Kiri Talbot, right, shown in an undated photo at a recent wedding with her stepson, Liam, 16, has been asked by Citizenship and Immigration Canada to voluntarily leave the country by Dec. 12 after her estranged husband, Liam’s dad, retracted his sponsorship of her permanent-residency application.
Photograph by: R.H.KREWENCHUK
Almost 10 years after a 16-year-old teen lost his mother to cancer, he’s afraid he’s about to lose his second mom, this time because of Canada’s immigration rules.
When Liam’s stepmother, Kiri Talbot, was given 30 days to voluntarily leave Canada after her sponsorship was withdrawn during a divorce from Liam’s dad, the teen sent an email to the citizenship and immigration minister.
“I told him I would be losing my mom to immigration,” said the soft-spoken teen from his home in Kimberley in East Kootenay, where he lives with Talbot and four Siberian husky sled dogs. “I find it very unfair.
“This is the family I’ve known for years, at least half my life,” said Liam. “I can’t really see myself living in another home. The injustice will really tear apart this family.”
The teen is caught in the middle of a straightforward immigration story complicated by a messy human relationship.
It began in 2007, when Talbot, a geologist and former U.K. Bobby who bought a vacation home in Kimberley after falling in love with the area on a ski trip, acted as a caregiver for a friend of a friend’s two preteen children after their mother died.
In a year, she and the father, whom The Province isn’t naming because he declined through his lawyer to be interviewed, became involved romantically. Three years later they married.
But within months, Talbot ordered the daughter, then 16, out of her house because of behavioural and discipline issues and the couple separated, with Liam, then 14, choosing to stay with Talbot.
Talbot, who previously had only stayed in Canada for weeks or months at a time as a temporary resident, applied for permanent residency when she got married.
Her husband was her sponsor and his undertaking to support Talbot if necessary after she became a Canadian was approved in May 2012. At that time, coincidentally, the couple was trying to patch things up, but it didn’t work.
Despite her “implied status” granted to those awaiting permanent residency, Talbot nonetheless successfully applied for a two-year work permit in July 2012 because of her husband’s threats to withdraw his sponsorship.
And then in January 2013 she was happy to get a letter telling her that Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) was “pleased to advise you that processing of your (permanent-residency) application has been completed.” She had only to wait for a letter from its Vancouver office, inviting her to come to the city to pay her $490 permanent-residence fee, which would confirm her as a Canadian.
But instead, two months later, she got a letter telling her that her estranged husband on Feb. 14, 2013, had withdrawn his sponsorship: “Your application … is therefore refused.”
“The irony is, even though he was sponsoring me, they moved in with me when we got married and I was actually supporting (her husband) and his kids,” she said.
In June 2014, a month before her work visa was to expire, Talbot applied for a six-month visitor’s visa. She wanted to extend her stay in Canada to attend a yet-to-be scheduled custody hearing at which she hopes to become Liam’s official guardian.
But instead, CIC advised her she had overstayed her work permit and sent her a letter asking her to voluntarily leave. It arrived on Nov. 12, 2014, and she has 30 days to comply. She fears the next step is a removal order.
“I have no idea (what will happen to Liam),” she said. “I lose sleep over it. If I have to go in early December, he’ll lose his whole family. I can’t imagine. I can’t get my head around it at the moment.
“He (Liam) feels so jaded,” she said. “He says, ‘Why is my own country not helping you to stay?’”
Talbot said it’s Liam’s choice not to live with his father and that’s not an option, even though his dad wants him to. She is hoping immigration will allow her to stay, given that she owns her own house and vehicle, is employable and can support herself.
“I need to stay here to take care of my stepson,” she said. “I can take my dogs, I can pack my bags and I can go live in the U.S. or in the U.K., where I have a whole network of support, but that doesn’t help Liam.”
Immigration officials weren’t available to comment.