May 29, 2009 – The story of the Lennikovs

Posted in Uncategorized by nicktaylorvaisey on May 29, 2009

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Today on the show, we took a break from our usual focus on local issues that affect local residents. Instead, we looked at the story of Mikhail Lennikov, his wife Irena, and his son Dmitri.

The Lennikovs live in Burnaby, British Columbia, but they were here in Ottawa earlier this week. Their mission was to convince the federal government not to deport Mikhail on June 3 and leave his wife and son in Canada.

The Lennikovs came to Ottawa with their member of parliament, the NDP’s Peter Julian, and stayed at his townhouse. The quartet spent quite a few hours together in just a couple of days. They held a high-profile press conference. The family watched as their MP asked immigration minister Jason Kenney about their plight during Question Period. And they even played some pickup basketball with Julian, who I believe might be the tallest member of the NDP caucus.

So what’s the family’s story? Why is Mikhail being deported? I wrote about this for MediaScout (see “Next on the deportation ticket” at the bottom) several months ago. Here is that post:

The National features a story about the Lennikovs, a Burnaby, British Columbia, family facing deportation to Russia because of the father’s past as a KGB agent. As a young man, Mikhail Lennikov was recruited by the Soviet spy agency and served as a Far East expert.

When he brought his family — wife Irena and son Dmitri — to Canada, Lennikov told federal authorities about his past and even debriefed the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service about his Cold War career. Such admissions would render him a traitor in Russia, the CBC report reminds viewers. The family was allowed to stay in Canada, but recently, the Canada Border Services Agency moved to reverse that decision, labeling Mikhail a potential sleeper agent for the Russians. The family, along with a growing number of friends, are protesting the decision. At issue is the plight of seventeen-year-old Dmitri, who would return to Russia, a country he barely knows, only to be drafted into the armed forces as the son of a traitor. It’s a life, his defenders say, which he should not be forced to live.

The report is touching enough based on these facts alone, but it then goes further. The CBC acquired CBSA documents that admit that the elder Lennikov poses no threat to Canadian security, which logically shifts the onus to prove otherwise to the CBSA. Any comment from the agency was conspicuously absent from the report, until reporter Terry Milewski’s final words: “The agency declined to comment.” Canada’s public broadcaster did its homework on this story, which — aside from a local Burnaby paper late last month — no other sources have picked up.

All these months later, more media have reported on the story (the CBC updated its December report here).

Now, some Canadians are with the government on this one. Others aren’t. Either way, the clock is ticking.