Pavla Sevcikova doesn’t want to leave Jasper.
Her friends don’t want her to leave. Neither do her co-workers.
And certainly Sevcikova’s boss at the Athabasca Hotel doesn’t want her to leave, either.
“She’s a keeper,” Darcy Carroll said. “She’s a very valuable employee.”
But according to the offices of Canadian Immigration and Citizenship, as of June 10, Pavla has got to go. It doesn’t matter how valuable of an employee she is. Her assimilation into the community has no bearing on her status. All that matters to CIC is that on June 10, her papers expire.
“It’s really frustrating,” she said.
It wasn’t always this way. Having come to Jasper in 2012 on an open work permit, the 26-year-old Czech had a fairly typical—if expedited—path in Jasper. She started out in housekeeping, living in staff accommodation before finding a better job and a better place to live. Her hard work and reliability put her in good standing with her employer who, in the spring of 2013, rewarded Sevcikova with a two-year work permit after obtaining a positive LMO (Labour Market Opinion) and demonstrating that her services were needed.
Athabasca Hotel applied for a positive labour assessment for Sevcikova’s position, despite the odds against obtaining one.
“We exhausted all possibilities,” Carroll said. “I spent several thousands of dollars trying to retain her.”
Beyond his fondness for Sevcikova, Carroll knows full well the realities of the work force market in Jasper. Canadians simply don’t want the types of jobs that people from the Czech Republic, or the Philippines, or Mexico, are willing to take.
“They can sit here and say you have to hire Canadians but I’ve had an ad posted for a year and I’ve had two Canadians apply for it. Neither one of them could pass a criminal record check,” Carroll said.
Meanwhile, for Sevcikova, the writing was on the wall. The changes at CIC meant one thing:
“We were screwed,” she said.
Her only hope, she thought, was through Alberta’s provincial nominee program, which, if her nomination was approved, would then be used to apply for residency to CIC. Unfortunately, Sevcikova wasn’t the only foreign worker in Alberta with this thought. After the LMIA changes, processing times with the provincial nominee program jumped from six to 15 months.
“I don’t have that much time left on my work permit,” she said. “Who does?”
Today, as Sevcikova watches the calendar turn to June, she wonders about her future. She knows that she could go back to the Czech Republic and apply for another work permit, and if she got it, that the AthaB would welcome her back. But she is also starting to feel like she wants to put roots down somewhere. She doesn’t want to live “temporarily” anymore.
“I really want to start my life here, I’ve got money saved up,” she says.
Even if she did go another route—applying for trade school, for example—Sevcikova isn’t confident that the money she’d spend there wouldn’t be in vain.
“I’d be worried they’d change the rules again,” she said.