Indian family that froze to death near US-Canada border identified
The bodies of four Indian nationals, who were found dead in Canada near the border with the United States, have been identified. The family members, who died from exposure to extreme cold on January 19, were from Gujarat, the Indian High Commission in Ottawa said in a statement. Authorities in Canada believe it to be a case of human smuggling and investigations are ongoing.
- The tragic incident has reignited questions about illegal immigration and rocked the Indian community in Canada and the US.
- It highlights how many people take life-threatening risks in attempts to overcome joblessness and poverty in their native land.
- Canada has long been a desired destination for Indians seeking immigration as the country is known for a relatively liberal visa policy than that of America.
The family of four was found dead near Emerson, Manitoba, just steps away from the US-Canada border. Unconfirmed reports suggest the family had been walking for several hours in a brutal blizzard. The deceased have been identified as Jagdish Baldevbhai Patel, 39; his wife Vaishaliben Jagdishkumar Patel, 37; their daughter Vihangi Patel, 11; and three-year-old son Dharmik Patel.
The Canadian authorities had completed autopsies on January 26. India's High Commission said relatives of the victim family have been informed. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police confirmed the Patel family had arrived in Toronto on January 12 and reached Emerson around January 18. No abandoned vehicle was found on the Canadian side of border, suggesting the family might have been dropped off by someone.
The family was from Dingucha village in Kalol tehsil of Gandhinagar district. Jagdish, the breadwinner of the family, had worked as a schoolteacher before switching to running small businesses in Kalol city. The family had a single-storey house in Dingucha.
The Patels' case coincides with the arrest of seven Indian nationals in the United States earlier this month. Steve Shand, a 47-year-old Florida resident, has been charged with human smuggling after he was found driving a van with two undocumented Indian nationals traveling as passengers. The van boot reportedly contained cases of food and water.
The Indian High Commission in Ottawa issued a statement, saying it is in touch with the family of the deceased. "A special team, led by a senior consular officer, from the Consulate General of India in Toronto, is camping in Manitoba to assist ongoing investigation by Canadian agencies and to render any consular services for the victims," the statement added.
"On longer-term issues that this tragedy has brought into focus the need to ensure that migration and mobility are made safe and legal and that such tragedies do not recur. A number of ideas remain under discussion by India and Canada," as per the statement.