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Unwanted, but wants to stay

John King
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 07/05) - Sitting in his empty apartment yesterday morning, Pavel Lopez was still in shock about being forced to leave Canada - his home for two and a half years.

NNSL Photo/graphic

Pavel Lopez leaves his Yellowknife home on Byrne Road. Lopez will arrive in his native Costa Rica, today. - John King/NNSL photo

"I will do everything to try and return to Canada," Pavel says. But six hours later he was flying south via Canadian North.

It was on Nov. 29 that Lopez, originally from Costa Rica, was told that Canada no longer wanted him.

That is to say, the Canadian government, not the people who know Lopez.

"People have been really supportive from the community," Lopez says of his Yellowknife experience. They ask 'why you?'" he says.

Lopez lost his appeal for refugee status exactly one week ago. Since then Lopez has sold his car for $500 and everything else he owns except for what will fit into three suitcases.

The morning light filters in through Lopez's windows when Yellowknifer talks to him at 10 a.m., but the room can not brighten up Lopez's sombre and sad demeanour.

He says he is hopeful of coming back to Canada, but says now that he has been deported, it will be tough. "When you are deported, it looks like you're a criminal," Lopez says.

"When I go to the embassy to apply again as a skilled worker, what will they think?" Pavel asks himself, trying to talk through his situation as he waits to be picked up.

Pavel's next stop was to the RCMP office so that officers can check his bags and ready Lopez for his flight out of the Territories, whatever that entails.

Lopez worked at the Stanton Territorial Hospital where he was a respected housekeeping supervisor. His boss, Greg Merrall, was livid that Lopez was being kicked out of Canada and questions why the system isn't more personal.

"His loss will put a large hole in an important service at the hospital," Merrall said late last week.

"In the four years that I've been here, I've only had two people of Pavel's calibre," Merrall said.

This isn't the first time someone from the hospital has been deported.

Just two months ago, a housekeeper for the emergency department lost her refugee appeal.

The housekeeper's family, including her husband and 11-year-old daughter, were shipped out of the country.

Canadian Immigration says Lopez has not given enough proof to show fear of prosecution in Venezuela, where he left because he said he feared for his life under the unstable rein of Hugo Chavez.

Smoking one last cigarette before leaving his home in Yellowknife, Lopez is left wondering, where he went wrong.

"I do feel happy that it is finished," Lopez says about his refugee application.

"For two and a half years I could not live a normal life. You never know when they are going to tell you when you must go," Lopez says.

Lopez has been told it will take six months to a year to gain entry into Canada as a skilled worker. He knows he has a long hard journey ahead of him.

Lopez remains hopeful that he will see Canada again. He know that he has a dream, and even in this moment has time for a smile.