Eight Migrants, Including Two Families, Found Dead While Crossing into the US from Canada

Crews search for migrants Friday in Akwesasne in Quebec, Canada.
Crews search for migrants Friday in Akwesasne in Quebec, Canada.

Eight migrants died while trying to cross illegally into the United States through Akwesasne Mohawk Territory, which straddles provincial and international boundaries and includes Quebec, Ontario, and New York State regions.

Canada News understands that Four of the deceased were from India and four of Romanian descent. The Indians, members of the Chaudhari family, had been travelling in Canada for the last two months on a tourist visa. The deceased included the father, Praveenbhai Chaudhari, 50; mother, Dakshaben, 45; son, Meet, 20; and 23-year-old daughter, Vidhi. Praveenbhai was a farmer from the Mehsana district with a population of about 1.8 million people. An investigation is underway in India to uncover what transpired in Canada and why they were travelling to the US.

This is the second incident involving families from Gujarat who have died trying to cross into the US from Canada in the past 18 months. In January 2022, four members of the Patel family froze to death; their bodies were found metres away from the border, near Emerson, Manitoba. Three people in India have been charged in their deaths, while a Florida man is facing trial in Minnesota for human smuggling. Indian police are in touch with the Canadian Embassy in India and the RCMP to assist with the investigation.

Meanwhile, Akwesasne Mohawk police continue to search for Casey Oakes, a missing local man, whose boat was found near where the bodies of the eight migrants were discovered in the river about 130 kilometres southwest of Montreal. Mohawk police have been searching for Oakes since last Thursday when they discovered six bodies in the water and two more the following day. Oakes was last seen operating the boat in the Mohawk territory on Wednesday night.

Father Emanuel Țencaliuc, the priest at the All Saints Romanian Orthodox Church in Scarborough, confirmed that Cristina (Monalisa) Zenaida Iordache and Florin Iordache, 28, were among the Romanian migrants who lost their lives. Florin Iordache was carrying Canadian passports for their two young children, aged one and two, who were also among the victims. The Iordache family had been living in the Toronto area. A friend of Florin Iordache said that the family was facing deportation from Canada.

The two families died less than a week after Canada and the United States amended an immigration deal to prevent people from either country from crossing the border and making a refugee claim. The amendment changed the deal to cover unofficial points of entry along the 9,000-kilometre border between the countries.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Monday that the deaths of the two families were an immeasurable tragedy, but he cautioned that it was too early to say whether the new deal encouraged the migrants to try and cross illegally into the US.