By The Canadian Press
Police in India say a third man has been charged in the deaths of four members of a family who froze in southern Manitoba while trying to cross into the United States.
They say the man allegedly acted as a scout for potential immigrants to the U.S. and helped the family get documents for the U.S. leg of its planned journey.
Dashrath Chaudhary faces the same charges as two others arrested Saturday, who are accused of acting as immigration agents and supplying the family with paperwork.
They are all charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder, attempting culpable homicide, human trafficking and criminal conspiracy.
The bodies of a couple and their two children were found metres from the border on Jan. 19, 2022.
Family have said Jagdish Patel, 39, had dreamed about living in the U.S. He and his wife, Vaishaliben, 37, their 11-year-old daughter, Vihangi; and three-year-old son, Dharmik, were found on Jan. 19, 2022, near Emerson, Man., metres from the U.S. border.
Investigators said they believe the deaths were linked to a human smuggling operation.
RCMP have said the Patel family landed in Toronto on Jan. 12, 2022, and over the next few days moved around parts of southern Ontario, including Mississauga and Welland.
A week after arriving in Canada, when temperatures hovered around -35 C, they started walking to the border. Patrol agents in the U.S. stopped a van with a driver and two Indian nationals a few metres south of the border.
A while later, agents spotted five others from India walking in the snow. The migrants told officers they had been walking for more than 11 hours and four others had become separated from the group overnight.
The alleged driver of the van, Steve Shand of Florida, was also arrested and faces trial later this year in Minnesota on charges of human smuggling.
An official involved in the police investigation in India, who asked not to be named because he’s not authorized to speak with the media, said police want a “fast-track trial,” which means the case could go to court within six months.
If found guilty, the official said, the men would face life in prison.
The first two men arrested in the case in India, Yogesh Patel and Bhavesh Patel, are not related to the family that died near border, the official added.
Jagdish Patel’s father said police in India showed up at his home earlier this week to tell him and his wife about the first two arrests. Baldev Patel doesn’t know the accused men, he said, and the arrests don’t bring him peace
“I think about (my family) a lot. How do I move on?” a sobbing Patel said in Hindi in a phone interview with The Canadian Press from his home in Dingucha, a village in the state of Gujarat state in western India.
“It’s no use if the (accused) are caught,” he said.
“Will it bring back my son?”
The deaths have robbed him of his happiness, financial security and even appetite, he said. He didn’t eat on Thursday, the one-year anniversary of the day the bodies were found.
“I just didn’t feel like eating anything at all,” he said. “(It was) the first day of the second year of (Jagdish’s) death.”
He tried to find justification for what he has been through over the past year.
“Everyone has their fate sculpted out before they begin their life on Earth,” he said.
“They are born. They live the life they were meant to live. It’s out of our control. They just leave us behind.”