A Jasper woman whose eligible residency requirements were questioned by park officials is sharing her story to show that qualifying to live in Jasper is anything but black and white.
Photographer Ashley Kennedy is busy these days. As a wedding and family photographer, her summers book up quick. And for the last few years, business has been booming; Kennedy’s services have become ever more sought out.
One day this past spring, however, Kennedy got a call that wasn’t a potential client. It was her property manager. He was calling to inform her that Parks Canada was not approving her eligible residency requirements—her “need to reside.”
“I was confused,” Kennedy said. “But I had a business license. I thought I’d be able to clear the situation up with a quick phone call.”
Not so. Parks Canada administrators told Kennedy that according to the National Parks Lease and License of Occupation Regulations, an eligible resident is anybody whose primary employment is within the park. Home-based businesses like hers, however, did not apply. Could she not open up a commercial space, they asked? Could she not take a second job?
“That felt a little bit insulting because I’ve been building this business,” Kennedy said.
No, she couldn’t afford commercial space—nor did she need it. And taking another job was not in the cards, either.
To that, the official said her hands were tied.
“She said that the issue was black and white and there was nothing she could do,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy was unclear. How did she manage to get approved for tenancy in the first place, she asked? Other than the photography business getting more established, her employment situation hadn’t changed in the three years since she started it. The answer that came surprised her yet again.
“They said ‘well, you were married at the time, weren’t you?’”
The official was referring to the fact that according to the same rules, spouses of eligible residents meet the need-to-reside requirements. How this person knew that Kennedy had separated from her husband was unclear (and felt somewhat intrusive), however, Kennedy was now fearful that the business she had built to support her family would suddenly be considered illegitimate. She has a six-year-old son. Although she and her husband are separated, they still have a family together.
“Despite it being a bit different than when I first applied for my business license, I still have a family here,” she said.
And so she made her case. She explained her circumstances—that her business is viable, that it serves a lot of people, that her son was born and raised here, that she contributes to her community. The official heard her out and told Kennedy she’d get back to her.
“I get the reason for the rule, but I thought if they looked further into my case I would have thought they’d say ‘this person is contributing to the community,’” she said.
Fortunately, for Kennedy, after some deliberation, Parks Canada administrators told Kennedy that her circumstances merited accommodation in Jasper. Parks Canada would approve her lease with her landlord. Her home-based business was deemed legitimate.
“In the end, they were receptive in hearing me out,” Kennedy said.
But Kennedy is understandably nervous for the next time she has to sign a lease—and for others who may be in a similar situation.
“I don’t really consider it resolved,” Kennedy said. “An exception was made for me but the issue still exists.”
Parks Canada officials did not respond to The Jasper Local’s questions by press time.