While many families celebrated Thanksgiving dinner at home, ex-KGB agent Mikhail Lennikov spent the holiday in Vancouver's First Lutheran Church, avoiding deportation.
The former Burnaby resident is now in his third year of church sanctuary.
The Canadian government wants Lennikov deported because he used to be a member of the KGB, the former Soviet Union's secret service.
Burnaby - New Westminster MP Peter Julian and Don Davies, MP for Vancouver Kingsway, hosted a Thanksgiving meal on Monday, Oct. 8 with the Lennikov family.
"This event is an opportunity for us all to express our support for Mikhail Lennikov and his family, who have been living in church sanctuary since June
2009," Davies wrote on his website.
Lennikov first came to Canada on a student visa in 1997, but Canadian immigration law states that members of an organization that spied on a democratic government are not allowed to stay, unless the public safety minister deems they are not detrimental to national security. Lennikov and his supporters have argued he's not a threat, but the government has not budged on its position that he's inadmissible.
The Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which has lobbied the government to forcibly remove Lennikov from church sanctuary, spoke out against the Thanksgiving dinner.
"Millions of Ukrainians and other east Europeans now living in Canada were victims of the KGB," wrote the association's Lubomyr Luciuk in an email to the NOW. "We find it reprehensible that Mr. Julian and Mr. Davies would sup with a fugitive who is openly flaunting the rule of law in this country."
Lennikov and Julian declined to comment. However, Davies told the NOW about 75 people from the community came to the dinner, and Lennikov's family was in good spirits.
"They are just lovely people under very difficult circumstances," he said. "I think they appreciated the support of the broader community."
Davies said Lennikov was a low-ranking official in the KGB, performing bureaucratic work, and there's no evidence that he's harmed anyone.
"I've been working with Mikhail Lennikov for the last four years, and I don't think I could find a better candidate for Canadian citizenship than Mikhail," Davies said, adding the family is involved in the community, they speak English, and they are people of great integrity. "They are exactly the kind of people Canadians would want to welcome to our country."
Davies said he understands Luciuk's deep feelings about the historic oppression Ukrainians may have faced at the hands of the Russians.
"But I think it's completely unjust, totally illogical and unacceptable for (Luciuk) to use someone like Mikhail Lennikov as a pawn in those historical politics," he said.
Davies said if the public safety minister thinks Lennikov is a threat to national interests, he should provide evidence to support that position.
"They can't provide us an iota of evidence," he said. "We want a system that's evidence-based, not based on guilt by association."
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