Canadian immigration officials are seeking to deport a former KGB agent who has spent more than a decade living in Winnipeg, the Free Press has learned.
A top-secret court application is underway to have the man given a one-way ticket back to Russia, despite the fact he was previously granted refugee status and has been living here without incident.
Nobody involved in the case will speak on the record, citing the fact it involves issues of national security and remains in legal limbo. But a source told the Free Press a two-day hearing has been set for next month in Winnipeg in which the fate of the elderly former spy will be decided. The source said the man is in his late 60s, although other specific details about his background and how he's spent his years in Canada are being withheld.
'Often foreign governments don't react well to persons who claimed
refugee against their country, and then get removed back there'
As well, the hearing is going to be held in private because it involves a refugee claim.
The Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) is seeking to have the man ruled inadmissible to Canada. There are no allegations he is actively involved in any spying or is a current threat, according to the source. However, his past membership in the notorious Soviet secret police agency alone is being cited as grounds for removal under Sec. 34 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
In essence, officials are now trying to rectify what they say was a critical error from the past. Federal officials have been aware of the man, and his past, for many years. Only recently did a request come from Ottawa to take action.
"The file sat for ages," said the source, who wasn't sure whether the current political and military crisis involving Russia and Ukraine had anything to do with the timing.
Although this is a rare type of case, the government will be relying on one recent high-profile precedent as part of their bid.
Former KGB officer Mikhail Lennikov was ordered deported in 2009 after he was found living in Burnaby, B.C. As in the Winnipeg case, Lennikov was not accused of any illegal activity but was simply denied residency based on his notorious past as a captain in the KGB. However, his wife and teenage son do have Canadian residency.
Lennikov, 53, remains in the country, having spent more than four years living inside a Vancouver-area church where he sought religious refuge.
The Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association has repeatedly criticized authorities for not taking action. The CBSA said it plans to wait for Lennikov to exit the church "voluntarily" before arresting and deporting him.
Several supporters and even some local politicians have claimed the federal government should reverse its decision and grant Lennikov permanent residence for compassionate reasons, noting even the CBSA doesn't believe he poses a threat.
It's possible the Winnipeg case could turn into the same type of theatre, which is why those associated with it are being silent at this point. They say any detailed information about the man's identity could expose him to harm if he were to be returned to Russia.
"Often foreign governments don't react well to persons who claimed refugee (status) against their country, and then get removed back there," the source told the Free Press.
The man is not being held in custody pending his hearing, which means immigration officials don't believe he is a risk to go underground and fail to attend his upcoming hearing.