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‘It felt like a movie’: Single father of twin girls returns to Canada after surrogacy ordeal

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A Canadian man who was shocked to learn that twin girls born to him overseas didn’t automatically qualify as citizens has finally been able to bring the newborns home after being stranded in Kenya for over a month.

Joseph Tito arrived back in Toronto on Wednesday after a weeks-long ordeal and 36-hour flight that left him “exhausted” but relieved to finally be home.

Tito says he’s ready to take on the challenge of fatherhood.

“Being a first-time parent is overwhelming for everybody, but being away from the comfort of your home caring for two newborns has been tough,” Tito wrote in an Instagram post earlier this week announcing he had been granted the visas to bring the girls, Stella and Mia, home.

“What a ride this has been but at the end, like I said a million times, I would go through hell and back for these two precious beings.”

‘I didn’t think it was real’

Tito chronicled his surrogacy process in a blog after noticing there were few online resources about it for men or same-sex couples.

He says he’d taken every precaution to make sure the process was completely above board and chose Kenya in part because the cost of finding a surrogate to bear his children was least prohibitive in the east African country.

His children don’t qualify as citizens because of an amendment to Canada’s Citizenship Act in 2015 that limited automatic citizenship for babies born to Canadians outside of Canada to one generation. For Tito, who was born in Italy and automatically received Canadian citizenship, that meant he couldn’t transfer citizenship to children born abroad. 

“Even before I started this journey, I looked into it. I contacted the embassy, I contacted the clinic, I contacted lawyers,” he told reporters when he landed in Toronto on Wednesday.

That’s why when he learned his children weren’t automatically Canadian citizens, he was “floored,” he said.

“It felt like a movie,” Tito said. “I didn’t think it was real, especially for a country like Canada.”

‘Incredibly arbitrary’ 

It’s a change that immigration lawyer Joel Sandaluk has long felt was “problematic.”

“What it essentially does is it creates two separate classes of Canadian citizenship — one which is inherently more valuable than the other,” Sandaluk said.

“Certain Canadian citizens are able to pass along their citizenship to their children even if they’re born outside of Canada whereas other Canadian citizens are not,” he added, noting the legislation applies only to people born after Feb. 14, 1977.

“It’s also incredibly arbitrary. I know of a number of individuals [who] have more than one child, one of whom may have been born outside of Canada and it is maddening for the parents to realize that even within their own family there are different classes of citizenship.”

For his part, Tito says he understands why the law was put into place, but would like to see it changed.

Sandaluk echoes that sentiment. 

“I believe the intention of the government at the time was to make sure that people couldn’t constantly be having more Canadian citizens and the number of Canadian citizens and citizens couldn’t be constantly expanding outside of Canada to a group of people who had no connection with Canada whatsoever,” he said.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada did not respond to CBC Toronto’s request for comment. 

The girls’ exact status in Canada isn’t known, but they aren’t yet permanent residents, says Tito. Tito says he’s sent in sponsorship papers for the girls and plans to take the necessary steps to secure their citizenship after he settles in.

For now, though, he says he’s just looking forward to spending quality time with the tiny new additions to his family.

His first order of business: “Feed them, bathe them in fresh water and put them in their nursery.”

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Federal Budget 2021: Ottawa adds $1B to broadband fund for rural, remote communities

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The federal government will add $1 billion to a fund for improving high-speed communications in rural and remote areas of Canada, bringing the total to $2.75 billion by 2026, the Liberals said Monday in their first full budget since the pandemic began last year.

The money is going to the Universal Broadband Fund, which is designed to support the installation of “backbone” infrastructure that connects underserved communities to high-speed internet.

It’s one of many government and private-sector initiatives that have gained urgency since the pandemic began, as Canadians became more dependent on internet service for applications ranging from e-learning to daily business operations.

Ottawa says the additional money will keep it on track to have high-speed broadband in 98 per cent of the country by 2026, and 100 per cent by 2030.

Money spent on high-speed communications will be good for a recovering economy, said Pedro Antunes, chief economist at the Conference Board of Canada, a non-partisan think-tank.

The latest data from Statistics Canada says there were about five million people working from home during the pandemic, up from about two million prior to that, Antunes said in an interview.

“That’s a quarter or so of the workforce,” he added. “And I think a fair number of those people are going to continue to work from home, at least in some part-time way.”

Improved connections to high-speed broadband and mobile communications will add to the productive capacity of the economy overall, especially as it reaches beyond Canada’s cities, Antunes said.

He said there’s been a “real issue” with economic growth outside major urban centres and the improved connectivity “is something that can help stimulate that.”

The Universal Broadband Fund was initially mentioned in the 2019 budget, though specifics were not available until last November’s fiscal update.

The $1-billion top-up to the broadband fund announced today is in addition to $1.75 billion promised to the fund by the federal government’s November fiscal update.

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COVID-19: What you need to know for April 19

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Provincewide

  • Per today’s government report, there are 4,447 new cases in Ontario, for a total of 421,442 since the pandemic began; 2,202 people are in hospital, 755 of them in intensive care, and 516 on ventilators. To date, 7,735 people have died.
  • According to data from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, there are 40 outbreaks in long-term-care facilities, 36 confirmed active cases of positive residents, and 127 confirmed active cases of positive staff. To date, there have been 3,755 confirmed resident deaths and 11 confirmed staff deaths.
  • Per the government’s report on Ontario’s vaccination program, as of 7 p.m. yesterday, Ontario has administered 66,897 new doses of COVID-19 vaccines, for a total of 3,904,778 since December 2020. 3,212,768 people have received only one dose, and 346,005 people have received both doses.

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Federal budget 2021 highlights: Child care, recovery benefits, OAS increases – everything you need to know

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The federal government’s first budget in more than two years certainly looks the part: At 739 pages, it is a hefty document chock full of billions in new spending.

Those funds will be spread among a number of key groups – students, seniors, parents and small-business owners, to name a few – as Ottawa looks to bolster Canada’s recovery from COVID-19 but also plan for life beyond the pandemic.

To that end, the deficit is projected to hit $354.2-billion in the 2020-21 fiscal year, which just ended – better than expected about five months ago, given the economy’s resilience over the winter months. It is estimated to fall to $154.7-billion this fiscal year, before dropping further in the years to come as pandemic spending recedes from view.

Here are some of the highlights from Monday’s budget.

The budget outlines tens of billions of dollars in federal subsidies for a national child-care program, a promise the Liberal Party has made in some form since the early 1990s. Child-care supports became a point of national debate during pandemic lockdowns as parents with young children struggled to juggle work and family responsibilities.

In total, the government proposes spending as much as $30-billion over the next five years, and $8.3-billion each year after that, to bring child-care fees down to a $10-a-day average by 2026. The proposal, which requires negotiation with the provinces and territories, would split subsidies evenly with those governments and targets a 50-per-cent reduction in average child-care fees by the end of 2022.

The federal program is largely modelled on Quebec’s subsidized child-care system, implemented in the 1990s in an effort to increase women’s access to the labour market. Since then, labour participation rates for women aged 25 to 54 in the province have grown to exceed the national average by four percentage points.

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