“I thought Florin was going to try everything he could to protect his children, but I never thought he would do something so risky. It shows that he had lost hope. »
Me Peter Ivanyi represented the Romanian couple since their arrival in Canada in 2018. He had of course heard of migrants who cross the border in an “irregular” way. And not just in Quebec. Anywhere in Canada. But by boat? ” Never. »
The Romanian couple were 28-year-old Florin Iordache and Monalisa Caldararu, coroner Me Karine Spénard confirmed on Thursday. They were accompanied by their children aged 1 and 2, both holders of Canadian passports.
Robert, a family friend joined in Craiova, Romania, is upset.
“It was a great family, very good workers, respectful, he testifies, in tears. I refuse to believe they are dead. »
We spoke to him using a Romanian to French translation app.
Monalisa Caldararu had studied law in France, according to Robert. She and her husband were musicians. The latter notably played the accordion and the organ.
“[Florin Iordache] used to sleep over, we were really good friends. »
Robert had kept in touch with the Iordache family since the couple moved to Toronto a few years ago. Robert knew that the family was at risk of deportation and that they planned to go to the United States to join relatives.
But since both children were born in Canada and held Canadian passports, he didn’t think the couple would attempt to cross over.
“How many people have to die to have the freedom to walk in God’s land?” Robert is indignant.
In Craiova, the shock is general, he adds.
The anger is also directed towards Casey Oakes, this 30-year-old man from the Mohawk community of Akwesasne who has been missing since March 30. Authorities are now linking him to the tragedy. “He’s a criminal, Robert rages. Why didn’t you find it? It’s a monster ! »
The Iordaches arrived in Canada in 2018, when they were 23, to seek asylum. But they had learned that they would be deported on March 29, after having exhausted all their appeals to stay in the country.
Mr. Iordache worked in construction, in addition to buying and reselling used cars on the web, to earn a living. He also collected scrap metal and played music. “The kind of work that Roma are capable of doing,” says Mr. Peter Ivanyi.
Florin Iordache and his wife were indeed Roma from Romania, also known as Gypsies or Gypsies: one of the most marginalized and persecuted groups in Europe. The Roma would be 9 to 12 million in Europe, including 2.4 million in Romania. According to Amnesty International, members of this long-persecuted ethnic minority “face growing discrimination, racially motivated violence, forced evictions and various forms of segregation”. They have to face many obstacles for their fundamental rights to be respected.
“They slipped off my radar soon after they applied for asylum. In 2020 and 2021, I had no contact with them, explains the lawyer. They reappeared in 2022 when they were offered to submit what is called a pre-removal risk assessment application, based on their fear of returning to Romania. »
The Iordaches applied for this risk review with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) in September 2022. This process is designed for those who believe their lives are in danger or they may be persecuted if they they return to their country of origin. People whose application is approved can stay in Canada.
On March 9, however, the family learned that their request had been denied. A decision she appealed.
“They also asked Immigration Canada to suspend their removal, so that the best interests of their children can be taken into account,” said Ivanyi. But that too was rejected. The lawyer forwarded the decision to Florin Iordache by email on March 27.
“That’s the last I heard of him,” he said.
Ivanyi adds that the Immigration and Refugee Board found the couple’s story to be credible, but denied their claim because they believed the situation was not as dire as it was. claimed, in Romania.
In Federal Court documents obtained by La Presse, the lawyer laments that, according to the assessment made by a government official, Mr. Iordache and his relatives were “facing only a mere possibility of persecution in Romania”. . “The [assessment] officer based his decision on erroneous findings of fact, in an unreasonable manner,” the lawyer claims.
For Me Ivanyi, what happened to Akwesasne is “unimaginable”. “It has been suggested that he went to the United States to do some asylum shopping, but nothing could be further from the truth. Florin was only trying to secure a future for his Canadian children. At 28, he was not motivated by self-interest, but purely by his children,” insists the jurist.
The Romanian community is trying to raise funds to bring the bodies back to their families. But it is not easy. “I just saw a live broadcast saying that the Romanian state is not doing anything for them,” laments Robert, the family friend joined in Craiova. “Where can we pay to take them home?” »
Another family met a tragic end in Akwesasne with the Iordache, an Indian family from Gujarat: Pravinbhai Veljibhai Chaudhari, 49, Dakshaben Pravinbhai Chaudhari, 45, their 23-year-old daughter, Vidhiben, and their 20-year-old son, Mitkumar .
Achal Tyagi, superintendent of police in the town of Mehsana, Gujarat, told The Canadian Press that the Chaudharis were in regular contact with their family in India, but calls ended about a week before they died. Family members learned of the fatal sinking from the media.
Pravinbhai Chaudhari was a farmer. He and his family had been in Canada since February 3 and were traveling on tourist visas.
It’s been 18 months since Gujarat’s second family died while trying to cross the United States illegally from Canada.
Neighbor Sanju Chaudhary told the BBC that Pravinbhai Chaudhary was fine before he left India. Another neighbor said the family were friendly to everyone in the village and had lived “a happy and decent life”, according to the BBC.
A Quebec Coroner’s Office investigation is underway into the Akwesasne tragedy. Many questions remain unanswered in this case.
First, residents say they heard cries of distress in the middle of the night from March 29 to 30 on the river. Some wonder why their appeals to the authorities were not taken more seriously. This is the case of Danielle Oakes, whom La Presse had met last weekend1.
Akwesasne Mohawk Police did not respond to our questions about this. There is still some vagueness regarding the handling of 911 calls. By email, the Quebec Ministry of Public Security (MSP) states that “the community of Akwesasne is under federal jurisdiction”.
“Its citizens are not serviced by a 911 emergency center, but instead use a 10-digit phone number to reach the local police force. If a 911 call was made from a cell phone, a nearby emergency center may have received the call. In this case, the call is then quickly transferred to the Akwesasne police force, ”explains its spokesperson, Louise Quintin.
In Ottawa, the role of the federal government “is limited to the regulation of 911 networks, telecommunications infrastructure and service providers who must connect their customers to these networks”, underlines a spokesperson for Public Safety Canada, Louis-Carl Brissette-Lesage. “Emergency call center operations fall exclusively within the jurisdiction of the provinces and territories,” he says instead.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), for its part, maintains that its detachment in Cornwall “is not the first responder or the competent police service for emergency interventions”. “911 calls are not routed or distributed through or to this detachment. Locally, we do not process and do not have the capacity to receive and respond to incoming 911 calls,” illustrates Corporal Kim Chamberland.
She confirms in passing that “Cornwall RCMP have not received any 911 calls regarding the tragic events in Akwesasne.”