A grief-stricken family in Laval, Que., is searching for answers after their father’s remains never made it home from Cuba — and a heartbreaking mistake brought another man’s body to Canada.


The Jarjour siblings were on a family vacation down south last month when their 68-year-old father Faraj Allah Jarjour suddenly died. He suffered a heart attack while swimming in the ocean on March 22.

Miriam Jarjour was in the water with her dad and screamed for her brother to help. CPR was administered after their father was pulled from the water, but there was no doctor on site.

The family had to wait for nearly an hour before a physician arrived and confirmed his death. The siblings said it took hours for emergency services to take their father’s body from the beach.

“We’re sad because my father died,” Karam Jarjour said. “But we’re more sad because my father is we don’t know where.”

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They quickly had to make arrangements to bring their father home, involving a trip to the Canadian consulate in Varadero. Miriam Jarjour said they were told they couldn’t bring him on the family’s departing flight, so they made the painful trip back to Quebec without him.

Miriam Jarjour says she followed the instructions given by the consulate and paid $10,000 to repatriate her father’s body. She then spent another $15,000 in costs for an eventual funeral.

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“Up until now, I’ve paid $25,000 for nothing,” Miriam Jarjour said.

The Jarjour siblings with their father Faraj Allah Jarjour.

Courtesy of Miriam and Karam Jarhour

The funeral home picked up the casket at the Montreal airport when it finally arrived late last week. But shock set in when the siblings were told the remains inside didn’t match their father’s description.

Karam Jarjour says the funeral home showed him a photo of the deceased and it was clearly not their dad.

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“I’m very angry,” Karam Jarjour said.

The man was covered in tattoos, had a full head of hair and appeared to be at least 20 years younger than their father. The Jarjour family said they learned the Russian national inside the casket had since been returned to his own country.

The family hasn’t been able to determine where their father’s remains are a month after he suddenly died. As the stress takes a toll on their mother and costs mount, the siblings want to know what happened.

“I am exhausted,” Miriam Jarjour said. “I’m so angry and I don’t have any answers.”

The Urgel Bourgie funeral home is also in contact with Cuban and Canadian authorities to find and bring back the remains. The company’s vice-president of marketing Patrice Chavegros told Global News that the entire situation has been “awful for the family” and the funeral set for this week had to be cancelled.

“I have seen this about three times in 38 years,” he said of the mix-up. “This is very exceptional. It’s very rare.”

Global Affairs Canada said in a statement Monday that it is “aware of the death of a Canadian citizen in Cuba. Our thoughts are with the friends and family of the deceased in these difficult circumstances.”

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“Consular officials are engaged with Cuban authorities and in contact with the family to provide consular assistance,” Global Affairs Canada said, adding it could not provide more information citing privacy concerns.

While the siblings understand a mistake occurred, they simply want to bring their father home so they can honour his memory and mourn together as a family.

“Where is my father?” Miriam Jarjour said.

— with files from Global’s Amanda Jelowicki and Mike Armstrong and The Canadian Press

&copy 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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