Vicky Venancio dreamed of earning enough money to support herself and her elderly parents back in the Philippines, and to one day become a Canadian citizen.
That dream shattered on a June day in 2012 when Venancio was struck by a car while biking to work in Edmonton.
Quadriplegic and wheelchair bound, Venancio could no longer work. As a result, her work visa soon expired, along with her provincial health care benefits.
Making matters worse, her employer failed to honour her employment contract of providing disability insurance when she was hired, leaving her with no ability to cover the considerable medical and rehabilitation costs associated with her condition.
But Venancio persevered. Left without any healthcare coverage, she volunteered for experimental treatments at the University of Alberta’s ReWalk program. She has made significant progress and is helping the research group to learn new directions in making post injury re-walking possible.
Venancio is determined to recover, return to work and realize her Canadian dream.
But she faced her her biggest challenge yet.
Earlier, in a public hearing, the Canadian government has decided that she can no longer stay in Canada.
At the hearing she stated “I Know I can’t have my normal life back. But I cannot let my disability take away my dreams.”
On August 9, Venancio rejoiced after the Canadian government granted her permanent residency on compassionate grounds.
“Yesterday I received it, and I was just bursting into tears in Canada Place,” Venancio, who is now 31, said in a report by the Edmonton Sun.
While cycling to work at a Mill Woods McDonald’s in Edmonton in 2012, a vehicle struck her.
She spent nearly three years in Edmonton without public health insurance, while friends supported her and fundraised to help her fight to stay in the country. Money from an injury settlement soon ran out.
A family doctor who treated Venancio for free became an “angel in her life”.
Three years, two months and 10 days after the crash — yes, she counted — a tenacious Venancio took her first step. She now lives on her own and moves around the apartment with a walker.
“I don’t have any reason to give up,” she said.
Edmonton lawyer Sol Rolingher lobbied federal politicians to consider Venancio’s unusual circumstances, instead of living by the letter of immigration law.
“We owe this lady a debt of gratitude,” Rolingher said in a report by the Edmonton Sun. “We don’t turn out backs on people who are hurt through no fault of their own.”
Even after securing a two-year work permit in 2015, Venancio lived in limbo. She was afraid to leave Canada — even to say goodbye to her dying mother in the Philippines — knowing she couldn’t get back across the border.
Wanting to go back to school, the options available to her as an international student were limited and too expensive, she said. Now, many of those barriers have evaporated.
She spends her days volunteering at the Glenrose and University hospitals, talking with others who have spinal cord injuries, and also speaking to students about life and recovery since the injury limited the use of her body from the neck down.
Although she’s looking for a computer or clerical job to pay the bills, she wants to study to be a social worker.
She also volunteers weekly in the constituency office of federal Amarjeet Sohi, the Liberal MP for Edmonton-Mill Woods and minister of infrastructure and communities.
Sohi has lobbied on Venancio’s behalf since he was a city councillor. He’s inspired by her determination to get her life back together, and said he’s confident Venancio will be a successful Canadian.
“This is a file that has been very close to my heart. So I am very happy to see the outcome,” Sohi said in the Edmonton Sun report.