A mother, father and two children living in Toronto were among the eight people who died trying to cross the St. Lawrence River into the United States last week — an unspeakable tragedy for the young Romanian family as the parents were reportedly set to be deported.
Florin lordache, 28, was found in a marsh on the riverbank. His wife, Cristina Zenaida lordache, was also identified among those who died in the Akwesasne Mohawk Territory, which straddles provincial and international boundaries and includes regions of Quebec, Ontario and New York State.
Florin had two Canadian passports in his possession, one for each of the two children, whose bodies were also recovered. The family had lived in Toronto for the last year and a half. While their children were Canadian citizens, Florin and Cristina were set to be deported.
Public federal court documents show Florin had applied for a pre-removal risk assessment — a last chance for an immigration officer to decide if someone has a continuing risk of persecution in their country. Still, Florin had been denied and was seeking a judicial review.
“It has about a 97 per cent refusal rate, so very few people are successful,” said immigration lawyer Max Berger. “The family might have seen the writing on the wall and decided they had no further options in Canada and to try their luck in the United States.”
Having a child born in Canada also doesn’t offer much assistance as well, Berger explains.
“Most immigration officers will say that the child, if he or she is one or two or three years old, hasn’t had a sufficient establishment in Canada to warrant the entire family being given permanent residence.”
Emotions were high at the All Saints Romanian Orthodox Church in Scarborough, where the two children had been baptized.
“Oh, [they were a] very nice, very kind family. It’s terrible what happened. I cannot understand,” said another churchgoer George Moriu. “And children, [it must be so hard] for all of us. We will do service in the church.”
Police in India have confirmed the identities of the four Indian nationals whose bodies were pulled from the river last week. All four were members of the Chaudhari family.
“A horrific story”
The tragedy comes just days after Canada and the United States re-negotiated the Safe Third Country Agreement, closing unofficial ports of entry to refugees seeking asylum to deter irregular border crossings.
“This was a horrific story, and there’s a proper investigation going on. We need to understand all the facts involved before we jump to conclusions,” said Berger.
“We need to make sure we’re doing everything we can and continuing to do everything we can to remain an open and welcoming country with a rigorous and well-applied immigration system.”
In February, police in Akwesasne reported increased human smuggling into the Mohawk territory. Authorities have said the territory’s unique geography makes it a popular spot for human smugglers, with police making 48 separate interceptions involving 80 people trying to enter the U.S. illegally since January.
Most of them have been of Indian or Romanian descent.
Police are currently looking for the 30-year-old Casey Oakes, whose boat was found near the bodies, but police have made no direct connections between Oakes and the deaths.
With files from The Canadian Press and Meredith Bond