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Canadian family receives wrong body after father died on Cuban vacation

The family says the casket they received contained the body of a Russian man who was at least 20 years younger than their relative.
The beach in Cuba
Posted at 6:32 PM, Apr 24, 2024

A family in Quebec is searching for answers after discovering that their father's remains didn't make it to Canada from Cuba, where he died while on vacation, and they instead received the remains of another man.

Funerals for Faraj Allah Jarjour were scheduled for Sunday and Monday. Instead, his daughter Miriam Jarjour had been desperately calling and emailing as many officials as she could, trying to find his body.

"Up until now we have no answers," Jarjour said. "Where is my father?"

Jarjour said she was swimming with her 68-year-old father in the ocean near Varadero, Cuba, during a family vacation on March 22 when he suddenly had a heart attack and died.

Because there were no medical facilities nearby, his body was covered and left on a beach chair in the hot sun for more than eight hours until a car arrived to take it to Havana, Jarjour said.

After that, it's not clear what happened.

Jarjour said she followed the directions given to her by the Canadian consulate, and paid $10,000 Canadian (U.S. $7,300) to have the body returned home to the family.

However, the casket that arrived late last week contained the body of a Russian man who was at least 20 years younger than Jarjour's father. Unlike her father, the body also had a full head of hair and tattoos.

Jarjour said the stranger's body has been sent to his country, but she and her family don't know where her father is.

When Jarjour contacted Canada's consular authorities in Cuba, they blamed the company in the island that coordinates the return of the remains. Since then, she says she has been emailing other government officials, including her Member of Parliament, who has agreed to reach out to Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly.

"I'm honestly destroyed," said Jarjour. "Up until now we have no answers. We're waiting. I don't know what to tell you."

Jarjour described her father as an active man who didn't smoke or drink. The Syrian-born family man was "always smiling," she said.

The ordeal has left her mother exhausted, said Jarjour. She and her brother are struggling through their own grief while trying to get answers from authorities who all seem to deny responsibility.

So far, the family has spent $25,000 Canadian (U.S. $18,248), including $15,000 Canadian (U.S. $10,950) for funeral services that have been put on hold.

Global Affairs Canada said in an email that consular officials are working with Cuban authorities and the family to resolve the issue.

But Jarjour doesn't feel she is getting the answers she needs and is hoping Joly will personally intervene to pressure Cuban authorities.

"What I want is someone to help me find my father," she said.