This column is not so much about Mikhail Lennikov, the ex-KGB agent who is now in hiding in a church in B.C.
It’s about dishonesty.
I hate dishonesty, especially when elected officials try to exploit the public’s lack of familiarity with complex areas of immigration law in order to make themselves look good.
Case in point.
When MP Peter Julian took up Lennikov’s case and confronted Immigration Minister Jason Kenney in the House of Commons during question period, Kenney said this:
“Mr. Speaker, I think it is very unfortunate that a member would try to politicize a case that has been before the Immigration and Refugee Board, before our courts, before our public servants with both an application for humanitarian compassion and a pre-removal risk assessment. We do not politicize cases of inadmissibility that come before the Immigration and Refugee Board, an independent, quasi-judicial body. There is a legal system in place for these matters to be considered. This particular case has been considered by our courts and by the IRB.”
This sentiment was echoed by Christopher McClusky, spokesman for Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan, who said “Mr. Lennikov is inadmissible to Canada under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act on security grounds. This is a decision upheld by both the Immigration Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada and the Federal Court.”
The impression that the public would get from these statements is that the IRB, the Federal Court and the appropriate public servants had the ultimate responsibility to decide the case and that after considering the issue at hand, all reached the same conclusion that the law does not allow Lennikov to stay in Canada.
If so, that impression is completely wrong, because the facts are quite different.
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Section 34 (1) of IRPA makes every foreign national inadmissible to Canada if they were ever a member of an organization that was involved in espionage against a democratic state. It is irrelevant what the person did while a member. If membership is proven, the IRB must find the individual inadmissible. Neither the Federal Court nor ‘public servants’ can interfere with such a finding if this fact is properly proven. The only person who has the power to do anything about it is the Minister of Public Safety, Peter Van Loan.
IRPA contains an explicit exception to this rule whereby the minister can allow someone to stay if the minister is of the view that the presence in Canada of the foreign national “would not be detrimental to the national interest.”
Taking the only route available to him, Lennikov asked Van Loan to make such a finding.
However, on Feb. 24, 2009, Van Loan rejected this request because Lennikov did “not provide a satisfactory level of evidence that his presence in Canada is not detrimental to the national interest.”
An appeal to the Federal Court was filed on March 6, 2009 and has still not been heard. Nonetheless, the government still tried to deport Lennikov. His lawyers simply asked the court to stop the removal until the appeal could be heard. However, on June 1 the court refused to intervene, prompting Lennikov to seek sanctuary in a church basement.
Our honourable ministers want you to believe that this is a legal process and not a political one, and that the responsibility for sending Lennikov home rested at the feet of the IRB, the Federal Court, and some unnamed public servants who all ruled against him.
The truth is that only the minister of public safety, had the authority to let Lennikov stay in Canada. Instead, he sought to deport Lennikov even before the Federal Court could hear his appeal.
Suggesting anything to the contrary is utterly dishonest.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.