Skip to main content
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Kitti Toris at home in Okotoks, Alberta, Dec. 13, 2019.

Todd Korol/The Globe and Mail

Last summer, Canadian immigration officials asked Kitti Toris for some medical information. That bureaucratic letter was enough for the Hungarian teenager’s brother-in-law to crack open a bottle of Champagne.

Ms. Toris came to Canada in 2016, and lives with her sister and brother-in-law in Okotoks, one of Calgary’s bedroom communities. A year ago, Ottawa ordered her to leave the country. Her visitor visa had expired, and the government rejected her applications for temporary residency and a study permit. She would have to leave, even though an application for permanent residency was still in the works.

But Ms. Toris, who turns 18 next Wednesday, said she is estranged from her mother in Hungary and would have nowhere to go if she returned there. She has lived with her sister and brother-in-law – Viktoria and Laszlo Radi – since she was 6. Ms. Toris defied the order, hoping her application for permanent residency would be approved. Then, in July, the Canadian government asked for medical information, a hint that her bid for permanent residency would succeed.

Story continues below advertisement

“It was nice to be celebrating,” Ms. Toris said. “But I still didn’t have the piece of paper in my hand.”

The COVID-19 pandemic added an extra layer of anxiety for Ms. Toris, because she was in Canada without status. If she needed medical attention, the family said they would have had to pay the expenses, for example. Ms. Toris opted to complete Grade 12 online rather than in-person with her classmates at Holy Trinity Academy in Okotoks this year to reduce the possibility of infection.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada in November sent Ms. Toris another letter, declaring her a permanent resident. She cried joyful tears.

“I wasn’t confident until I got it,” she said.

Ms. Toris’s sister and brother-in-law are her legal guardians in Canada and Hungary, but never formally adopted her. That meant Mr. Radi, who is a Canadian citizen, could not sponsor her for permanent residency as a family member, as he did for Ms. Radi. However, the November letter categorized Ms. Toris as “FC5″ – an orphaned brother, sister, nephew, niece or grandchild, even though she is not technically an orphan.

Ms. Toris’s family said they are unsure why Canada approved her permanent residency application, which was making its way through the bureaucracy when Ottawa rejected her other applications. The family believes pressure on the federal government from John Barlow, their member of Parliament, and the community, bolstered Ms. Toris’s effort.

Immigration experts say Ms. Toris’s case is an example of the flexibility available in Canada’s system. The government, for example, did not force someone on the verge of adulthood to go through an expensive and lengthy adoption process.

Story continues below advertisement

“I’m really pleased that the government did what was the reasonable, practical resolution,” said Evelyn Ackah, the founder of Ackah Business Immigration Law in Calgary. “They looked at the end result.”

Sharry Aiken, a law professor and immigration expert at Queen’s University, said that while the outcome appears sensible, the process is flawed.

“It is really pretty crazy that in this instance, there was a risk of a family unit being ruptured, clearly contrary to the best interest of the child,” she said, noting the case should have been resolved a year ago.

“It is appalling that it took a full year to sort something like this out, leaving her in limbo.”

Ms. Toris now wants to become a Canadian citizen. She plans to go to university, but is not sure what she wants to study.

“I’ve got all my life to figure it out,” she said.

Story continues below advertisement

We have a weekly Western Canada newsletter written by our B.C. and Alberta bureau chiefs, providing a comprehensive package of the news you need to know about the region and its place in the issues facing Canada. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies