Friday, June 5, 2009

Go Mikhail Go!

That's certainly not what the Canadian Border Services are saying, nor what the Conservative government is saying either. But it is what me, many of my friends, and many liberal and NDP politicians are saying. Most importantly, it's what the church community that's sheltering Mikhail Lennikov is certainly saying.

In case you haven't caught the news recently, Lennikov is currently hunkered down in Vancouver's First Lutheran Church off Kingsway. He's seeking asylum from deportation by the Canadian government who want to give him the boot forworking as a KGB contractor in the 1980s. According the government, anyone who's admitted to espionage against Canada or Canadians is subject to deportation.

According to First Lutheran Reverend Richard Hergesheimerm, his church was renovated several months ago to install a shower and make a livable space for Lennikov. They knew what the result of Lennikov's appeals would be and set about to get ready to get ready for the long haul. When asked about the church's desicsion to provide sancuary Hergesheimer replied "We know that what we're doing with sanctuary is illegal. We know that. But it's not wrong. We think were doing the right thing."

Lennikov's persecution and the desicsion to support his asylum has been fueled by a great deal of anger among the church's 225 congregants.

It's a reaction Hergesheimer hasn't seen before. All of the sudden elderly women are writing to their politicians for the first time in their lives in support of a former KGB agent who is a member of their congregation.

"This has made people very angry. Angry at what they see is an injustice," said Hergesheimer.

It's an injustice that Lennikov doesn't deserve. He has been a contributing member of his new home for decades. He's a longtime congregationalist (an attribute hardly identified with hardcore KGB agents) and he's got a wife and son who are settled and happily living here. He was not James Bonding about the country killing CSIS agents. He provided Japanese translation services. Too boot, if we send him back to Russia, he'll hardly be heralded by his countrymen as hero. Instead he'll have to start all over again - without his family - and that's if he doesn't find himself tossed in prison (as he says is likely). How does any of this make sense? Since when is the specific rule of law and lack of compassion of the Conservatives overrule common sense? Wait, don't answer that question.

Let's hope the conservatives come to their senses and realize they are persecuting a decent and contributing member of our society.

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