Government policy forces local business to close

Art Melange’s owner Mariana Giaccaglia took one of her final orders for a specially made pair of stone earrings on Wednesday afternoon.

Art Melange’s owner Mariana Giaccaglia took one of her final orders for a specially made pair of stone earrings on Wednesday afternoon.

After 18 months in business she’s hung a sign on the door of her shop in the Horwood’s Mall that reads: “Last chance to buy this jewelry.”

“I’m not closing because the store is not profitable. It’s because the circumstances in my life don’t let me stay here during the days,” said Mariana, while her two-year-old daughter Valentina played with a My Little Pony doll at her feet.

“All of my customers are sad.”

Mariana’s mother, Maria Gabriela Tudela, used to help with childcare.

But Citizenship and Immigration Canada refused the Argentineans’ claim for refugee status and sent Mariana’s mother, father and little brother back to Buenos Aires three weeks ago.

In late February, the family received a call telling them they had two weeks to leave the country or face deportation.

“It took us by surprise,” said Mariana.

“It was before the Canada Winter Games and we couldn’t do a lot because everybody was busy,” she said.

So the family, armed with nearly 40 letters of recommendation from community members, applied to stay in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

Minutes before Mariana’s parents and youngest brother left for the airport, they received another call telling them that application was also refused.

The family doesn’t feel safe in Buenos Aires, but it had trouble proving it would be in imminent danger if it returned there, said Mariana’s 19-year-old brother Marcelo.

Mariana and Marcelo, whose immigration status is different from that of their parents, are the only two family members left in Whitehorse.

Mariana’s husband, who is from Colombia, was granted refugee status.

“When you apply for refugee status it’s either they believe you or they don’t believe you. My husband they believed. My parents they didn’t believe,” she said.

Instead of being forcibly removed from the country, the Giaccaglias left on their own accord before the government’s deadline.

They paid for their own airplane tickets, which ate up a lot of the family’s savings.

“They’ve got nothing back home,” said Marcelo. “They’re going back with their hands empty.”

Mariana’s youngest brother Lucio, who is 17, has a learning disability that makes it impossible for him to read or write.

“He, especially, is the one I’m most worried about,” said Mariana.

“There is a lot of discrimination in my country — people will make fun of them on the street and teachers won’t help them.”

More than the loss of her shop, Mariana is pining for her family’s love and support.

“For me there will never be a good enough reason to split up a family,” said Mariana.

“Families are the most important group —when you’re alone who’s going to take care of you?

“It doesn’t make sense,” she said.

“My child will ask for her grandparents and I don’t know what to tell her.”

Mariana is also asking why a government policy is turfing capable workers from a city that’s suffering a staffing shortage.

“It’s contradictory because the industry needs workers and they’re kicking workers out of the country,” she said.

While Mariana’s mother helped her with childcare and running the store, her father, Daniel, worked as a janitor at the High Country Inn and her youngest brother, 17-year-old Lucio, worked at the Superstore.

“These people fill all the positions nobody else wanted,” said Marcelo.

The Giaccaglias are speaking out because they want change.

“Some people get deported and they don’t say anything about it,” said Marcelo.

“We want to let people know what’s happening so that the government can hear it and there’s a chance of changing,” said Mariana.

The Giaccaglias arrived in Canada five years ago, crossing the border near Niagara Falls in a taxi.

“We came to Canada in hopes that we might fit in here,” said Marcelo.

They were one of a dozen immigrant families who moved to Whitehorse in 2005. They hoped living in the sparsely populated North would give them a better chance of staying in the country.

People will do whatever they can to stay in Canada and the families headed north under that false assumption.

It was a common misconception, said Refugee Centre director Francisco Rico Martinez from Toronto.

“People were dreaming — they thought that if they moved to a place that was less populated than southern Ontario, Immigration Canada would be more inclined to accept them.

“But if you review the immigration act, that concept doesn’t exist.”

A few weeks later, the centre managed to stop a second group of 50 immigrants from leaving Ontario for the North.

As a small Canadian city, Whitehorse doesn’t have the capacity to deal with the needs of dozens of immigrants on a daily basis, said Martinez.

“The people who were in Whitehorse were phoning and saying that the situation was not that happy — they didn’t have lawyers, they didn’t know what to do, they didn’t have people to help them fill out the application.

“We received plenty of phone calls in the first month.”

Now two years later, Martinez believes the misconceptions have been corrected.

“Now I think the rumour has disappeared from the community.”

Citizenship and Immigration Canada does not comment on the status or outcomes of individual cases.

So where is home for the Giaccaglia family?

“Home?” Mariana said, and looked out the window of her small store for a few minutes in silence.

“Home was here,” she said.

Then she started crying.

“When I think about them there … it’s really risky and if something happens to them I cannot do anything,” she said.

“You hear gunfire all the time; people get robbed and people get knifed.”

Mariana is in the process of becoming a permanent resident of Canada.

Once she’s given that status, she can sponsor her parents to move back to the country.

But the process will take years and money that the family doesn’t have, said Mariana.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

d
Wyatt’s World

Wyatt’s World for March 5, 2021.

City councillor Samson Hartland in Whitehorse on Dec. 3, 2018. Hartland has announced his plans to run for mayor in the Oct. 21 municipal election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillor sets sights on mayor’s chair

Hartland declares election plans

Premier Sandy Silver speaks to media after delivering the budget in the legislature in Whitehorse on March 4. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Territorial budget predicts deficit of $12.7 million, reduced pandemic spending in 2021-2022

If recovery goes well, the territory could end up with a very small surplus.

Dawson City RCMP are reporting a break and enter on Feb. 25 after two masked men entered a residence, assaulted a man inside with a weapon and departed. (Black Press file)
Two men arrested after Dawson City home invasion

Dawson City RCMP are reporting a break and enter on Feb. 25.… Continue reading

Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn speaks to reporters at a news conference in Whitehorse on Dec. 21, 2017. New ATIPP laws are coming into effect April 1. (Chris Windeyer/Yukon News file)
New access to information laws will take effect April 1

“Our government remains committed to government openness and accountability.”

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from Public Health Nurse Angie Bartelen at the Yukon Convention Centre Clinic in Whitehorse on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
State of emergency extended for another 90 days

“Now we’re in a situation where we see the finish line.”

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been postponed indefinitely. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
2022 Arctic Winter Games postponed indefinitely

Wood Buffalo, Alta., Host Society committed to rescheduling at a later date

Crews work to clear the South Klondike Highway after an avalanche earlier this week. (Submitted)
South Klondike Highway remains closed due to avalanches

Yukon Avalanche Association recommending backcountry recreators remain vigilant

RCMP Online Crime Reporting website in Whitehorse on March 5. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Whitehorse RCMP launch online crime reporting

Both a website and Whitehorse RCMP app are now available

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

A rendering of the Normandy Manor seniors housing facility. (Photo courtesy KBC Developments)
Work on seniors housing project moves forward

Funding announced for Normandy Manor

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Most Read