According to a cousin of a family who died in southern Manitoba while attempting to cross the US border, the bodies are unlikely to be flown back to India for a funeral.
According to Amritbhai Vakil, family members have concluded that seeing the couple and their two children would be extremely traumatic and that transporting the bodies would be too costly.
“Can you imagine what the parents will think when they discover four bodies at once?” he wondered.
Vakil stated that they are hoping for a funeral in Canada.
RCMP and diplomatic officials Thursday released the names of the dead: Jagdish Patel, 39; his wife Vaishaliben Patel, 37; their 11-year-old daughter, Vihangi Patel; and their three-year-old son, Dharmik Patel.
The family, from the Dingucha village in India’s western state of Gujarat, had travelled to Toronto on Jan. 12, Mounties said. Their frozen bodies were found in the snow, just metres from the border, seven days later.
A man on the U.S. side was arrested and charged with human smuggling. U.S. officials allege he is part of an organized human-smuggling enterprise.
U.S. court documents allege Steve Shand of Deltona, Fla., was driving a van with two Indian nationals just south of the border on Jan. 19.
The documents say five others from India were soon after spotted in the snow walking in the direction of the van. They told border officers that they had been walking for more than 11 hours in the freezing cold and that four others had become separated from the group overnight.
One man in the group also said he had paid a large amount of money to get a fake student visa in Canada and was expecting a ride to a relative’s home in Chicago after he crossed the border, the documents say.
A statement from India’s Ministry of External Affairs said the High Commission in Ottawa and Consulate General in Toronto is working closely with Canadian authorities.
Anil Pratham, director-general of police in Gujarat, said he is waiting on information and guidance from External Affairs to move ahead with his investigation. Pratham said he believes the Patels used a local travel agent to get visas to Canada.
Vakil, in a phone interview from Dingucha, said the family in India had wondered for several days if the bodies found in Canada were their relatives. The family knew the four had travelled to Canada, he said, but no one had been able to reach them.
The family is going through complex emotions, he said.
“They knew in their heart of hearts that it was their kids, but they didn’t want to believe it,” Vakil said.
“They had some hope but knew it was false hope. It’s also shocking and sad when what you fear most comes true.”
The week that it took for authorities to identify the Patels helped cushion the blow, he added. “It’s given time to process our thoughts and emotions.”
He said the family is holding a 15-day mourning and prayer service in the village.
In Winnipeg, a separate service was scheduled for Friday night. The head of the India Association of Manitoba said the organization collaborated with local organizations to create a virtual one for community members that lasted an hour. To assist identify the Patels, the organization collaborated with Toronto consular officials.
The objective, according to Ramandeep Grewal, was to provide a mechanism for community members to cope with their grief. The organizations decided to hold something online because COVID-19 rules were still in force.
People have been reaching out to share their own tales of immigrating to the United States or Canada since the deaths were announced, Grewal added.
“I believe it is critical that everyone get together and discuss it.” He said, “It’s a little bit relaxing for everyone.”
Source_ The Canadian Press