B.C. church sanctuary ‘a palace’ for ex-KGB agent

Posted by admin on Jun 4th, 2009

By Darah Hansen, Vancouver Sun. June 4, 2009

VANCOUVER — A former KGB agent seeking refuge in a B.C. church to avoid deportation said his new home “is a palace compared to the alternative.” For three days, Mikhail Lennikov, 48, has been living in sanctuary in a makeshift bedroom in the basement of the First Lutheran Church in east Vancouver. His days are spent in the glare of the media spotlight, fending off questions from reporters on the phone and in person about his past association with the Russian spy agency, his life in Canada, and his current status in the country.

“There is no routine,” Lennikov said. “Come back in a month.”

Lennikov sought sanctuary in the church Tuesday, just hours before his scheduled deportation. The failed refugee claimant, who has lived in Canada for 12 years, was declared inadmissible by the Immigration and Refugee Board in 2006 because of ties to the now-disbanded KGB.

On Monday, the Federal Court rejected a final bid to stay the deportation order.

His wife Irina and 17-year-old son Dmitri were initially ordered deported but, in March, were allowed to stay on compassionate and humanitarian grounds.

Earlier this week, 23 Liberal, Bloc Quebecois and New Democratic MPs co-signed a letter to Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan, urging them to halt the deportation order.

On Thursday, Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh reiterated that sentiment after a one-on-one meeting with Lennikov at the church, which is located in Dosanjh’s Vancouver South riding.

Dosanjh, a former B.C. premier, said Lennikov has been an “ideal resident” of Canada for the past 12 years.

He said Lennikov is facing a major threat if he’s deported, because of his disclosures to Canadian authorities about the KGB.

“He is seen as a traitor,” Dosanjh said.

But, so far, the government remains unmoved. Van Loan said Tuesday the government will not intervene, because it respects the decisions of the courts.

“The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act states quite clearly that individuals who have been involved in espionage against our country, or other countries, or have been a member of an agency that conducts that, are not admissible to Canada,” he said.

Lennikov, who was working on his PhD at the University of B.C. until his student visa was suspended in February, said he’s prepared to make the church his home for as long it takes to convince authorities he’s not a threat to security.

© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service

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