IN THE NEWS ~ Ex KGB agent wants access to personal files to bolster case to stay in Canada (KGB-Deportation)

Ex KGB agent wants access to personal files to bolster case to stay in Canada (KGB-Deportation)
By Steve Mertl
Source: CP (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

VANCOUVER _ A former KGB agent fighting deportation and his chief supporter are accusing the federal government of dragging its feet
in releasing documents they claim will prove he's not a national security threat.

Mikhail Lennikov, who's been living in sanctuary in a Vancouver church since June, submitted a request three months ago under the Privacy Act for his personal files from the RCMP, Canada Border Services Agency and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

But NDP MP Peter Julian, who's helping his constituent, says the government missed the 30-day deadline to hand over the documents.

The RCMP recently released a heavily-censored 59-page file but border services and CSIS have invoked deadline extensions under the
law.

Julian and Lennikov contend it's because there's no real evidence to back their claim Lennikov's stint in the notorious Soviet spy service makes him a danger to Canada.

"I think it's fair to say given the publicity around this case and given the broad level of public support that the Lennikov family has received, that if the government had anything of substance they would have chosen to get that information out there to try to change public opinion,'' Julian told reporters at a news conference inside First Lutheran Church in east Vancouver.

Julian said he has applied to Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart to appeal the RCMP's limited disclosures _ consisting mostly of a car-accident report and a record of a complaint Lennikov himself filed.

Under the legislation, the government can redact _ that is censor _ documents for a variety of reasons, including information that was
received in confidence, relates to defence or international affairs, or involves another level of government.

Julian also wants the commissioner to pressure CSIS and border services to speed up delivery of their documents.

Federal departments normally have 30 days to comply with information requests but routinely invoke mandatory extensions, often citing delays in information retrieval or the need to consult with other departments or levels of government.

"I suspect that they have nothing and that is why they're withholding the documents,'' said Julian, who represents the suburban Burnaby-New Westminster riding where the Lennikovs live.

Lennikov, his wife Irina and son Dimitri first came to Canada in 1997 so he could study here.

His student visa was routinely renewed but when his family applied for landed immigrant status in 1999 he was turned down.

Lennikov served in the KGB in the 1980s, the waning days of the Soviet Union.

He contends he was pressured into joining and that he worked only as a translator and on administrative matters.

But immigration officials said in 2002 they believed he may have been involved in espionage and subversion against a democratic government. Both Canada Border Services and the Immigration and Refugee Board found him inadmissible.

Lennikov has tried to fight the rulings in Federal Court but, faced with imminent deportation, he sought refuge at First Lutheran in June.

He has another court hearing scheduled for Sept. 10, asking for a judicial review of the ministerial decision not to allow him to stay on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. His wife and son are expected to have their residency confirmed.

Lennikov said he is keeping busy at the church, doing chores such as taking care of plants, helping prepare for Sunday services, blogging about his situation and entertaining visiting supporters.

"Surprisingly there's always something to do,'' he said. "I'm not getting bored.''

But the situation is straining his family, Lennikov said, especially his wife, who works for an insurance company.

"It's been a quite difficult three months,'' he said. "I saw my family, especially my wife, struggling a lot with the reality that even though we are all in Canada and in Lower Mainland, we are not together as a family.''

Irina comes to visit a couple of times a week and stays overnight on weekends, Lennikov said.

His son was visiting daily but has taken a summer job to help pay for his semester at a community college. Because he has not yet been
granted residency, Dimitri must pay the same high tuition as international students, Lennikov said.