Community maintains support for Lennikov family: Julian
After more than three years in church sanctuary, Mikhail Lennikov continues to receive the support of many in the community, says Peter Julian, NDP MP for Burnaby-New Westminster.
Julian, along with fellow New Democrat MP Don Davies (Vancouver-Kingsway), co-hosted a Thanksgiving dinner with the Lennikov family at First Lutheran Church in Vancouver where Mikhail has been living since June 2009.
For years, the former South Burnaby residents fought deportation to their native Russia. His wife Irina and then-18-year-old son Dmitri were eventually given conditional approval to stay on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. But Lennikov was ordered deported, just days after Dmitri's graduation from Byrne Creek secondary.
Ottawa maintains Lennikov is inadmissible because he worked for the former Soviet Union's spy agency, the KGB, in the 1980s. Faced with the possibility of never seeing his family again, Mikhail took sanctuary at the family's church and has been there ever since.
Julian, who has advocated for the family for years as his constituents, said it's been difficult for the family to have Mikhail essentially living under house arrest.
"We basically are just letting them know we haven't forgotten what they're going through and I visit them regularly," Julian said, "and I know a lot of folks in the community do, but there's no getting around that it's very, very, very tough. It's difficult to imagine what they're going through."
The immigration minister can sign an order tomorrow allowing the family to stay together in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, he said, but "I don't get the sense that will happen anytime soon."
After poring through thousands of pages of the government's documents in the case, Julian said, he doesn't believe Ottawa has any real reason to deport Mikhail, "other than wanting to maintain what was originally a wrong decision."
The decision doesn't seem fair or appropriate considering other situations, he added.
"You think of people like Conrad Black who committed a felony, who is waived into the country immediately even though he renounced his Canadian citizenship. And Mr. Lennikov, who has broad community support, continues to suffer."
As for some, such as the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association, who see Lennikov's KGB stint as reason enough for deportation, Julian said, "They certainly have the right to their opinion. But the community support that hundreds of people have shown is a pretty fair indication as well of the level of support in the community.
"I would just hope for the family, after all they've been through that one day they can actually just be together and live in Canada and contribute to the country the way they want to so deeply."
Mikhail Lennikov declined a request for an interview.