IN THE NEWS ~ Russian claimant takes plea to stay to Ottawa

DATE: 2009.05.25
BYLINE: Lora Grindlay
DUPLICATES: The Daily News (Nanaimo), Calgary Herald, The Ottawa Citizen

Russian claimant takes plea to stay to Ottawa

A Burnaby family is packing up and travelling to Ottawa today in their desperate battle against a deportation order that will separate them.

Mikhail Lennikov, a former Russian secret-service agent, has been ordered deported June 3 after an 11-year bid to remain in Canada, although his wife Irina and his 17-year-old son Dmitri were granted permission to apply to stay in Canada on humanitarian grounds.

The family will join their MP, Peter Julian, at a press conference in Ottawa tomorrow, where they will plead for a meeting with Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

It's an act of desperation, said Lennikov, and they don't even know if Kenney will be in Ottawa this week but they are hopeful.

"We are going, hoping that it will work out," he said.

"We hope to show who we are -- people in flesh rather than people on paper. We are just real people, people who love each other and care about each other. The only reason we've been able to go through all this is because we've been together, supporting each other."

Lennikov hopes to meet Kenney to present his case.

"Many people have been giving evaluations of my future and my past and my present but it has been their take. We are hoping just to show who we are."

Julian, New Democrat MP for Burnaby-New Westminster, said in a statement that the Lennikovs are a credit to the community.

"My fervent hope is that Minister Kenney will understand the ramifications the deportation order will have on this family and move quickly to stay the deportation order," he said.

Lennikov admitted to his role in the KGB when the family moved to Canada in 1997 and applied for permanent residency status. He has said he was forced into the agency and worked as a Japanese translator for five years before quitting in 1988.

He believes if he returns to Russia he will face torture for his links to the KGB. He is considered a traitor for quitting the agency.

Canadian immigration law prohibits spies or those who have engaged in subversive action against a democratic government from receiving status unless the applicants are approved by the public safety minister.

Lennikov, who was given a one-week reprieve from the deportation order to witness his son graduate this Friday from Byrne Creek Secondary, has applied to the Federal Court for a stay of the deportation order. His application will be heard Thursday.

The family has been on the receiving end of waves of public support in their bid to become Canadian. Over 4,000 people have joined a Facebook group supporting them.

Lennikov can't believe the compassion they've been shown.

"It's just an unbelievable feeling, getting that much support, sympathy. I am not afraid of using the word love. People who know us . . . show their love. It is amazing. I think we are blessed with this kind of experience."