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

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

Changes to law limited automatic citizenship for babies born abroad

Joseph Tito arrived back in Toronto Wednesday, after a weeks-long ordeal and 36-hour flight that left him 'exhausted' but relieved to finally be home, and ready to take on the challenge of fatherhood. (Sue Reid/CBC)

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."