Sung-Joo Maeng,15, and his family had originally been told to leave Canada because he has autism and epilepsy and federal officials said his care was too expensive. ((CBC))

A Moncton family's fight to stay in New Brunswick illustrates how Atlantic Canada needs more power in deciding who can live in the region, according to an immigration lawyer.

The Maeng family, a South Korean family that had been ordered to leave the country, was given a reprieve on Friday to stay in Canada for another three years.

The family had received a letter from Citizenship and Immigration Canada more than a week ago saying care for their 15-year-old son, Sung-Joo Maeng — who is autistic and epileptic — was too expensive. They were ordered to leave New Brunswick by the end of the month.

'Decisions are being made about who gets into Moncton by people who may have never been to New Brunswick.' — Lee Cohen, immigration lawyer

The federal government's argument is included in the country's immigration law, but Lee Cohen, an immigration lawyer, said the decision makers in Ottawa do not see the big picture.

"Decisions are being made about who gets into Moncton by people who may have never been to New Brunswick. And it's making less and less sense as the global community becomes smaller and as the needs of provinces becomes more particularized," Cohen said.

Cohen said the province of Quebec negotiated its own agreement with Ottawa, and he said the four Atlantic provinces need to do the same.

The Maeng family's fight became a high-profile issue in the Moncton area. Many community members and politicians rallied around the family and their fight to stay in the city.


Moncton residents held a weekend rally to celebrate the federal government's decision to allow the Maeng family to stay in the city. (Vanessa Blanch/CBC)

The federal government received a letter from the provincial government on June 8 that promised to provide health, education and social services for the Maeng family as long as they're granted permanent or temporary resident status.

The family was given a temporary stay of three years last Friday while their permanent residency application is processed.

Cohen said if there hadn't been such outrage from the community about the departure order, and if politicians hadn't stepped forward with their support, the story of the Maeng family would not have had such a happy ending.

"The community spontaneously combusted, as they should. And no one does this better than Moncton. Moncton has a very strong sense of community. They saw the injustice in this almost instantaneously," he said.

Clare Archibald, the executive director of Moncton Headstart, was one of the many people who spoke out against the order for the Maengs to leave the city.

She said she agrees about the need for the provincial government to gain more power over its immigration laws.

"We really need immigrants in Moncton, they enrich us as a society and then you have something like this and think, what's that all about? That doesn't make any sense and we have to stand up and say that," Archibald said.