What happened between the time this family arrived in Toronto — then died days later, frozen in Manitoba near the U.S. border?
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/01/2022 (374 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A family of four Indian migrants who were found dead trying to cross into the U.S. last week arrived in Toronto on Jan. 12 and were dropped off by human-traffickers at the Manitoba border six days later, RCMP say.
At a news conference Thursday, RCMP Supt. Rob Hill confirmed the identity of the victims as Jagdish Baldevbhai Patel, 39, his wife Vaishaliben Jagdishkumar Patel, 37, and their daughter Vihangi, 11, and son Dharmik, 3, who Indian press has reported came from the Indian village of Dingucha.
Amid news of related arrests of six people in India, the RCMP also appealed to Canadians for help in piecing together the movement of the family during their six days of travel between Toronto and the border town of Emerson, Man., where they were found dead a week ago, just 12 metres from the border.
“This is an extended period of time for a family who is unfamiliar with Canada to be travelling across the country. A part of the investigation is determining whether this travel was facilitated in some way by an individual or individuals,” Hill told reporters.
“It is our belief that people have interactions with the Patel family during their stay in this hotel, gas station or restaurant, for example. We need anyone had interaction with the Patel family or has information about their journey to the border to think about what they went through.”
Hill said an autopsy confirmed the husband and wife and their children all died of exposure to the wintery conditions when the temperature was as low as -35 C. Officials initially had mistaken the older child as a boy because the bodies were all in “frozen” state, making the identification process difficult, he noted.
Officials found the victims’ passports in their belongings, but their next-of-kins were only notified Thursday morning, Hill said.
There were no vehicles near the scene where their bodies were found, which led investigators to believe someone drove them to the border and left them there, Hill said.
“With what we know so far of their activities in Canada, along with the rest of the United States, we believe this to be the case of human-smuggling,” he said.
“This will be a lengthy international investigation. We are looking at once and of work ahead of us, but our officers are determined to find out exactly how this tragedy occurred.”
Anyone who has interacted and seen the family is asked to call the RCMP hotline at 431-489-8551.
Steve Shand, 47, of Deltona, Fla., who was stopped with some of the Indian nationals south of the border, has been charged with human-smuggling.
Also Thursday, Indian authorities in Gujarat told Reuters they have detained six people who were running a travel and tourism company in the state in relations of the Patels’ case.
Nicholas Keung is a Toronto-based reporter covering immigration for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @nkeung