Heartbreak At Manitoba U.S. Border

One wrong- headed move and your life could be over just like this family of four from India. I’ve spent time in the far north in the winter time and I’ll tell you – you are no match for the elements and perhaps even if well prepared. Today I share a story of respect for the cold.

It was the summer of 1983 (that’s right – a Canadian summer day) and I was working as a summer student at a gold mine as a millwright’s assistant in between first and second year of university. I was stationed out of Thompson Manitoba but was flown into a mining camp some 200km north of the Manitoba border into Nunavut (was still the N.W.T. back then) on a one week in and one week out rotation.

There is much camaraderie in the mining business and I was the mill superintendent’s son. There would have been an unspoken agreement among those working in the mill to ensure to look out for the kid. One day there was a blizzard and it was time to go for lunch. The mess hall was only 200 feet from the mill but in a “white out” you’re lucky to see your hand in front of your face never mind 200 feet into the distance. However; a vague outline of the destination building was visible. The mill exit door and the mess hall entrance were corner to corner and if you missed the corner and became disoriented, you’d be potentially left vulnerable to the freezing cold Canadian north.

As an eighteen year old, I had already experienced life in the far north having lived in a place called Cantung, N.W.T  as a child in 1975/76. I had cross country skied and snowmobiled up there in very cold conditions. There was talk of dress and respect for the cold. Parents had lived life on the prairies of Canada rurally growing up. A culture of cold had been nurtured within.

In other words, I had been conditioned to formulate a plan just for going for lunch on that wintery summer day. I ventured back from the exit to find a mill operator who would monitor my trip with signals and sound. After lunch….conditions changed and the trip back was all clear. This one small measure was relatively hassle free.     

It’s heart shattering to have learned that this family of four from India froze to death in their quest for a new life in the U.S. It’s maddening to learn that there’s not better coordination of law enforcement between countries.