Former interpreter issued deportation order for Russian espionage

Elena Crenna, a Russian-born U.S. citizen, was accused by Canada of engaging in espionage. David Crenna / Submitted

A Russian woman has been issued a deportation order after Canadian officials successfully argued that information she passed to Russia’s intelligence service amounted to espionage.

Elena Crenna, 57, “has engaged in acts of espionage contrary to Canada’s interests,” the Immigration Appeal Division ruled in a 27-page decision obtained by Global News.

The case, which stemmed from Crenna’s contacts with Russia’s FSB Federal Security Service in the 1990s, revolved around the definition of espionage contrary to the interests of Canada.

While Crenna argued her actions did not constitute espionage or threaten Canada’s security, IAD Member Annie Lafleur ruled that by virtue of cooperating with the FSB, she had spied against Canada’s interests.

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Crenna, who lives in Ottawa with her Canadian husband, has already asked the Federal Court to overturn the decision, arguing it is unreasonable.

“I’m totally in disbelief, really, because they made a huge mountain out of a mole hill,” Crenna told Global News on Friday.

“We really feel like we are under attack for nothing we have done wrong.”

Crenna is a citizen of both Russia and the United States. She married David Crenna, a former federal policy advisor, in 2012. But his attempt to sponsor her to immigrate has been held up by the spying allegations.

Then known as Elena Filatova, Crenna was hired by her now-husband in 1994 to work as a translator for a Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation timber-frame housing project in Tver, northwest of Moscow.

Russian-born Elena Crenna with her Canadian husband David Crenna, on Parliament Hill. Handout

After she got the job, an FSB agent named Aleksander Dyomin approached Crenna and met with her five to seven times to ask questions about the project and its officers.

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She later travelled twice to Canada to interpret for visiting Russian executives.

The Immigration and Refugee Board ruled on May 31, 2018 that what Crenna did was not espionage, but the government appealed and won, resulting in the June 20, 2019 deportation order.

In her ruling, which followed hearings in Montreal, Lafleur wrote that Crenna’s “acts of spying on Canadians in Canada and Russia helped serve FSB’s objectives and interests.”

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“There is ample evidence to conclude that the FSB and Russia, through the repression of democratic values, are contrary to Canada’s interests and democratic foundations,” she wrote.

Lafleur said while some may view what Crenna did as harmless, the law “must set benchmarks to preserve the integrity of its immigration system, guarantee Canada’s security and on a larger scale, protect Canada’s fundamental values.”

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But her husband said that an activity does not qualify as espionage unless it causes damage to Canada or Canadian interests.

“Five sworn witnesses and extensive documentation say that no such damage occurred, but rather millions in export benefits to Canada, as well as much local goodwill at a time when official Canadian government policy and Western alliance policy were both promoting Russia’s transition to democracy and a market economy,” he said.

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