A Vereeniging family have won a five-year battle to live in Canada because three of them suffer from a potentially fatal skin condition which makes them allergic to sunshine. The ruling means that Johannes and Margharetha Viviers can finally settle down in the Canadian fishing port of Prince Rupert, which is known for its dreary weather and overcast days.
A Vereeniging family have won a five-year battle to live in Canada because three of them suffer from a potentially fatal skin condition which makes them allergic to sunshine.
The ruling means that Johannes and Margharetha Viviers can finally settle down and start earning a living in the Canadian fishing port of Prince Rupert, which is known for its dreary weather and overcast days.
”It takes away a great fear,” said Margharetha.
The combination of the good news and the bad weather meant above all a future for their two children, Domonic (18) and Heloise (15).
The teenagers and their father have variegate porphyria, a hereditary skin condition that makes even brief exposure to sunlight painful and potentially fatal. Margharetha said that in South Africa Domonic and Heloise had to sleep during the day and lead nocturnal lives that gave them ghostly complexions, prompting people to taunt them and call them Satanists.
Her daughter’s photosensitivity — allergy to sunlight — had become so severe she would have died if the family had been forced to return to South Africa.
Consulting the internet in the late 1990s the father, a computer technician, discovered that Prince Rupert, a town of 15 300 people in British Columbia, was Canada’s wettest municipality, with precipitation — rain or snow — averaging 2 500mm a year, and cloud cover usually blocking the sun in dry weather. The Viviers packed their bags and headed for Prince Rupert.
They arrived in Canada as tourists, then applied for residence status — a big mistake, as it turned out. They were told to leave or be deported. A spokesperson for the immigration minister said at the time the application had been rejected because the family entered the country under false pretences. Helped by Prince Rupert residents, the Vivierses appealed and re-appealed the decision.
Three times the response from Ottawa was a deportation order, three times suspended pending ”redetermination.”
Without work permits, the family had to depend on the generosity of the locals. Margharetha said the owner of the hotel where they were originally staying refused payment after hearing about the family’s predicament. An elderly woman who wanted to be known only as ”Grandma” paid the rent for the family’s flat for most of the five years. They were helped by the town council, doctors, dentists and citizen groups. Their Vancouver-based lawyer represented them free of charge.
Now, a new immigration minister has granted the residence and work permits.
”John” and ”Maggie” Viviers, as their new friends call them, will be allowed to earn money. Their lawyer says they are ecstatic. The permits are initially for two years, in which they must show that they can support themselves. After that they will be eligible for ”landed immigrant” status.
Mayor Herb Pound said the people of Prince Rupert are ”delighted” with the outcome.
”The whole community really opened their arms to the Viviers’,” he said. ”Nobody moves all the way from South Africa to Prince Rupert on some kind of bogus claim.” he added. – Sapa