VANCOUVER — A former Russian KGB employee who’s been living in a Vancouver church since he was ordered to leave Canada almost four months ago has been hit with another legal setback in his bid to fight deportation.
In a decision released Tuesday, a federal court judge rejected Mikhail Lennikov’s application for a judicial review.
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 dismissed the man’s application to have the federal minister’s decision overturned. He concluded there are no reviewable errors that warrant intervention.
“(Lennikov) and his family and his supporters are really disappointed in the ruling and he hopes to be able to talk to his lawyer about the implications,” said Russell Collins, a member of council for the First Lutheran Church where the man has been living.
Collins said Lennikov is looking over the decision and despite the ruling, “at the moment, (our) decision to grant sanctuary still stands.”
Lennikov has said he worked as a translator with the notorious Soviet spy service several decades ago, but denies he ever engaged in espionage. He said he had 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 in Canada, 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.