The taxi stopped at the side of the I-29 interstate after cruising north for about an hour. Their $400 in the cabbie’s pocket, he dropped off Seidu Mohammed and Razak Iyal a two-minute drive short of the North Dakota-Manitoba line. The driver pointed the men toward a darkened prairie field and a row of red blinking lights, wind turbines in the distance. Walk toward those lights, and they could grasp freedom.
“We didn’t feel any sign, but we could feel we are in Canada, because of the cold—very, very intense,” Mohammed recalls. By this point, they were a couple of hours into their trek through field and brush, unsure exactly where to stop. It was Christmas Eve, and fields outside Emerson, Man., were smothered in waist-high snow.
That “Canada” moment Mohammed recalls was a nasty wind gust that overwhelmed these underdressed African migrants, whipping off their flimsy gloves and Mohammed’s ballcap. By the time they wanted to dial 911 for police to retrieve them from the Manitoba roadside, their hands were frozen claws unable to grip a phone.