Ottawa, 2 January 1998 (RFE/RL) -- A Polish citizen who claims to have spied for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service says he could be put to death if Canada sends him back to his homeland.
Ryszard Paszkowski says that is because he spied on members of the Polish Embassy in Ottawa for the Canadian spy agency -- called CSIS -- during the 1980s. That means, he says, up to 25 years in a Polish jail for treason. Paszkowski sought sanctuary in an Ottawa church nearly two weeks ago.
Canadian Immigration spokesman Kevin Sack says that "because he has avoided being deported and has taken sanctuary in a church does not now earn him some special considerations. This is not a debate for us. This is a very narrow question and the answer is no."
The case is a complex and controversial one. Paszkowski first garnered public attention nearly a decade ago. He arrived in Canada in 1984 and started working for CSIS in the western Canadian city of Edmonton, Alberta, infiltrating the Polish community there and also in Ottawa.
The agency has acknowledged that Paszkowski worked for it as a "contact," but offers no elaboration on that.
Paszkowski fled Canada for the United States last January to avoid a deportation order that ended an eight-year effort to secure refugee status. The U.S. deported him to Poland in November. Paszkowski says he was arrested shortly after returning to his homeland and charged with treason. He says his father bribed court officials to get him out of jail.
Paszkowski then returned to Canada using false documents. After seeking sanctuary in the Ottawa church, he said he was desperate to see his wife and two Canadian-born children who live in Edmonton.
In media interviews this week, Paszkowski has vowed to stay in the church "for as long as it takes to get a fair hearing in Canada," rather than return to Poland where he believes his life is in danger. He says that if he had not been working for CSIS and if he had not been "put in the situation in the embassy, then I wouldn't have this problem in Poland. Poland means death for me so it's better to sit in the church."
Two books have recounted Paszkowski's story: one by a federal cabinet minister, Secretary of State David Kilgour, who represents the riding in Edmonton in which Paszkowski was living, and the other by Canadian journalist Richard Cleroux.
Kilgour said on Monday that because he is now in the federal cabinet, it is difficult for him to intervene directly on Paszkowski's behalf when an immigration order is outstanding. He did say that he has spoken "quietly" with cabinet colleagues about the case.
Paszkowski's friends and supporters are lobbying to have Immigration Minister Lucienne Robillard rescind the deportation order and grant permission for him to stay in Canada with his family.