Roger Bilodeau sentenced to 10 years for his part in Métis hunter slayings

Family says they feel that the two hunters have been exonerated after a difficult trial

An Edmonton judge sentenced Roger Bilodeau, 59, to 10 years in prison, minus time served and a lifetime ban on gun ownership for his role in the deaths of Métis hunters Maurice Cardinal, 57, and Jacob Sansom, 39, on a rural road in Alberta in 2020.

The one-day sentencing hearing involved legal arguments and victim-impact statements from the family of Cardinal and Sansom.

“All I needed to hear from that judge was exactly what we knew all along,” said Sarah Sansom, wife of Jacob Sansom after the sentencing. “Those boys were innocent. To me that means more than the 10 year sentence. The judge knew they were innocent and now the family knows.”

Sansom was reacting to statements by the defence about the behaviour of Cardinal and Sansom the night they were slain regarding their blood-alcohol levels. The Crown argued that was not a relevant factor in the case.

During the criminal trial, the court heard that on the night of March 27, 2020, Anthony Bilodeau got a call from his father and younger brother, who were pursing a white Dodge pickup they suspected had been on the family farm earlier in the day.

Bilodeau had heard from his son Joseph Bilodeau that a white pickup truck had been seen near their yard earlier in the day. He set off in pursuit of the pickup truck that Sansom and Cardinal were in after they paused in the driveway of the family farm.

The Crown asked for the sentence to be life due to the high degree of moral blame of Bilodeau. They also argued against concurrent sentences.

The sentence range for manslaughter with a firearm is four years and the maximum is life.

Manslaughter covers a broad degree of criminality from careless accidents to, as the Crown said “near murder”.

Because of this, the Crown argued that Roger Bilodeau’s actions in pursuing the men set off the entire chain of events.

The court heard that Bilodeau had reached a speed of 150 km at one point in the pursuit. The Crown also called this vigilante justice and argued that there needs to be significant consequences for chasing down and killing innocent people.

The Crown did not directly argue that race was a factor in this case.

Victim impact statements

Maurice Cardinal and Jacob Sansom with family member Nova Levesseur.

The court heard that many of the family now experience anxiety and PTSD after the slaying of the two men.

“I am afraid to pull over on the side of the road to take a coat off,” said Irene Forsyth, a family member to both Cardinal and Sansom.

“Who would shoot the kindest men in the world and leave them by the side of the road like animals?” said Ruby Smith.  Speaking to Bilodeau she said, “I cannot forgive what you did; I am so broken, and my soul has been shattered.”

Family reaction

In a statement read in court, Bilodeau said he “did not intend to hurt anyone,” and that he “prays for these lost souls all the time.”

“It was the first time we have seen remorse out of any of them today,” said Sansom

Irene Forsyth, who gave a victim impact statement, took issue with the phrasing that Bilodeau had used in court. “I don’t know what he meant by ‘lost souls.’ “It was a poor choice of words. If anyone is lost, it is him,” she said.

“I don’t know if it was real. I don’t know if it was fake. If they didn’t mean to hurt them, they would not have left their kitchen,” said Sansom

Ruby Smith, Sansom’s mother, said she would have liked to see a conviction of murder for both men.

Defence said Bilodeau made an error of judgement

Bilodeau’s lawyer, Brian Beresh, has said previously this was not a racially motivated shooting but rather an incidence of concern about rural crime.

Beresh also argued that prison conditions have been harsher due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. Bilodeau has had dramatically less time outside due to Covid restrictions—less than two hours a day.

The Crown agreed that the some 415 days of harsher conditions could be eligible for some sentencing relief.

The defence called the accusation of vigilante justice to be “wild speculation” and attempted to argue that Bilodeau only directed Anthony to bring a gun, not to have it loaded.

Bilodeau also caught COVID-19 twice during incarceration and had a son pass away while he was in custody. He was denied leave to go to the funeral due to a mistaken belief there was a no-contact order.

Sansom, speaking for the family, said that they are hoping for life in the sentencing of Anthony Bilodeau this November.

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