“I’m still a little bit in shock,” Karissa Warkentin said Wednesday. She and her husband and their four children came to Canada from Colorado in 2013 to operate an outfitting business called Harvest Lodge on the Waterhen River. They applied for permanent residency, planning to put down roots in the village of Waterhen, about 320 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg.
A year after they arrived, the family learned their youngest child, then-three-year-old Karalynn, had epilepsy and global-developmental delay.
Ottawa denied their application this spring on the grounds Karalynn might cause “excessive demand” on health or social services in this country. As a result, the entire family faced removal from Canada when their work permit expired this winter.
When Canadians saw news reports about the family being rejected by immigration, many rallied behind them, said Warkentin.
“We saw the positive response from Canadians all over the country,” she said. “We did know that a lot of people were going to bat for us at the provincial and federal level. That gave us hope.”
The Warkentins aren’t considered permanent residents just yet, said their Winnipeg lawyer Alastair Clarke. They had to pay a right-of-permanent-resident fee and take a couple of extra steps that are “purely administrative.”
The reversal of the decision to accept them as permanent residents comes after Clarke submitted more than 500 pages of new medical reports, including the family’s personalized plan for taking care of any treatments Karalynn required with letters of support from the Waterhen community, he said. The public’s response to all the media coverage has made immigration officers sit up and take notice, said Clarke.
“All the attention this case has received has caused the department and the minister to review the entire system,” said Clarke.