A group of family members and friends gathered in Glendon Alberta Wednesday to call for action on racism and to remember a pair of relatives killed earlier this year.
About 50 people listened to speeches before taking part in a convoy to Bonnyville.
On March 27, Jacob Sansom and his uncle, Morris Cardinal, were shot to death on a rural road about 10 minutes north of Glendon.
The pair had been on a hunting trip and were dropping off meat for their community, which is struggling because of the coronavirus pandemic.
According to RCMP, two vehicles stopped on the rural road and a verbal confrontation occurred. They said it became physical, and when a third vehicle arrived on scene, the relatives were shot.
Since that day, Sansom’s wife Sarah has struggled to explain to their three children what happened.
Tuesday was the first night since March that Sarah slept apart from her kids. She said they are all having a hard time adjusting to life without Sansom.
“I just want to grieve and can’t,” Sarah told Global News.
Part of that is because of the comments being made on social media every time the case is in the news.
Sarah said the family has received messages and has seen racist comments online speculating that 39-year-old Sansom and 57-year-old Cardinal were breaking the law.
Some messages were even sent to Sansom’s teenage daughter. Other commenters said the pair deserved to be killed.
“People online saying, ‘What were they stealing?’ But you don’t see that on other people’s posts that were murdered if they’re not Indigenous,” Sarah told Global News.
“You’re justifying cold-blooded murder and that is never OK.”
RCMP have explicitly said Sansom and Cardinal were not committing a crime and racism is not being considered in the case.
Still, Sarah said Sansom and Cardinal were both targets of racism throughout their lives in Bonnyville.
“I remember getting out of the truck, going in the store and I had Morris and Jake with me and somebody asked if I needed help, if I needed the cops called,” Sarah said as an example.
Sansom also talked about the issue in videos he posted to Facebook in the years leading up to his death.
“I’m not really understanding why it’s anybody’s business what somebody does or what colour they are or what race they are,” he said in one video.
Sarah said the family moved to southern Alberta at the suggestion of Sansom after he became fed up with being targeted in the community.
“We need to get out of Bonnyville. We need to go somewhere less toxic where the kids have a future because this place is going to destroy them,” Sarah recalled her husband telling her.
“Then we moved and it still destroyed us.”
With Sansom gone, Sarah said she is making it her mission to call for change.
The Sansom and Cardinal families penned letters to the mayors of Bonnyville and Glendon.
In them, they call for action on racism, including using positions of power to engage in critical conversations about racism and violence.
They also want to see anti-racism policies developed and more education for community members.
Both mayors responded with their own letters outlining actions they said they’ve taken against racism.
Glendon Mayor Laura Papirny did not respond to Global News’ request for comment.
In an interview, Bonnyville Mayor Gene Sobolewski admitted racism does exist.
“The best that we can do is lead by example… recognize that it’s repugnant behaviour and we’re all equal. It doesn’t matter the colour of hair, colour of skin. It doesn’t matter,” Sobolewski said.
He pointed out the town flies the Treaty Six flag and smudged the new town hall before it opened.
The loved ones of Sansom and Cardinal said those gestures are symbolic and a more firm stance needs to be taken.
Sarah also wants to see the men honoured in the community.
“The town doesn’t even acknowledge it… anything that they’ve done for the community. And they’ve done so much. It’s sad,” she said.
Sansom started the jiu-jitsu club in Bonnyville, even acting as the first trainer for Tanner Boser.
Now an MMA fighter, Boser dedicated a recent fight in Las Vegas to Sansom. The underdog knocked out Philipe Lins in the first round.
Sansom was a volunteer firefighter but primarily worked as a heavy-duty mechanic.
Sarah remembers Sansom begging her to bring their children to the airport when picking him up after every work trip out of town.
He and Cardinal were extremely close and often went hunting together.
Cardinal would phone Sansom every morning, often asking to speak with Sansom’s son.
If the Sansom children ever wanted junk food or video games, they knew to call Cardinal who had a soft spot for them and a habit of saying yes.
Having known each other for 22 years, Sarah said she and Sansom had been through the highest highs and lowest lows. Still, they always remained a team. A necklace she wears reads “my soulmate.”
To keep his memory alive and continue a push for change, the vehicle convoy will meet in Glendon at 10 a.m. Wednesday. It will end in Bonnyville.
“Our 10-year anniversary is on Friday we should be in Waterton renewing our vows like we were supposed to. And instead, I’m here. I’m out here without him.”
A father and son have each been charged with second-degree murder in the deaths.
An RCMP spokesperson said “one of the accused worked with one of the victims in the past for a brief period of time.”
Roger Bilodeau, 57, and Anthony Bilodeau, 32, are scheduled to appear in court Thursday.