“So Tragic”: Canadian PM After Indian Family Of 4 Freezes To Death Near Border

Toronto: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that his government was doing all it can and working “very closely” with the US to stop human smuggling, a day after a family of four Indians, including a baby, died from exposure to extreme cold weather on the Canadian side of the border with America.

Terming the incident as a “mind blowing” tragedy, Trudeau on Friday said that the Canadian government is doing all it can to stop people-smuggling across the US border.

“It was an absolutely mind-blowing story. It’s so tragic to see a family die like that, victims of human traffickers… and of people who took advantage of their desire to build a better life,” Trudeau told a news conference.

“This is why we are doing all we can to discourage people from crossing the border in an irregular or illicit manner. We know there are great risks in doing so,” he said.

The prime minister said that Canada was working very closely with the United States to stop smuggling and help people “taking unacceptable risks”.

According to Canadian officials, the incident was unusual as illegal migrants generally try to cross into Canada from America, rather than the other way round. Border crossings into Canada on foot increased in 2016 following the election of Donald Trump as the president of the United States.

On Thursday, the Manitoba Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said that the bodies of four people – two adults, a teen and an infant – were found on the Canadian side of the US/Canada border near the Emerson locality in south central Manitoba on Wednesday.

The family, believed to be Gujaratis, died from the exposure to extreme cold weather.

Confirming the nationality of those who died, India’s High Commissioner to Canada Ajay Bisaria described the incident as a grave tragedy.

“This is a grave tragedy. An Indian consular team is travelling today from @IndiainToronto to Manitoba to coordinate and help. We will work with Canadian authorities to investigate these disturbing events,” Bisaria tweeted.

According to the criminal complaint filed in a court in the US state of Minnesota, all the foreign nationals found on the US side, part of the larger group, spoke in Gujarati.

Manitoba RCMP was notified by US Customs and Border Protection on Wednesday morning that a group of people had crossed into the US near Emerson, and that one of the adults was carrying items intended for a baby, but there was no infant with the group.

An immediate search began on both sides of the border, and by that afternoon, the bodies of an adult man, an adult woman, and an infant were found. The body of a boy believed to be in his mid-teens was found shortly afterwards.

The US Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota said in a press release that 47-year-old Steve Shand of Florida has been arrested.

A criminal complaint has been filed on Thursday in the US District Court for the District of Minnesota against Shand, who has been charged with human smuggling.

Shand, a “suspected smuggler of undocumented foreign nationals”, was arrested near the US/Canadian border on January 19 for transporting two Indian nationals, who were illegally present in the US. The two Indian nationals have been identified as ‘SP’ and ‘YP’ in the complaint.

The office of the Minister of Public Safety said in a statement: “We are shocked and saddened by the tragic deaths of four people attempting to cross the Canada-US border, near Emerson, Manitoba. We extend our most heartfelt condolences to their loved ones, and our thoughts are with them at this difficult time.”

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