Ottawa's decision to give an American family with a medically inadmissible child a second chance to stay in Canada came as a huge relief Thursday.
The Warkentin family, faced with a looming deportation deadline, learned this week Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is allowing them to renew their application for permanent residency.
"Canada is letting us reopen our file and we have 60 days to resubmit more information and show our worthiness," Jon Warkentin said over the phone from the family-owned Harvest Lodge outfitting business on the Waterhen River.
The Warkentins came to Canada from Colorado in 2013 to operate the outfitting business. They applied for permanent residency, intending to put down roots in the village of Waterhen, about 320 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg.
A year after they arrived, the family was given a bleak diagnosis: the youngest of Jon and wife Karissa's four children, then-three-year-old daughter Karalynn, had epilepsy and global-developmental delay.
The diagnosis threw a bureaucratic wrench into the family's dreams of staying in Canada.
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 being the imminent prospect of being forced out of the country when their current work permit expired Nov. 24.
This summer, they hired Winnipeg lawyer Alastair Clarke to explore their options.
Clarke worked through the bureaucracy, trying to convince federal officials to give the family a second shot. At the same time, he filed a motion in to have a federal judge look at the case.
It was the bureaucracy that came through first, Warkentin said, adding the family now has the choice of withdrawing the court action. The second chance offered this week gives the Warkentins what they wanted from a judge, without the need for time in court.
"The permanent residency is back in process, and they qualify for an extension to their work permit," Clarke said.
The breathing room gives the family permission to file information that could allow them to stay in Canada for good.
"We're ecstatic. That's a huge move for them to go from a decision that was final to this one, which is, 'We'll look at the information you submit,'" Warkentin said.
Karalynn, meanwhile, started her first day in Grade 1 at the local school.
"She was very excited to go on the bus, to be with all her friends and to go to school," Warkentin said.
The girl leads a relatively healthy life, rarely catches colds, and gets along without the need for special physical aides, her father said, adding she hasn't had a seizure in more than two years.