Former KGB employee 'disappointed' latest attempt to stay in Canada quashed

VANCOUVER, B.C. - A former Russian KGB employee who's been living in a Vancouver church since he was ordered to leave Canada almost four months ago had little to say Tuesday about a federal court decision that brought him one step closer to deportation.

VANCOUVER, B.C. - A former Russian KGB employee who's been living in a Vancouver church since he was ordered to leave Canada almost four months ago had little to say Tuesday about a federal court decision that brought him one step closer to deportation.

Mikhail Lennikov was unhappily reviewing his options following yet another legal setback to his ongoing fight against being returned to post-Soviet Russia, a spokesman for the church said.

A federal court judge rejected the man's application for a judicial review, concluding intervention in the matter wasn't warranted.

"He's pretty disappointed in what's happened and he just needs some time to get his head around it," said Russell Collins, a member of council for First Lutheran Church, where the man has been living.

Lennikov wasn't yet commenting on his situation, Collins added, and was trying to get in touch with his lawyer to further understand the ruling's implications.

The Immigration and Refugee Board had previously denied Lennikov permanent residence and, in February, Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan refused to grant him an appeal.

In his 24-page decision, Justice Michel Beaudry also dismissed the man's bid to have the federal minister's decision overturned. He concluded there were no reviewable errors and that the minister's decision stands.

It means the former KGB employee may be out of legal options.

"What this basically means is (Lennikov) does not have any other options for discretionary ministerial relief," said Catherine Dauvergne, a University of British Columbia professor who holds the Canada research chair in migration law.

Authorities have so far respected a convention to not cross onto church land to deport the man, but it's not binding in law, Dauvergne said.

"Eventually the government could make a decision that they would breach sanctuary. They usually do not," she said.

Collins said that despite the ruling, the church will continue offering Lennikov sanctuary for the time being.

Lennikov has said he was compelled against his will to work for the notorious Soviet spy service several decades ago, but denies he ever engaged in espionage. He has said he held a low-level position, mainly as a translator.

Lennikov was granted a permit to study in Canada in July 1997, and his family joined him that September. His wife Irina and teenage son Dmitri have been granted status to remain in Canada on compassionate grounds, but immigration officials and Ottawa say his association with the KGB means he poses a security risk.

The 49-year-old had been living in Burnaby, B.C., until June, when he took sanctuary in the church to avoid deportation. He fears he'll face repercussions if forced to return to Russia.

"People who are genuinely in fear for their lives are going to be the ones who make every possible attempt (to stay in the country)," Dauvergne said.

"But I think it's important that the process have a point where it ends."

She added she finds it interesting Lennikov's case has drawn so much public attention, "because there are many people with far more sympathetic stories who are successfully removed from Canada every year."

 
 
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