Judge cites dictionary definition of ‘espionage,’ crushes decision to keep alleged Russian spy out of Canada

Judge cites dictionary definition of ‘espionage,’ crushes decision to keep alleged Russian spy out of Canada
The Federal Court has given a stern lesson to Canada Border Services Agency and an immigration tribunal about the definition of the word “espionage.”

Citing both the Oxford English Dictionary and Black’s Law Dictionary, federal Justice Henry S. Brown crushed the border agency’s and immigration appeal tribunal’s decision to keep Elena Crenna, an alleged Russian spy , out of Canada.

“Given the constraining legal and indeed common dictionary definitions of ‘espionage,’ (Crenna’s) actions do not reasonably give rise to reasonable grounds to believe what (she) did was espionage,” Brown wrote in a 47-page decision released Monday.

At issue in the appeal by Crenna was whether she did her “spying” above board or not.

“What (Crenna) did was neither secret, clandestine, surreptitious nor covert. Therefore, her action could not reasonably constitute espionage.”

Crenna, now 58, was hired as a translator by a Canadian Crown corporation for a development project in Moscow in the 1990s, during which she met her now Canadian husband, David Crenna, 75, who was her boss at the time.

Despite clearances by the immigration department and Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the border agency alleged that she helped spy for the Russian intelligence services (FSB) and deemed her inadmissible to Canada in 2016. That’s when the Crenna’s legal saga began.

In 2018, the immigration tribunal sided with the couple to allow their spousal sponsorship to proceed. The border agency appealed and the appeal tribunal last June ruled in favour of the agency. That decision is now overturned by the federal court.

The Crennas welcomed the court decision.

“Mr. Justice Brown cut to the chase that this kind of bureaucratic activity is not and should not be condoned,” David Crenna told the Star from his home in Ottawa.

“The justice stated very firmly that the defining characteristics of espionage can be considered to be settled law in Canada, rather than being open to ingenious and differing interpretation by officials that ... any communication with the security services of another country constitutes de facto ‘espionage.’ ”

Russian-American deemed inadmissible over alleged espionage

The couple’s lawyer, Arghavan Gerami, said it was never in the public interest for the border agency to continue pursuing Elena.

“This case is instructive for the need for deference to expertise of other departments by the border agency in matters such as espionage, in which it does not presently have expertise,” said Gerami.

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“Not only would this save time and public resources, it would avoid the significant prejudice to the rights of the individual in question.”
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