‘It’s angering’: Family of Métis hunters killed in 2020 reflect on sentencing

‘There will never be anything that can bring the boys back,’ says wife of Jacob Sansom

The day after the sentencing of Anthony Bilodeau, the Sansom and Cardinal families say they’re still in shock about the events of the past three years. 

Sitting in a closed section of an Edmonton hotel restaurant, Sarah Sansom, her mother Ruby Smith and sister-in-law Gina Levasseur recount the lives of Maurice Cardinal and Jacob Sansom, the two Métis hunters. 

It’s been nearly three years since the two men were shot and left to die in a ditch in Glendon, Alta., about 200 km northeast of Edmonton.  

“For the legal system, this is justice, for us it will never be justice. There will never be anything that can bring those boys back,” said Sansom.

On Jan. 6, Bilodeau, 34, convicted of second-degree murder, was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 13 years for the deaths of Cardinal, 57, and his nephew, Sansom, 39.  

Bilodeau’s father Roger was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced in August to 10 years. 

In March 2020, the pair pursued Cardinal and Sansom for seven kilometres before shooting the hunters on the side of the road. 

Cardinal’s sister Ruby Smith said the family has been left to reckon with a void that can’t be filled.

“They took away more than just joy from us, they took away people that were the glue to our whole family,” said Smith.

Still reeling from the sentencing, the family was upset that when given the chance to express remorse, Bilodeau declined and said only, “on my behalf, Mr. Beresh [his lawyer] has offered my remorse to the court.”

“There’s no accountability,” said Levasseur, Cardinal’s niece and Jacob’s younger sister.

“These men chased down two people on the side of the road and killed them. It is chilling, and this man has no remorse and has not taken any accountability.”

Sansom said it was particularly difficult to hear the character statements from the Bilodeau family that the defence read as a part of an argument for early parole eligibility.

“It’s angering to hear his wife say, ‘Oh, the best day of my life was her wedding day.’ So was mine. So was mine. My husband didn’t take anybody’s life,” said Sansom.

“No other family should have to go through this,” said Levasseur. “It’s got to stop, it is disgusting. My brother and uncle deserve better, and so are all of our people.”

Métis hunters
The two Métis hunters Maurice Cardinal and Jacob Sansom celebrating a successful hunt. Photo: submitted.

Remembering the two men

Sarah and Jacob Sansom were married July 17, 2010. They met in highschool and were friends for years. They started dating in the early 2000s.

The family remembers Jacob giving his coat to a man who didn’t have one.

“Or he would pay for someone’s groceries at Sobey’s if they didn’t have the money,” said Smith

“He was always doing that,” agrees Sansom.

“They were the two most beautiful souls you could ever meet. And the fact that they’re always joking and laughing. And through that process of laughing and joking is how we’ve managed to stay resilient through this whole journey we’ve taken,” said Smith.

Levasseur recalls that both men had a deep love of nature.

“My brother was like a puppy when he was hunting. He would just run. I remember being so tired. It was like when my mom goes shopping she drags me all over the mall, but Jacob? He drags me all over the forest,” said Levasseur.

Levasseur said whenever her Unce Maurice visited, it was always a special occasion.

“He’d come to my mom’s house and he’d have bags of candy, money, toys. Whenever he came everyone would be like ‘uncle is coming!’” said Levasseur.

As children, the family often lived off the land, getting their food from hunting.

Levasseur said her family struggled with poverty when she was young, but their close connections also made for many happy memories.

“Uncle, he would give everything and anything to you. We were never rich by any means, but we were rich in laughter and love,” said Levasseur.

On the night of the murder, the two Métis hunters had been celebrating a successful moose hunt. They delivered meat to friends and family.

Métis hunters
Family of slain Métis hunters talks to Danielle Paradis. Photo: Chris Stewart/APTN

Anger in the wake of the sentence

“It is really angering that in 13 years this guy can get out and Sarah and the kids are left with nothing,” said Levasseur.

Jacob was the family’s provider, he worked as a mechanic and a volunteer firefighter. His death has left Sarah and their three children in financial difficulty. They had collected a GoFundMe that raised $45,000 to help with their costs.

The sentence means that it will be 13 years before Anthony Bilodeau can apply for parole and Smith says she is going to be there to stand up for the memories of her lost family.

Smith promised that when Anthony or Roger applies for parole she is going to be there. 

“I’m going to just create some holy rain on them and be like the frickin Holy Ghost,” said Smith.

“They’re not going to walk… if I can’t have my son or my brother, they don’t have their freedom and [the hunters] have no one to speak for them. But as a family, we’re here for them,” said Smith.

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