Manitoba: The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have confirmed the identities of four Indian nationals who were found frozen to death 12 meters from the US-Canadian border in Manitoba earlier this month. The Gujarati family died from exposure to extreme cold in what is being investigated as a case of human smuggling the RCMP said.
The victims have been identified as Jagdish Baldevbhai Patel, 39, Vaishaliben Jagdishkumar Patel, 37, Vihangi Jagdishkumar Patel, 11 and Dharmik Jagdishkumar Patel, 3, all from the same family. Vihangi's remains were earlier suspected to be that of a teenage boy's. The autopsy was completed on January 26.
India's High Commission in Ottawa, Canada said in a press release, which also identified the four victims, that the next of family of the victims have been informed.
The Consulate General of India in Toronto is in touch with the family of the victims and is providing all consular support.
The post-mortem examination has confirmed that all members of the family had died of exposure to extreme cold, the RCMP told media in a press conference. The Indian High Commission has also expressed its condolences to the victims' relatives.
A special team, led by a senior consular officer from the Consulate General of India in Toronto, is camping in Manitoba to assist ongoing investigations by Canadian agencies and to render any consular services for the victims, the High Commission said.
No vehicles were found at the border area in Emerson where the family was recovered, RCMP officials said. The Patel's were recorded as having come to Toronto by January 12 and left for the border area on January 18, where they were presumably dropped and left to walk on their own through a blizzard.
A criminal complaint was filed last week in the US District Court for the District of Minnesota against 47-year old US citizen Steve Shand, who has been charged with human smuggling.
Shand, a "suspected smuggler of undocumented foreign nationals" was arrested by American authorities near the US/Canadian border on January 19 for transporting two Indian nationals, who were illegally present in the US.
While transporting Shand to detention, US officials came across another group of Indian nationals on the border who informed them that a family had become separated from the group. A search was immediately launched in conjunction with Manitoba RCMP, and other Canadian agencies who worked in close collaboration with US Customs and Border Protection and the US Department of Homeland Security.
The Indian High Commission in its statement highlighted the need for safe and legal migration to prevent more such tragedies from happening. India has proposed a comprehensive Migration and Mobility Partnership Agreement (MMPA) to Canada, which remains under the consideration of the Canadian government. The scheme is aimed at tackling issues of illegal immigration.
"India and Canada work together to ensure the safety and well-being of all Indian immigrants into Canada. The two countries have a regular consular dialogue which takes up issues related to migration and welfare of citizens in each other's territories," the High Commission said.