Mikhail Lennikov a former KGB agent who faces deportation took refuge in the First Luthern Church in Vancouver
Credits: CARMINE MARINELLI/QMI AGENCY
KINGSTON, ON - A college professor and first-generation Ukrainian Canadian is upset a pair of NDP MPs spent Thanksgiving at a public dinner with a former KGB officer hiding in sanctuary in Vancouver.
Mikhail Lennikov has lived in the basement of the First Lutheran Church in Vancouver for more than three years after he was ordered deported.
Lennikov is a former captain of the KGB, the national security agency of the former Soviet Union.
He has been hiding in the church since 2009, after the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada rejected Lennikov's claim and ordered him deported.
On appeal, the Federal Court of Canada upheld the ruling and deportation order.
"He is thumbing his nose at Canadian immigration law," said Lubomyr Luciuk, a political science professor at the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, ON and a representative of the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
On Monday, NDP MPs Peter Julian and Don Davies hosted a potluck Thanksgiving dinner.
Davies, MP for Vancouver Kingsway, said Lennikov and his family came to Canada on student visas.
After completing his masters degree, Lennikov and his wife Irina and son Dmitri applied for permanent resident status.
His wife and son were approved, but Davies said Lennikov's application was not presented well at the hearing and he was denied.
Subsequent appeals only looked at procedural issues, not the merits of the case, Davies said.
"There is no attempt to hide anything," said Davies, adding that he has known the Lennikov family for 15 years and personally vouches for them.
"These are exactly the type of people we should be bringing into the country."
Deporting Mikhail Lennikov would mean breaking up the family.
"I don't think that's fair. I don't think that's compassionate. I don't think that's wanted," Davies said.
Luciuk said while he doubts Lennikov personally killed or tortured anyone, his membership in the KGB makes him ineligible to enter Canada and remain here as a refugee.
Although in sanctuary for three years, Lennikov has not apologized or showed any remorse for being part of the KGB, Luciuk said.
Even if he did not personally commit any offences, being a mid-ranking member of the KGB makes Lennikov indirectly responsible for the agency's crimes.
"I don't want a KGB man as a Canadian citizen," Luciuk said.
Luciuk said he is upset that Lennikov is being allowed to stay in Canada by seeking sanctuary in a church.
"There is no such thing as sanctuary in Canadian law," Luciuk said.
Luciuk said many people joined the Soviet communist party only to improve their lot in life.
"I can understand why someone would do it. The KGB is a different story," Luciuk said, adding Lennikov volunteered and rose through the KGB ranks to become a captain.
"We're not talking about some kid in World War Two who was conscripted," he said.
"Those people built the society they wanted, and they did it by killing or enslaving millions of people," Luciuk said.
Davies called Luciuk's position a "dangerous generalization" and said it was full of "cold war rhetoric." He said it is unfair to group people together and hold them responsible for the actions of others.
"I think it's an untenable position. Some would call it absurd," Davies said.
Davies said while the immigration law forbids entry to Canada by members of foreign espionage agencies that worked against democratic countries, another section of the same act would permit the immigration minister to allow ex-KGB officers in if they posed no threat to national security.
"Nobody can convince me that every member of the KGB is inadmissible to Canada," he said.
Davies said he has asked the government for the reasoning behind the denial of Lennikov's immigration application but said no such information has been released.