September 24, 2020

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Search continues for missing man after boat capsizes

Members of the Kurdish community wait close to Belair boat launch on Lake Winnipeg Sunday, as the RCMP search for Nour Ali, a leading member of their community. He went missing missing after the boat he was in capsized.(John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>

Members of the Kurdish community wait close to Belair boat launch on Lake Winnipeg Sunday, as the RCMP search for Nour Ali, a leading member of their community. He went missing missing after the boat he was in capsized.(John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)

Sunday’s search for a well-known Winnipeg philanthropist missing in Lake Winnipeg turned up nothing, with RCMP search crews returning to shore around 5 p.m. with a promise to resume searching this morning, weather permitting. 

A fishing boat carrying five men capsized in Lake Winnipeg near Belair on Saturday evening. Three of them — men aged 37, 48 and 65 — were aided to shore by onlookers who also called 911. All three were taken to local hospital.

Nour Ali, a Kurdish refugee who was instrumental in helping people come to Canada.</p>

Nour Ali, a Kurdish refugee who was instrumental in helping people come to Canada.

Saturday evening the search began for the other two occupants of the boat, Nour Ali, 42, and his 73-year-old father, Hamza Ali. Hamza was found, taken to shore and pronounced dead Saturday evening, according to RCMP.

All day Sunday, dozens of people watched as waves crashed ashore just north of Lester Beach, on the east side of the lake. All day they waited, hoping some good news might still come.

As the day’s search came to an end, hope was turning to a desire for closure.

"It’s basically the same as it was at the end of the day (Saturday)," said RCMP Staff Sgt. Bob Chabot. "There’s always hope. I really try to never lose hope because you always want to try to bring some closure to the family. And it’s a sad situation, so we want to make sure we do all we can to try to bring closure to the family."

Ali was a friend, a mentor, and a family member to those seeking closure. In some cases, he was even responsible for aiding them in coming to Canada through the refugee process.

Ali came to Canada as a Syrian refugee himself in 2013 after spending a few years in China. As a Syrian Kurd, he became very involved in supporting newcomers from that community, as well as countless others.

Ali was an entrepreneur, but used his business primarily to support communities he served in his volunteer work, says friend Jennifer Chen. Ali created the not-for-profit, Kurdish Initiative for Refugees and co-founded the Manitoba Ethnocultural Council with Chen and several other individuals. Chen describes Ali as one of the most involved members of Winnipeg’s immigrant community. 

Members of RCMP talk to Ali's brother as they search for him at Belair boat launch Sunday. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>

Members of RCMP talk to Ali's brother as they search for him at Belair boat launch Sunday. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)

She recalls meeting Ali in 2016 and being struck immediately by the passion with which Ali worked to help fix problems faced by refugees in Winnipeg. Tears came to Chen’s eyes as she remembered the last time she met with Ali to discuss preparations for multicultural day celebrations at the end of the month.

"He was always ready to lend a hand to whoever needed help," Chen said.

Most recently, Chen and Ali organized meal deliveries to front-line workers during the pandemic.

"He was that kind of person, that when someone needed him, he wouldn’t ask questions, he wouldn’t hesitate, he would just go and start helping," Chen said.

She says Ali had a big heart and was ready to welcome anyone. He was curious about all other cultures and embraced differences, recognizing them as strengths.

A commercial fisherman assists members of the Kurdish community in a water search. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>

A commercial fisherman assists members of the Kurdish community in a water search. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)

His family declined to comment at this time, but Ali’s sister, Shler Ali, says when the time is right she will have much to say about both her brother and father.

On Sunday, RCMP officers in two boats conducted a grid search of the area where the accident happened. The search effort on Saturday involved the efforts of EMS, Victoria Beach Fire and Rescue, the Canadian Coast Guard and a military plane.

Dive teams have not been used to this point but will be used to conduct the search going forward as weather permits.

Chabot warned a storm front moving into the area may delay today’s search efforts.

sarah.lawrynuik@freepress.mb.ca

Sarah Lawrynuik

Sarah Lawrynuik
Reporter

Sarah Lawrynuik reports on climate change for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press climate change reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.

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History

Updated on Sunday, June 14, 2020 at 3:59 PM CDT: Adds search ongoing, details

7:34 PM: Adds photos

7:52 PM: Story updated

9:41 PM: Adds name of the deceased.

10:43 PM: Edited

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