Colorado family thrilled to stay in Manitoba after months-long immigration fight over girl's health needs

After months of fighting with immigration, the Warkentin family gets to stay in Canada as permanent residents.

Waterhen business owners originally denied permanent resident status because of daughter's special needs

The Warkentin family at their Waterhen, Man., hunting lodge. (CBC Radio / Andrew Friesen)

After months of fighting with immigration, the Warkentin family gets to stay in Canada as permanent residents. 

"When we first heard the news, we were like, 'Are you sure? Are you sure there's not like other hurdles we have to cross, something else coming down?' Our lawyer informed us that 'no, it's done, you're good.' So, very very exciting," said Jon Warkentin Tuesday. 

But it wasn't easy. 

The Warkentin family came to Canada from Colorado in 2013 to operate an outfitting business in Waterhen, Man., 275 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg. 

Jon and Karissa Warkentin didn't know that their daughter Karalynn, then two, had special needs. She was diagnosed in 2014 with epilepsy and global developmental delay.

With their work permits to run their hunting and fishing lodge set to expire, the Warkentins applied for permanent residency in November 2016. 

Their letter of rejection from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), which arrived in April, said Karalynn's health condition might cause "excessive demand" on health or social services in Canada.

Karalynn, who is now six years old, loves to jump on the trampoline, play with Lego and watch the movie Frozen. She's been seizure-free for two years, does not take any medications, and a psychologist's report submitted to IRCC suggested only the possibility that she had ADHD, Warkentin said.
The Warkentin family fought to stay in Canada after they were denied permanent residency by immigration officials because of six-year-old Keralynn's (front right) health. (Submitted by Karissa Warkentin)

She behaves at the cognitive level of a three- or four-year-old and needs to be supervised, the family previously told CBC News. 

After months of uncertainty, Warkentin said he's happy to be able to focus on growing his business once again. 

But he wants to know why it took a 500-page application to get approval to stay. 

"We don't know, we can only, you know, kind of guess at what changed it," he said, adding he's been told the policy is currently being reviewed. 

"When we first responded to the fairness letter, we did that on our own. We didn't have any legal representation. This time we did." 

The submission showed that Karalynn wasn't as severe a case "as they had feared," and included positives, like the economic development the family brings to the north Interlake, along with a lengthy letter of support from the province. 

Karalynn loves to jump on the trampoline, play with Lego and greet the customers at her parents' hunting and fishing lodge, the Warkentins say. (Submitted by Karissa Warkentin)
"You know, while we're very happy with the decision for our family today, (our hope is) that they'll take a really hard look at it ... and other families won't have to go through what we've gone through. That's our hope."

Their church has planned a little celebration to welcome the family as permanent residents, and Warkentin thanked the public for their outpouring of support. 

"We'll do our absolute best to be the best Canadian residents we can be."