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Hard road for Red Deer shooting victim ends with gratitude, happiness

Filipino man so thankful to Parkland Fuel for “not leaving me behind”
Jaysen Reyes at the Citizenship and Immigration Canada office last week in Calgary.

A young Filipino man whose life changed in a terrible way when he was shot in an attempted robbery in Red Deer four years ago has been granted permanent residency status in Canada.

“I feel like I was so lucky and blessed and I am very thankful to Parkland (Fuel Corp.), especially the people, for not leaving me behind. They are very supportive. I can’t explain how thankful I am,” Jaysen Reyes said.

Reyes, now age 29, had come to Canada in 2013 as a temporary foreign worker from the Philippines to earn money and send some home to his mother, a single parent, to help her take care of his brothers. But not long after arriving in Red Deer and while working at the West Park Fas Gas station, a would-be robber fired a sawed-off shotgun into Reyes’ face.

Reyes suffered permanent injuries to his hands and face, and underwent numerous surgeries as well as psychological counselling for the trauma. His employer, Parkland Fuel, and the people who work there, have been by his side every hard and long step of the way since.

The man who shot Reyes was eventually sentenced to nine years in prison. Reyes publicly forgave him because he felt, like himself, everyone deserves a second chance.

On March 14, during a Citizenship and Immigration Canada meeting in Calgary with immigration lawyer Evelyn Ackah, Reyes heard the words from an official that he had been waiting years for: “You’re landed.” That mean his application for permanent residency, once referred to as being a landed immigrant, had been approved.

“I’m so happy because that’s what I was waiting for.” Reyes was disappointed when last year he had been granted a three-year work permit because he really wanted to become a Canadian citizen. He can do that now in about four years.

But he said his first priority now is to go see his mother and brothers in the Philippines this summer. He can travel without worrying about re-entry into Canada now, and had not been home since the shooting. He had been advised to stay in Canada until his residency was settled.

Reyes is living in Cochrane and working full time at the Canadian Tire store.

Ackah, an immigration lawyer in Calgary, has been working on Reyes case since the beginning. “It’s been a one-in-a-million type of case and so I’m very happy that the Canadian immigration system actually worked in his case and saw the humanitarian and compassionate considerations of this very unique case.”

Most people that apply under these grounds are not approved, she said.

“I really feel like he’s just so fortunate, given the tragedy and all the things that occurred, that he had such a wonderful supporter in (Parkland Fuel).” The company has been very modest and low key about accepting credit for helping Reyes.

“I’ve never seen anything like it in 20 years practising law,” Ackah said of the support Reyes got from the company, in particular senior vice president Peter Kilty and president Bob Espey.

Kilty said they went from fighting desperately just to have him not removed from the country, to him getting landed status.

“I’m being a bit corny here but it kind of renews your faith.” People in the community closely followed Reyes’ story, he said. “We’d do it again in a heartbeat.”

Reyes expressed his thanks to everyone else who has helped him, including, “To all my family, friends and church family, the Red Deer community who help me, you know who you are.”

Jaysen Reyes with his lawyer Evelyn Ackah.