November 17, 2017

Winnipeg
-15° C, Partly cloudy

Full Forecast

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

American family can't stay in Canada due to child's epilepsy, developmental delay

Daughter 'might reasonably be expected to cause excessive demand' on health system: immigration ruling

Karissa and Jon Warkentin with four of their children: son Gabe, 14, Grace, 17, Shataya, 18, and Karalynn, six. The American family may be forced to leave Canada in November when their work visas expire. </p>

Karissa and Jon Warkentin with four of their children: son Gabe, 14, Grace, 17, Shataya, 18, and Karalynn, six. The American family may be forced to leave Canada in November when their work visas expire.

She's six years old, healthy, active and happy but Canadian immigration officials say she might be a burden on the system one day so her American family, who owns a tourist lodge and set down roots in Manitoba, has been ruled "inadmissible."

Karalynn Warkentin was two years old when her parents, Jon and Karissa, bought Harvest Lodge on Waterhen River in 2013, planning to make it their permanent home.

In 2014, the little girl started having seizures and was diagnosed with epilepsy and global developmental delay.

She hasn't had a seizure in more than two years, but Karalynn's health condition was enough for the federal government to deny her and her family's application for permanent residency in Canada.

Subscribers Log in below to continue reading,
not a subscriber? Create an account to start a 60 day free trial.

Log in Create your account

Add a payment method

To read the remaining 646 words of this article.

Pay only 27¢ for articles you wish to read.

Hope you enjoyed your trial.

Add a payment method

To read the remaining 646 words of this article.

Pay only 27¢ for articles you wish to read.

She's six years old, healthy, active and happy but Canadian immigration officials say she might be a burden on the system one day so her American family, who owns a tourist lodge and set down roots in Manitoba, has been ruled "inadmissible." 

Karalynn Warkentin was two years old when her parents, Jon and Karissa, bought Harvest Lodge on Waterhen River in 2013, planning to make it their permanent home.

In 2014, the little girl started having seizures and was diagnosed with epilepsy and global developmental delay. 

She hasn't had a seizure in more than two years, but Karalynn's health condition was enough for the federal government to deny her and her family's application for permanent residency in Canada.

It "might reasonably be expected to cause excessive demand on health or social services," said the rejection letter from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. 

"Your dependant daughter, Karalynn Faith Warkentin, is a person whose health condition, Global Developmental Delay and ADHD might reasonably be expected to cause excessive demand on health or social services."

With her parents' work visas set to expire Nov. 24, the future of Karalynn and her family is now in limbo.  

"It’s been a lot of sleepless nights," said her mother Karissa in Waterhen, a four-hour drive north of Winnipeg. "What are we going to do?"

They've invested in the lodge and the tiny northern community and the couple and their four children are part of its fabric year-round, she said. 

"We specifically wanted to make a new life where we had the businesses," she said. "We’re not taking our tax dollars with us and living in Florida in the winter," she said.

Child needs extra supervision, but is otherwise healthy

The Warkentins have been rejected by Canadian immigration officials because of a section of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that says a foreign national is inadmissible on health grounds if their health condition might reasonably be expected to cause excessive demand on health or social services. 

"Look at our package as a whole - what we're bringing in and paying in taxes. Look at the benefit of having a rural economy supported by a business like ours - the benefits would outweigh the potential costs." -Karissa Warkentin

Their daughter isn't an excessive burden or drain on social spending and shouldn't be seen that way, said Karissa Warkentin.

"At home and in school she needs extra supervision – she needs more direction," said her mom. "If a child needs to hear something seven times to make a memory, she may need to hear it more," said Warkentin. "She doesn't require any physical adaptation.  She's a relatively healthy child and rarely gets sick with colds or anything. She doesn’t have behavioral issues, which is a blessing. She enjoys her classmates."

The help she needs in school is covered in block funding allocated to the Frontier School Division. If she ever needed more care, the Warkentins say they can cover the cost.

"They have 10 years of our business and financial records. We have savings in our 401K and investment in our business – a business that brings in tourism dollars and residual dollars at the local store, with hunters buying groceries and liquor and (hunting and fishing) licences," Karissa Warkentin said.

Guests at their lodge often fly to Winnipeg, stay in a hotel then rent a vehicle for the four-hour drive to the Warkentin's lodge at Waterhen. In 2016, the taxes and fees they collected at the lodge were in excess of $20,000, Jon Warkentin said in a letter to the Canadian immigration officer handling their file.

"Look at our package as a whole – what we're bringing in and paying in taxes. Look at the benefit of having a rural economy supported by a business like ours - the benefits would outweigh the potential costs."

Family well-liked in community: mayor

The family is actively involved year-round in the life of the northern community, said Warkentin, who has letters of support to prove it.

"They are well-liked, friendly members of our community," wrote Waterhen Mayor Larry Chartrand. "They are always willing to help out within the community," said the mayor, noting the Warkentins provide an important service to the area: a restaurant and lodging.

Waterhen School principal Craig Park's letter said the Warkentins are contributing members to the community and actively involved in the school. Karissa is a member of the Waterhen and District Day Care Board. Park's letter said funding for Karalynn at school is covered by the province without any "significant impact."

The Warkentins have hired an immigration lawyer in Winnipeg to appeal the decision on their inadmissibility. She said the legislation as it stands now is discriminatory.

"What we hope for most is for this policy to be reviewed and changed so other families aren’t discriminated against this way," said Karissa. "Review the policy. It’s not a good policy." 

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said it was not prepared to comment Tuesday.

 

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Read more by Carol Sanders.

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective January 2015.