CALGARY — Darren Jarrad has already missed his daughter’s birth, the first time she crawled, her first steps and her first words.
When they talk by phone, two-year-old Shyanne is quick to babble, “I love you,” but when Jarrad makes the long trip from England to her home near Calgary things aren’t as easy.
“Every time I see her, in a way I have to introduce myself to her again because she sort of forgets,” he said.
“She knows who I am, but she’s a bit wary of me, which is quite hard.”
Jarrad and Shyanne’s mother, Chantel Barden, married in Canada in April and thought she would soon follow him across the ocean so the three could finally live together as a family.
But the British government turned down her visa request last week, saying Jarrad doesn’t make enough money at his full-time job to support his young family.
“I thought if we were a family, we’ve got a child together, surely that’s enough for us to live together,” he said Tuesday from his home in the tiny town of Felmingham, about three hours outside London.
“It’s people’s lives at stake, a little girl, (and) they’re just sort of deciding what my life’s going to be, which I didn’t realize they could do, really.”
Jarrad and Barden first met three years ago during the Calgary Stampede when he was a soldier stationed with a British training unit at a Canadian Forces base in southern Alberta.
Barden said at first she thought their relationship would be a brief fling started in a bar and soon forgotten.
“I thought it was going to be completely short term, he’d go back and then not have anything to do with me,” she said laughing from her parents’ store in Cluny, about an hour outside Calgary.
But Jarrad kept calling and after the couple found out Barden was pregnant, he returned to spend time with her before a six-month stint in Afghanistan, during which his daughter was born.
Jarrad later left the army, vowing to devote his life to being a family man.
Barden moved to England on a six-month visa, planning to marry him while there.
But the government wouldn’t let them, saying there wasn’t enough time for the marriage and that “we weren’t genuine enough,” said Jarrad.
“The only time we’ve been together is that six months, that’s the longest we’ve ever been together,” said Barden.
Jarrad has hired a lawyer and hopes to appeal the government’s ruling.
His local MP was “gobsmacked” by the decision and has written to the government, demanding it be overturned.
The family’s plight has received attention in the British media.
A U.K. Border Agency spokesman told Britain’s Daily Telegraph that the system is fair and applies equally to everyone.
He said it’s up to applicants to prove they meet criteria for entry and that would include the need for someone to show they could support a spouse “without recourse to public funds.”
Jarrad said he’s a bit puzzled by what criteria he must meet to provide for his family, since no one can tell him how much his salary as a flooring technician falls short.
Either way, he guarantees that between his steady job and help from family, the couple will never have to rely on government support. Barden plans to work, and said she’s not picky about what kind of job she gets.
If the appeal is denied, the couple has decided Jarrad will apply to live in Canada, hoping he won’t have to skip yet more milestones as his daughter grows up.