Former KGB takes sanctuary at Vancouver church
Updated: Tue Jun. 02 2009 18:36:53
A former KGB agent threatened with deportation Wednesday morning has taken sanctuary in a Vancouver, B.C., church.
Former Soviet translator Mikhail Lennikov moved to Canada 11 years ago with his wife Irina and their now 17-year-old son Dmitri.
This year, Lennikov's past caught up with him. Having worked as a KGB contractor in the 1980s, Canadian immigration rules require special permission from the Minister of Public Safety for Lennikov to remain in Canada.
So far, that permission has not been granted.
Lennikov was scheduled to be deported at 2:00 a.m. Wednesday, but he has now taken refuge at the First Lutheran Church in East Vancouver.
Reverend Richard Hergesheimer says his church renovated several months ago to install a shower and make a livable space for Lennikov months ago.
“We know that what we're doing with sanctuary is illegal. We know that,” Hergesheimer said.
“But it's not wrong. We think were doing the right thing.”
Lennikov says he is grateful for the church's support.
“When you share your emotion of love and support, it's unique,” he said. “It's so important. I would like to say thank you, thank you to our church.”
Meanwhile, nearly two dozen MPs are asking the federal government to halt his deportation.
Twenty-three Liberal, Bloc Quebecois and New Democrat MPs have signed a letter to van Loan and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, saying Lennikov has never posed any threat to Canada and faces `extremely worrisome' penalties if he is forced to return to Russia.
“The documents from the own delegates said he had no espionage training, he never engaged in espionage,” New Democrat MP Peter Julian said.
“He was part of an organization that no longer exists. It's difficult to think that that could be a risk to Canada.”
Julian says Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan has the power to allow Lennikov to remain with his wife and son in Canada.
But Van Loan says he'll respect the court ruling and enforce the law, which bars anyone from a foreign spy agency from living in Canada.
Lennikov has said he was upfront about his past with the KGB and even gave CSIS a debriefing on the agency.
With files from The Canadian Press