In a free and democratic society we are supposed to be judged by our conduct and not by the company we keep.

But in Canada, our immigration laws provide an important exception.

Mikhail Lennikov studied Japanese at the Far Eastern State University in the former USSR.

Prior to leaving for a trip to Japan in October 1981, Lennikov was recruited by a KGB agent to provide the agency with information on his classmates which might later be used to determine if they would be permitted to travel outside of the USSR. In August 1982, Lennikov accepted a full-time position with the agency, which he held until November 1988 when he was finally dismissed after trying repeatedly to leave.

In 1997, Lennikov obtained a Canadian study permit and moved to Vancouver with his family where he studied at the University of British Columbia.

In 1999, Lennikov applied for permanent residence status in Canada. The application was refused by an immigration officer, not for what Lennikov did for the KGB, but for the mere fact that he was once employed by the agency. Our immigration laws render a person inadmissible to Canada for merely “being a member of an organization …that engages in espionage.” In other words, the second Lennikov joined the KGB he immediately met this criterion and forever became inadmissible to Canada regardless of how he might later conduct himself.

Accordingly, the officer delivered a report to the Immigration and Refugee Board which then issued a deportation order against Lennikov. The decision was fully upheld by the Federal Court in 2007 which confirmed that mere membership in the KGB is sufficient to satisfy the definition of “national security threat.”

Lennikov’s wife Irina and their 17-year-old son Dmitri are being processed for permanent residence in Canada on humanitarian grounds. However, Lennikov’s 10-year bid to stay in Canada is scheduled to come to an awkward end on June 3 when he is scheduled to be deported to Russia….alone.

There is no question that our immigration laws need to protect Canadians from foreigners who engage, or who might engage, in criminal activity on our soil. Clearly, this would also include people who actually constitute a threat to our national security. However, Lennikov is not being deported because of what he might do here but merely because of a past association. This is notwithstanding the fact that Lennikov left the KGB more than 20 years ago, and that the agency hasn't existed in nearly 15 years.

If Lennikov is to be deported, he should be deported only if he is in fact a national security threat to Canadians, and not because he is caught by a grossly over-reaching definition.

If the decision to deport Lennikov is based on national security, why is it that I don’t necessarily think I will feel more “secure” if and when he is gone?

More importantly, if he is truly a national security threat to Canada, as our government contends, why wasn’t he immediately arrested and detained for the past 12 years?

The fact that he was allowed to roam free is more telling about the risk he actually poses to us than the justification our government is putting forth for his removal.

Guidy Mamann practices law in Toronto at Mamann, Sandaluk and is certified by the Law Society of Upper Canada as an immigration specialist. Reach him confidentially at 416-862-0000 or at metro@migrationlaw.com.