Village mourns tragic death of Indian family in Manitoba


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A village in India will shut down Saturday to pay respects to a family who died on the frozen prairie half a world away, as Manitobans with roots close to theirs hold a prayer service in their memory.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/01/2022 (416 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A village in India will shut down Saturday to pay respects to a family who died on the frozen prairie half a world away, as Manitobans with roots close to theirs hold a prayer service in their memory.

The village of Dingucha in the western state of Gujarat is mourning the loss of the Patel family – Jagdish Baldevbhai Patel, 39; his wife, Vaishaliben Jagdishkumar Patel, 37; their daughter, Vihangi 11; and three-year-old son, Dharmik.

“All the village is closed for one day due to those poor people dying,” said Amrut Patel, 70, a retiree who spends his winters in Dingucha after immigrating to the U.S. 33 years ago.

RCMP officers found their bodies on Jan. 19, 10 kilometres east of Emerson, Man., just 12 metres from the Canada-U.S. border in a human smuggling case.

Nearly 11,000 kilometres away in their home town in India, those who knew and loved them are still stunned by the tragedy that befell the family in search of the “American dream.”

“They are in big shock,” Amrut Patel in Dingucha said. The village has planned a day of mourning Saturday.

“All the shops will be closed,” said the man who is friends with Jagdish Patel’s father. He said he visited the grieving father and grandfather Friday to comfort him. The farmer in his late 60s told Amrut Patel that his son’t family’s funeral will be held in Canada instead of India.

The cost of repatriating the bodies is too expensive, he said.

In Winnipeg, the Gujarati Cultural Society of Manitoba will hold a virtual prayer service for the family at 5 p.m. Saturday. Sanjay Patel, president of the society, said in a text message that all are welcome to join the online service but details were still being finalized.

As investigators from three countries try to find out who is responsible for the smuggling operation that led to the family’s death from exposure, back home in Dingucha folks have an idea of what motivated them to leave.

Amrut Patel said the Patels were believed to have obtained visitor visas valid for six months. He suspected that Jagdish Patel was taking his family to the U.S. to find work that would pay him much more than he had earned in India working at a school in Dingucha.

“(The salary) is not sufficient for everybody,” he said.

Two of Jagdish Patel’s uncles moved to the U.S. from Gujarat, said Amrut Patel, who believes one settled in Chicago and the other in Pennsylvania.

Many villagers have moved to Canada and the U.S. in pursuit of a better life, he said.

“There are three reasons people go. One is for status, one is for money and one is for a good life,” said Amrut Patel who settled in Maryland.

“Regular life over there in the U.S.A. is better than India. Everybody knows that.”

In Canada, the Indian and Canadian governments are looking for ways to prevent such deaths.

“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. “

The Indian High Commission said Thursday it has proposed a migration plan that aims to “prevent and suppress irregular migration, smuggling of migrants and trafficking in human being and to facilitate sustainable and circular mobility.”

It didn’t provide details but said it is a “comprehensive migration and mobility partnership” which the Canadian government is considering.

A spokesperson for Citizenship and Immigration Canada did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

Manitoba RCMP have asked anyone with information about the family’s movements — from the time they arrived in Toronto on Jan. 12 to the time they attempted to cross the border — to contact investigators. They believe the family went to hotels, gas bars and stores.

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

Chris Kitching

As a general assignment reporter, Chris covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.


Updated on Friday, January 28, 2022 7:23 PM CST: Fixes photo caption

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