CBSA Drops Case Against Alleged Russian Spy

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By Mitch Riding, CRRI Intern

On July 20, the Canada Border Service Agency applied to the Immigration and Refugee Board to withdraw its deportation case against Elena Crenna, a Russian immigrant accused of being a spy, The Globe and Mail reported.

Mrs Crenna’s case, the earlier stages of which have been covered on the CRRI website, centred on accusations that, during the 1990s, she acted for Russian intelligence services while she was an interpreter and communications specialist for a Canadian-run project in Russia. The housing project was led by her current husband – and then boss – David Crenna, who was previously a policy advisor to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

Mr and Mrs Crenna had previously dismissed the allegations as instances of “guilt by association”, and as being part of a “witch hunt”.

In fact, David Crenna had authorised her to answer the questions of the Russian intelligence agent in question. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service never objected to her permanent residency application; her request was granted in 2018 by immigration officials, and then challenged by the CBSA.

The latest development comes after a Federal Court ruling in April granted Mrs. Crenna a new immigration hearing, after Justice Henry Brown declared himself unable to find any reason to believe that she was engaged in anything secret, clandestine, surreptitious or covert – the typically deployed definition of espionage.

This marks an understated end – at least ostensibly – to the couple’s long drawn out case. Elena had originally moved to Canada in 2013 to live with David and filed an application to become a permanent resident.

Arghavan Gerami, Mrs. Crenna’s lawyer, labelled the couple’s ordeal “unspeakable”, and celebrated the fact that they had finally been cleared.

David Crenna, in an email to The Globe and Mail, said that the couple was “back on the road to recovery” after “four years of constant stress and financial loss”. He confirmed that his wife is now in Vermont; the paperwork which would allow Elena to become a permanent resident can now be resumed, subject to Covid-related delays.

The CBSA is yet to comment on the case; any comments by the Agency would need to be reviewed for privacy concerns, a spokeswoman said.

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