The family of four Indian nationals has been identified a week after their remains were discovered frozen near the Canada/US border. According to Canadian investigators, the family had been moving about the country for a while and was driven to the border by someone in a case of people smuggling.
On January 19, Manitoba Royal Canadian Mounted Police discovered Jagdish Baldevbhai Patel, 39, Vaishaliben Jagdishkumar Patel, 37, Vihangi Jagdishkumar Patel, 11, and Dharmik Jagdishkumar Patel, 3, all from the same family, dead near Emerson, Manitoba, just 12 metres from the Canada/US border.
Authorities had previously stated that the family consisted of an adult man, an adult female, a teen male, and a baby. However, it has now been revealed that one of the victims was a little girl, not an adolescent boy.
Canadian police confirmed the victims’ identities, and autopsies were conducted on January 26. According to a statement released by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) on Thursday, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Manitoba has confirmed that the cause of death was exposure.
The next of kin of the four victims have been informed, according to India’s High Commission in Ottawa, Canada, which also identified the four victims in a news release. The Indian Consulate General in Toronto is in contact with the deceased’s family and is providing all consular assistance. The High Commission expressed its heartfelt condolences to the victims’ families and friends.
According to the Indian High Commission’s press statement, Canadian officials have also notified that, based on the circumstances, all of the people’ deaths have been assessed to be compatible with exposure to the external elements. The Patel family arrived in Toronto on January 12, 2022, according to the RCMP, and then travelled to Emerson around January 18.
On the Canadian side of the border, there was no abandoned vehicle. This suggests that someone drove the family to the border and then fled, according to the RCMP, who are investigating how they got from Toronto to Emerson. We believe this is a case of people smuggling, based on what we know so far about their operations in Canada and the arrest that occurred in the United States, it stated.
According to the RCMP, the Patel family moved around Canada for a while and they are looking for anyone who may have come into contact with them. Last Monday, a criminal complaint was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota against Steve Shand, a 47-year-old US citizen accused of people smuggling. On January 19, American officials apprehended Shand, a suspected smuggler of unauthorised foreign nationals, at the US/Canadian border for carrying two Indian citizens who were illegally present in the US.
In the lawsuit, the two Indian nationals are referred to as SP’ and YP’. Around the same time as Shand’s arrest, a group of five Indian nationals who were illegally present in the United States were also identified and detained.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police had reported that the bodies of the Patel family had been discovered frozen just inside the Canadian side of the international border on the day Shand was arrested. Shand was freed from prison on a conditional basis and without having to post a bond.
Following the discovery of the bodies, the Manitoba RCMP, including officers from the Emerson RCMP Detachment, the Integrated Border Enforcement Team (IBET), and Major Crime Services, launched an extensive investigation in collaboration with US Customs and Border Protection and the US Department of Homeland Security. The RCMP has also been in constant touch with Indian diplomatic officials and has worked closely with RCMP Liaison Officers in New Delhi, India, and Washington, DC, according to the RCMP.
On all aspects of the investigation into this incident, the Indian High Commission and India’s Consulate in Toronto are cooperating closely with Canadian authorities. A special team from the Consulate General of India in Toronto, led by a senior consular officer, is camping in Manitoba to help ongoing investigations by Canadian agencies and to provide any consular services for the victims, according to the High Commission.
The tragedy, according to the High Commission, has brought to light the importance of safe and legal movement, as Canada is a popular destination for Indian immigrants and students. The need to ensure that migration and mobility are made safe and legal, and that such tragedies do not recur, is one of the longer-term issues that this tragedy has brought to light, according to the High Commission, which added that a number of ideas are still being discussed between India and Canada.
India has proposed a comprehensive Migration and Mobility Partnership Agreement (MMPA) to Canada in order to prevent and suppress irregular migration, migrant smuggling, and human trafficking, as well as to facilitate sustainable and circular mobility. The Canadian government is still considering it.
The bilateral relationship between India and Canada is built on strong people-to-people ties. For Indian immigrants and students, Canada is a favourite destination. The governments of India and Canada collaborate to secure the safety and well-being of all Indian immigrants to Canada. According to the High Commission, the two nations have a regular consular discussion in which they discuss topics such as migration and the welfare of residents in each other’s territories.