BRITISH COLUMBIA

Mexican Workers Who Mysteriously Vanished From B.C. Orchard Found Safe

11/26/2015 01:06 EST | Updated 11/26/2016 05:12 EST
KELOWNA, B.C. — The Mexican government's representative in B.C. is glad four of his countrymen, who went missing from a north Okanagan farm, have been located.

But consul general Atancio Campos Miramontes, whose Vancouver office was contacted when the men disappeared, did not learn from the RCMP that the four had been located.

"We learned from the press that the four Mexican workers were found. However, this consulate has not yet been notified by the authorities," Miramontes wrote Wednesday in an email.

Later, consul staff phoned the Vernon RCMP to inquire about the case, but say they were not given any information by police.

The four men, among more than 1,000 Mexicans working on Okanagan farms this year, disappeared from a Vernon-area orchard shortly after arriving in Canada in mid-June. They took a cab into Vernon, cashed some cheques and did not return to the farm.

"It's never happened before that we know of."

Following their disappearance, Vernon RCMP sent out several press releases asking for the public's help in finding Uriel Soto, 37, Isaac Bautista, 27, Juvenal Binedo, 39, and Juan Sanchez, 30.

On Wednesday, Vernon police sent out a press release saying their investigation had concluded because the men had been located. An RCMP spokeswoman refused to say where or when the men were found, adding that is usual procedure when missing persons cases are closed.

1st such incident in 15 years

Mexicans come to the Okanagan through the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program, which is designed to help farmers who can't find enough Canadians willing to work in the orchards.

In the 15 years the program has operated in the Okanagan, this was believed to be the first time that any Mexicans here under its auspices had gone missing.

"It's never happened before that we know of," said Fred Steele, president of the BC Fruit Growers' Association.

"Who knows? Maybe these guys just showed up home again, so they aren't considered missing anymore," he suggested. (Kelowna Courier)

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