No time for goodbye as NWT family moves south for work

The York family – Veronica, left, Hannah, dog Cleo, and Stuart – pose in the window of their family home for Pat Kane's social-distancing photo project
York family members pose in the window of their Yellowknife home as part of a series of socially distanced portraits by photographer Pat Kane. From left: Veronica, Hannah, dog Cleo, and Stuart. Pat Kane/Pat Kane Photo

Family goodbyes and last visits with friends are normal part of life when you’re moving from the place you grew up. For one family, losing that is the hardest part.

Stuart York, wife Veronica, and 15-month-old Hannah are one of many Canadian families who find themselves having to move during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Without assistance from family and friends – who are barred from helping under physical distancing guidelines – the packing and cleaning had to be dealt with alone, while parenting their young daughter. 

“It’s been a pretty stressful time, which has definitely been compounded by the fact we can’t see anybody or visit anybody and we’re leaving,” Stuart said.



“My wife was born here, I’ve been here for 30 years, and we’re basically leaving town without saying goodbye to anybody.”

The family is relocating from Yellowknife to Alberta as Stuart – who used to work at the NWT’s Gahcho Kué diamond mine – is becoming a technical trainer at a mining and construction equipment company. The job will let him spend more time with his family.

Both he and Veronica were excited about the change. They had been going through the motions getting things prepared and readying their house for sale.

Then Covid-19 hit.



“We’re both getting pretty stressed out, said Stuart. “It was right in the middle of our planning phase and all of a sudden everything kind-of dropped to the floor.” 

‘Every day something changes’

In Alberta, the family won’t be required to isolate. They say they will still do their part by physically distancing themselves and taking precautions while they travel.

And though the Yorks have a rental while their home in Yellowknife sells, they expect a financial hit during a time when many families are stretched due to layoffs and business closures. The housing market in the city, while not quite ground to a halt, is extraordinarily slow.

“On top of [moving during a pandemic], the government has suspended postings for military and RCMP,” said Stuart.

“Typically the spring is the best time of year to sell a house because that’s when the [transfers] are happening.

“It’s up for sale now. However, Covid-19 is even having a pretty big impact on that. We ended up listing later than intended because a lot of the realtor side of things were being shut down.”

Other factors delayed listing the home, he said, like uncertainty about whether the land titles office was closing.

“If you shut down land titles, nobody can sell a house. There were a lot of roadblocks being thrown up.” 



The family remains less than completely confident that everything is moving forward properly with the sale.

Even as they prepare to head out this weekend, the Yorks feel there is still a possibility the entire move could be upended. 

“Every day something changes,” Stuart said.

“We don’t know if we’re going to make it across the border. There’s obviously uncertainty.”