Alberta farmer whose son gunned down Métis hunters granted unescorted absences from prison

While the board credited Bilodeau with feeling empathy for his victims, it also said he took “limited accountability” for his actions

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The Alberta farmer who started a chase that ended with two Métis men dead on a rural road has been granted unescorted temporary absences from prison — despite “strong opposition” from local law enforcement and the victims’ families.

In a decision released Tuesday, the Parole Board of Canada approved Roger Bilodeau, 60, for unescorted temporary absences (UTAs) from the minimum security prison where he is serving a 10-year sentence for the manslaughter deaths of Jacob Sansom and Morris Cardinal. The two hunters were gunned down by Roger Bilodeau’s son Anthony Bilodeau after Roger Bilodeau and another son chased them down a rural road on the mistaken belief they were thieves.

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The elder Bilodeau has since requested unescorted absences to visit family and attend church. Parole board members Laura Pun-Cook and Lisa Graham approved the request Feb. 21.

“The board has determined that your risk on UTAs as per the proposed plan is not undue, it is desirable for you to be absent from the institution to participate in the UTAs, your behaviour while under sentence does not preclude authorizing them, and structured plans are in place,” the board wrote.

“It appears you have gained some insights into your offending behaviour, have accepted responsibility for your behaviour, and were able to express some empathy for the victims’ family.”

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The victims’ families and local RCMP were against granting unescorted absences, with the latter indicating “strong opposition” to the request.

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“It is their opinion that should the public become aware of the release and potential unsupervised visits, it would show the community and all neighbouring communities of the injustice for the two victims,” the parole board said of the RCMP. “Further, it would create a greater divide within the area that is unnecessary and frankly displays the holes in the justice system.”

Bilodeau and his family are farmers near Glendon, a village 200 km northeast of Edmonton. Sansom and his uncle Cardinal were returning from a hunting trip March 27, 2020, when Sansom slowed their truck near the entrance to Roger Bilodeau’s property.

At trial, Bilodeau and his son Joseph — just 16 at the time — said they worried the occupants of the truck were thieves. They chased the vehicle in Roger Bilodeau’s truck, reaching speeds of 152 km/h. Roger Bilodeau called his older son Anthony Bilodeau and told him to bring a gun.

Photo illustration of Jacob Sansom, left, and Morris Cardinal. jpg

The chase ended at a crossroad when Roger Bilodeau boxed in Sansom’s vehicle. Anthony Bilodeau arrived and within seconds shot Sansom and Cardinal, leaving their bodies on the roadway.

Anthony Bilodeau later destroyed the rifle and altered the appearance of his truck, which was caught on security footage on a nearby oil and gas facility. Both father and son lied about their involvement in the shooting.

Both Bilodeaus were eventually charged with second-degree murder and denied bail. During their 2022 trial, both claimed they acted in self-defence and raised the spectre of rural crime. Jurors ultimately convicted Anthony Bilodeau of second-degree murder and manslaughter and Roger Bilodeau of two counts of manslaughter. Anthony Bilodeau was sentenced to life with no parole for at least 13 years, while Roger Bilodeau was handed a 10-year sentence, with all but five-and-a-half years deducted for time in pre-trial custody.

Both Bilodeaus are appealing their convictions.

‘Limited accountability’

Since beginning his sentence, Roger Bilodeau has been granted “numerous” escorted temporary absences, the parole board said. He was, however, denied permission to attend the funeral of another son who died while Roger Bilodeau was in custody.

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The unescorted absences will be allowed during a six-month window, cannot exceed more than 72 hours a month and are subject to reporting requirements, the parole board said. Bilodeau is allowed to spend time with family, including his grandchildren, and is also permitted to attend mass and confession and may visit with church members for 30 minutes after each service.

The parole board told Bilodeau such activities will “prepare you for your rehabilitation and eventual release.”

While the board credited Bilodeau with feeling empathy for his victims, it also said he took “limited accountability” for his actions. The board noted he blamed his decision to chase the victims on a lack of sleep, the prevalence of seniors in his neighbourhood and the fact he “just made a dumb judgment call.” Bilodeau also said he decided not to call the RCMP because they “would likely be two hours away,” despite having never reported a break-in in the past.

The board noted Bilodeau continues to exhibit “cognitive distortions” about his crimes.

“You disputed file information that indicates you chased the victims; you were simply ‘following’ them,” the board wrote.

Sarah Sansom, Jacob Sansom’s widow, was “upset” with the decision. She said her teenage daughter was recently diagnosed with a degenerative nervous system disease, and said in a fundraising post that her husband’s killing has forced her to work two jobs “just to keep a roof over their heads.”

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