I like to consider myself a compassionate person … sometimes.
As a descendent of immigrants who fled turmoil and extreme poverty in Russia (on my mother’s side) and the Ukraine (on my father’s side) back in the late 1890s, I have never forgotten how I benefitted from their bravery and wisdom in seeking a new life in Canada.
And visiting both those countries myself only increased my gratitude to my grandparents and my appreciation for the life Canada has allowed me to enjoy, relish and want to share with others as much as possible.
That is … legal immigrants, who came here as VICTIMS of persecution elsewhere or more recently, as legitimate economic or professional or even familial reunification new Canadians.
But not criminals fleeing justice elsewhere; not war criminals who terrorized, killed innocent citizens or captured opponents; and, not secret police agents who spied on, reported on and exposed fellow citizens and sometimes their whole families to danger, imprisonment, loss of employment or several forms of discrimination for personal profit or privilege.
I believe Mikhail Lennikov, from everything I have seen and read and heard him say about himself, fell into that latter category.
For more than four years, Lennikov has been in sanctuary in a Vancouver church, rather than accept a Deportation Order issued by Canadian Immigration and UPHELD despite several legal appeals and extensive protests by supporters.
Lennikov has admitted he worked for the KGB in the 1980s when the Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union. He says he was a mere translator but he reportedly also spied and reported on fellow Ukrainian students and while on overseas study travels. We can only imagine how many lives his snitching to the KGB impacted on over the years.
He came to Canada as a student in 1997 and then applied for permanent residence status in 1999: he reportedly admitted his KGB “translator’ role, but his mere employment by the KGB made him inadmissible as a resident and thereby began his long fight to stay, despite being ordered out
As I said I believe I AM a compassionate person…and when I was working, I was proud of my role in spearheading much of the continuing and ultimately successful news coverage of Amir Kazemian, an Iranian ordered deported, but who spent two years in a Vancouver church before being granted permission to stay.
But Amir was indeed an innocent man, who had harmed no one and who faced possible prison and terrible other circumstances in Iran, because he had converted to Christianity … a crime punishable by death under the Mullahs.
Lennikov was in a completely different category. You can read more about him in an earlier blog I wrote on his case in 2009: “A Year or Two in a Church…Perfect”.
As Christmas approaches, his supporters have renewed their pleas for compassion and urged he be allowed out of sanctuary to enjoy life in Canada with his wife and kids.
At the time I wrote about him, I suggested two years in sanctuary could be sufficient penance … although I’m not the one to ultimately judge on any legal or humanitarian level.
But he has now been living inside a church for four years … separated from the daily lives of his wife and children.
Maybe that’s enough?
Perhaps it IS time for a Ministerial Permit so he can celebrate Canada’s belief in justice …coupling compassion with eventual redemption ….and spend Christmas and his future finally at home, in Canada.