The Sûreté du Québec (SQ) has confirmed the identity of the man whose body was found in a wooded area on January 4 near Roxham Road in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle.
A statement released on January 6 by the SQ identified the man as Fritznel Richard, 44, a Haitian migrant who had been living in Montreal. According to the police investigation, he likely died from hypothermia while trying to cross into the United States to meet with a family member. There were no signs of violence on his body.
The SQ noted that Richard had been reported missing to Montreal police over the holidays. The search was called off when police received information indicating he had entered the United States.
Richard’s body was discovered around 2:45 p.m. by U.S. customs and border protection agents who were patrolling the border just east of Roxham Road by helicopter.
The SQ confirmed a coroner’s inquest would take place to determine the circumstances surrounding his death.
According to an article published in La Presse, Richard crossed into Canada at Roxham Road with his wife, Guenda Filius, in December 2021. Filius returned to the United States sometime later. She called the SQ after losing contact with her husband several days after last speaking with him on December 23 while he was attempting to join her in Florida.
“It’s a horrible situation,” says Wendy Ayotte on behalf of Bridges not Borders, a Hemmingford-based group that helps Roxham Road refugees. “He is not the only person we have heard of going back to the U.S.,” she says, noting the only way for someone who has crossed irregularly into Canada to return to the United States is by way of another irregular crossing.
Ayotte considers the circumstances surrounding Richard’s death to be a product of the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) between Canada and the U.S. She says despite a new temporary measure introduced by the federal government to accelerate the issuance of work permits to asylum seekers, many grow frustrated with the wait times and the paperwork.
“The SCTA has created an environment where the whole border between our two countries has become more fraught for people seeking protection,” she says.