told CTV News that while the minister's office cannot comment on specific cases, the first priority with any immigration case that involves children is "to protect the safety and well-being of the children involved."
"We understand that immigration decisions can have a serious impact on the lives of individuals and we work with all clients on a case by case basis to ensure a that each case is treated fairly and in accordance to Canada's laws," spokesperson Mathieu Genest said.