The Indians whose bodies were found near the border between Canada and the United States on January 19 have been identified, said the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on Thursday.
The deceased persons are 39-year-old Jagdishkumar Patel, 37-year-old Vaishaliben Patel, 11-year-old Vihangi Patel and three-year-old Dharmik Patel, the police said in a statement.
“They are from the same family and are all Indian nationals,” they said.
Their bodies were found near the town of Emerson on the Canadian side of the border. They were believed to have died due to exposure to cold weather while trying to cross the border into the United States.
On Thursday, the office of the chief medical examiner of Manitoba confirmed that their deaths were due to exposure to cold weather. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy had said that the temperature in the region at the time of their deaths was minus 35 degrees Celsius.
The police said that the family had arrived in Toronto on January 12 and from there made their way to Emerson around January 18.
Pointing to the arrest of 47-year-old United States citizen Steve Shand near the border with Canada while he was driving two undocumented Indians, the police said they believe the deaths of the family members to be connected with human smuggling.
“There was no abandoned vehicle located on the Canadian side of the border,” they said. “This indicates that someone drove the family to the border and then left the scene.”
The police added: “We know the Patel family moved around Canada for a period of time and we are looking for anyone that may have had encounters with them.”
Meanwhile, the Indian High Commission in Ottawa said the relatives of the deceased persons have been informed about their demise. In a statement, the High Commission said that it has sent a team led by a senior consular officer to help with the investigation.
It said that the tragedy has brought into focus the need to ensure that immigration and mobility are made safe and legal to avoid repeated instances.
The statement said that India and Canada were discussing ideas to prevent such incidents.
“For instance, to prevent and suppress irregular migration, smuggling of migrants and trafficking in human beings and to facilitate sustainable and circular mobility, India has proposed a comprehensive Migration and Mobility Partnership Agreement to Canada, which remains under consideration of the Canadian government,” it added.