“There was a bad typhoon back home in November of last year – Typhoon Haiyan,” Mr. Jalalon says. “And it was the people of Banff that led the fundraising to help out, not the Filipinos here. I felt quite ashamed by that.”
Many here are concerned about the chill the federal government has put on the temporary foreign worker program. It is a reaction to stories suggesting some businesses are discriminating against non-immigrant Canadians because they don’t believe they have a comparable work ethic to employees they’re bringing in from overseas. But Darren Reeder, executive director of the Banff Lake Louise Hotel Motel Association, says the two resort communities desperately need the TFW to compensate for the loss in workers to higher-paying resource jobs elsewhere in the province.
Mr. Reeder says the fact many of these foreign workers are converting to full-time residents has been a huge benefit to towns like Banff. “It’s been wonderful to see [foreigners] become immersed in the community,” he says. “But we still need assistance in better meeting the needs of our foreign national population.” Despite challenges around housing and other issues, he says, “the fact so many want to become permanent residents speaks to community spirit and the lifestyle we offer. They’re saying: ‘It’s a price worth paying.’”
Hernan Argana agrees. He says his life in Banff far exceeds anything he had in the Philippines, even when factoring in the long hours he puts in at two jobs. He has his family together. His youngest daughter is hugging him now – for the first time since they were brought together two years ago. She understands he isn’t going anywhere, that it’s safe to talk about family vacations they might take.
Before Lady Ann and the daughters joined him in Banff, Hernan would go to the Western Union office every two weeks to wire money home. He got to know the staff and told them about an expensive operation that his youngest daughter, Hershey Ynan, needed to fix the holes in her heart with which she was born. The family had to borrow thousands of dollars to pay for it.
One day, Hernan noticed a collection box in the store with a sign attached. He didn’t understand the words, which were written in English. A few weeks later, however, the store staff presented him with a cheque for more than $500 – the box was set up to help defray some of his daughter’s medical expenses.
“That’s when I knew this was a special place that had special people living here,” Hernan says. “That’s when I knew this is the place I wanted me and my family to call home.”