In the small Manitoba community of Waterhen, Jon and Karissa Warkentin are fighting for the right to stay in Canada and run their business.
Originally from Colorado, Jon, his wife and their four kids settled in Waterhen in 2013.
They bought the Harvest Lodge, roughly four hours north of Winnipeg, and have since invested tens of thousands of dollars into the business which caters to deer and duck hunters and anglers looking to catch walleye and pike. They also employ four people part-time on a seasonal basis.
But their dream could be shattered after Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada denied the family’s application for permanent residency because their 6-year-old daughter, Karalynn, has an intellectual disability.
Known as “medical inadmissibility” Immigration Canada says Karalynn’s condition would place “excessive demand” upon the province’s publicly-funded education system. As a result, the entire family’s application for permanent residency has been denied.
The government is reviewing measures surrounding excessive demand and medical inadmissibility, but has not provided specific details on the scope of this review or when any changes might be announced.
At the age of two, more than a year after Jon and Karissa purchased the hunting lodge, Karalynn was diagnosed with epilepsy following a series of seizures. She was placed on anti-seizure medication and has had no incidents during the past two years. But as Karalynn aged, the family began to notice she was developmentally delayed and had trouble speaking.
In denying the family’s application, Immigration Canada said Karalynn was diagnosed with Global Developmental Delay and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), citing a report prepared by a school psychologist.
The Manitoba family has been caught up in a section of Canada’s immigration act designed to ensure newcomers to the country do not cause “excessive demand” on publicly funded health and social service programs. Immigration Canada sets the limit for “excessive demand” at $6,655 a year, the apparent average annual health and social service spending per Canadian. This means if the costs of caring for a person’s condition are higher than this limit, the applicant and all family members are denied permanent residency. If the costs are lower, and they’re an otherwise viable candidate, they’re let in.