A leading expert in a debilitating form of visual impairment says she was denied entry to Canada on Wednesday after border officials told her she could be taking employment away from Canadians.
Christine Roman-Lantzy is director of the Pediatric Vision Information and Evaluation Program at West Pennsylvania Hospital in Pittsburgh. She is known for developing a way to assess children with cortical visual impairment, a condition that originates in the brain rather than the eyes.
Dr. Roman-Lantzy was to give a presentation on her work in Toronto on Thursday evening and was also scheduled to consult with families who have children affected by the condition. She has previously visited Canada, among other countries, to address and train visual therapists. But this time, she said, she was pulled aside and questioned after she drove up to the Canada Border Services entry point at Fort Erie, Ont., while en route to Toronto.
"Essentially, they said that they had no evidence that what I was doing couldn't be done by a Canadian," she said.
Officials were unmoved when Dr. Roman-Lantzy explained that she developed the methodology she uses and on which she was presenting – expertise that is widely sought by therapists in the field, she said.
"She is the expert in cortical visual impairment, especially from a clinical point of view," said Maureen Luther, a pediatric physiotherapist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre who has met with Dr. Roman-Lantzy and was planning to attend her Thursday talk.
She added that Dr. Roman-Lantzy's method of assessment is known for helping therapists evaluate their patients' degree of visual impairment and find effective interventions that can, in some cases, restore vision by retraining a child's brain to see.
CBSA spokesperson Nancy Thomson said in an e-mail late Thursday that the agency will not comment on the case.
"In accordance with the Privacy Act, it is not the practice of the CBSA to confirm or deny the entry of any individual to Canada," she said.
Dr. Roman-Lantzy, who is not a physician, said she was also told by border officials that she would need additional documentation to work with children in Canada, including her vaccination records. She said she hoped to be able to clarify what she needs to do to enter Canada in time for another scheduled visit in June.
"It's extremely disappointing. I feel like I'm just back to square one," said Lillian Kitcher, who travelled from Ottawa with her six-year-old son, Mirai, to meet with Dr. Roman-Lantzy .
Ms. Kitcher added that her son, who has cortical visual impairment due to epilepsy, is quadriplegic and requires constant attention while travelling.
Joanne Weltman, an independent therapist who arranged the visit, said she intended to make it possible for families to consult with Dr. Roman-Lantzy without incurring the higher costs of travelling to the United States.