Alberta man granted unescorted absences after Métis hunters killed in 2020

Click to play video: 'Two Alberta men found guilty in homicides of Métis hunters'
Two Alberta men found guilty in homicides of Métis hunters
An Alberta father and his son have been found guilty in the deaths of two Métis hunters who were gunned down on a rural road in March 2020. Anthony Bilodeau was convicted of second-degree murder in Maurice Cardinal's killing, and of manslaughter in the death of Jacob Sansom, who was Cardinal's nephew. Bilodeau's father, Roger, was convicted of two counts of manslaughter. Breanna Karstens-Smith explains how the crime unfolded, and why the victims' family says they had to fight off racism while fighting for justice. – Jun 1, 2022

One of the men involved in the killing of two Métis hunters was granted unescorted temporary absences (UTAs) for community service, personal development and family contact last Wednesday, less than two years after being sentenced for manslaughter.

Roger Bilodeau was found guilty in August 2022 of manslaughter, in the March 2020 killings of Maurice Cardinal and his nephew Jacob Sansom. He was sentenced to five years, six months and 19 days and was given a lifetime firearms prohibition order.

Bilodeau’s son, Anthony Bilodeau, was found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Cardinal and manslaughter in the death of Sansom in May of 2022.

Sansom, 39, and Cardinal, 57, had been moose hunting in on Friday, March 27, 2020, before they were shot and left on the side of the road near Glendon, a rural community about 200 kilometres northeast of Edmonton. RCMP found their bodies in the early morning hours of the next day.

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Jake (Jacob) Sansom (left) and his uncle Morris (Maurice) Cardinal are shown in a handout photo from the Facebook page “Justice for Jake and Morris.”
Jake (Jacob) Sansom (left) and his uncle Morris (Maurice) Cardinal are shown in a handout photo from the Facebook page “Justice for Jake and Morris.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Facebook-Justice for Jake and Morris

A lawyer representing Anthony Bilodeau says his client was defending himself and his family, while prosecutors argue he was one of the aggressors.

Defence lawyer Brian Beresh argued in court that Bilodeau reacted to the altercation that was before him.

“This is a unique case,” Beresh said. “His action and conduct must be seen as being reactionary.”

The Crown said that the father and son took the law into their own hands when they chased down Sansom and Cardinal because they believed the hunters were attempting to steal from their family farm.

“The Bilodeaus were the aggressors,” said Crown attorney Jordan Kerr.

Both men are appealing their sentences.

In a 10-page document obtained by Global News, the Parole Board of Canada wrote that Roger Bilodeau’s parole supervisor supported the authorization of his UTA applications, which were submitted in Dec. 6, 2023.

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According to the document, Roger Bilodeau applied for UTAs to try and “maintain and strengthen” his relationships with his wife and other immediate family members, including his children, and his extended family members, including his two sisters.

Previous community assessments indicate the family members were supportive of his return to the community, the parole board said, and the family members will help to assess Bilodeau’s reintegration potential and community adjustment.

The Parole Board of Canada also indicated Bilodeau applied for a series of UTAs to attend church and “network with other positive individuals and build a stronger community support network.”

The document also said Bilodeau agreed to follow the rules on his UTA permits.

Bilodeau characterized as “polite and respectful”

The Parole Board of Canada characterized Bilodeau’s behaviour in jail as “polite and respectful” and indicated he has been in minimum security prison since November 2022.

Bilodeau was approved for escorted temporary absences for personal development and family time in June 2023, which have been successfully completed, according to the documents.

The parole board also said Bilodeau’s offenses and convictions suggest he has a good social life for most of his life and was known as a contributing member of society.

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The board said there is no information to suggest his behaviour in prison was “inappropriate” and Bilodeau has demonstrated “positive and compliant behaviour,” which led the board to believe he has a low risk of reoffending.

The UTAs will prepare Bilodeau for rehabilitation and eventual release, the document read.

Strong opposition from RCMP, victims’ family

The Parole board noted the local RCMP indicated strong opposition to the request.

According to the document, police are concerned the UTAs show injustice for the two victims. The police also indicated the UTAs will create a “greater divide” within the community that is “unnecessary and frankly display the holes in the system.”

The parole board also said it considered numerous victim impact statements received from the victims’ family members.

The statements described the emotional, psychological, mental and economic impact of Bilodeau’s offenses on their lives. The victims’ family  said they suffer from symptoms of terror, anxiety and depression, as well as deep grief and the post-traumatic stress disorder they experienced and continue to experience.

Both the victims’ family said Cardinal and Sansom are considered role models and knowledge keepers for their families in the document, communities and ways of life, and their deaths were felt by many.

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Jacob Sansom and his family. Supplied

The parole board said the families have requested Bilodeau be denied early or unescorted releases, saying the UTAs will result in further trauma experienced by the family who continue to wrestle with their losses and their “perceived lack of accountability” by Bilodeau.

In a statement to Global News, Sarah Sansom said she is angry and the victims and their families do not feel any relief or justice within the legal system.

“We have to continue to be dragged through this pain, and meanwhile he gets a slap on the wrist,” the statement said.

But the parole board said Bilodeau “gained some insights” to his offending behaviour and “accepted responsibility” for them. The document also said Bilodeau was able to “express some empathy” for the victims’ families.

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Family visits to not exceed 72 hours per month, no contact orders imposed

In the document, the Parole Board of Canada said Bilodeau’s UTAs will not exceed 72 hours per month. For the first UTA that is 24 hours or more in duration, he will be required to report to a community parole supervisor.

Bilodeau is also required to call and check in with the prison when arriving at or returning from any of the two destinations approved.

He is also required to call and check in with the prison if he needs to leave any of the UTA destinations for any activity, and he must be accompanied by his wife, his two sisters or another immediate family members.

A written log recording Bilodeau’s activities must be provided to his parole supervisor, the board said.

Bilodeau is also allowed to attend one mass service each week at a specific church within allotted time frames. He is allowed to mingle and visit a coffee social among parishioners for 30 minutes after mass.

The parole board also supported the idea of Bilodeau attending no more than one confessional service each week as long as it is not within 24 hours of attending a mass service.

Bilodeau is prohibited from contacting any member of the victims’ family indirectly or directly in order to protect the families and facilitate his “successful reintegration into society,” the Board said.

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— With files from The Canadian Press

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