IN THE NEWS ~ Judge rejects Russian's bid to stop deportation With expulsion set for tomorrow, only Ottawa can step in to help former KGB officer after years-long efforts to stay
June 2nd, 2009 - 4:00am
PUBLICATION: GLOBE AND MAIL
PAGE: A10 (ILLUS)
BYLINE: JANE ARMSTRONG
SECTION: National News
IMMIGRATION Judge rejects Russian's bid to stop deportation With expulsion set for tomorrow, only Ottawa can step in to help former KGB officer after years-long efforts to stay
Former KGB officer Mikhail Lennikov has lost yet another bid to stay in Canada yesterday after a federal judge refused to halt his impending deportation. Barring a last-minute reprieve from Ottawa, Mr. Lennikov is scheduled to board a Russia-bound plane early tomorrow splitting him from his wife and 17-year-old son.
"It looks like someone doesn't want to give me more time," Mr. Lennikov, 48, said after learning of his latest immigration setback. "There must be a reason for that." Mr. Lennikov has been fighting to stay in Canada for years, but his past employment with the former Soviet secret police service has dogged him at every turn. Ottawa has argued that his service in the now-disbanded Soviet secret police makes him a security risk.
After years of appeals, Mr. Lennikov and his family were ordered deported last winter.
Since then, his wife, Irina, and son, Dmitri, have been given the green light to apply for permanent residence status, but there has been no reprieve for Mr. Lennikov.
Last week, the family trooped to Ottawa in a bid to argue their case with Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. But the minister refused to meet them. Meanwhile, in Vancouver, Mr.
Lennikov's lawyer went to Federal Court seeking a stay of the June 3 deportation order.
Darryl Larson argued that Mr. Lennikov's deportation would cause irreparable harm to the family; not only does Mr. Lennikov face reprisals in Russia if he is sent home, but his wife and son will suffer from the family split.
Yesterday, Federal Court Judge Russell Zinn rejected these claims, ruling that deportation of one family member, by its nature, is an upsetting experience. "However tragic, this is one of the usual consequences of deportation." He added: "There is no evidence before the Court on which I can find that the distress, depression and anxiety that Dmitri and Irina will suffer, on the balance of probabilities, will be significantly greater or of a different quality than the distress, depression and anxiety every family member experiences with the removal of a husband and father." The judge also said that he found "no evidence" that Mr. Lennikov, who worked five years for the former Soviet secret police force in the 1980s, faced "risk of arrest and imprisonment and charges of treason" in his homeland.
Mr. Larson said yesterday that there is nothing more he can legally do for his client. Supporters say Mr. Lennikov's only hope now is political intervention.
Burnaby-New Westminster MP Peter Julian appealed to Mr. Kenney to intervene.
"The family has been hard-working," Mr. Julian said. "They've paid their taxes. They've done everything right. The ministry has known for almost a decade about his brief involvement with the KGB.
"The buck stops with the minister. And the minister should be clear on why he is breaking this family apart." Mr. Lennikov left Russia in 1995 and went to Japan. In 1997, he arrived in Canada on a student visa and entered a master's program at the University of British Columbia. Two years later, he applied for permanent residence.
Since then, the family has settled in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby. Mr. Lennikov works for a computer software firm, and last week, Dmitri graduated from high school.
Mr. Lennikov has argued that he was a reluctant member of the once-feared Soviet police force. He said he was recruited against his will while he was a university student in Vladivostok in Russia's Far East. He quit after five years despite warnings from his superiors that his voluntary departure was unwise.
Meanwhile, Mr. Lennikov said he's still hoping he doesn't have to board a plane tomorrow. "I'm a stubborn fool but that's the way I am."