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Alberta

Alberta men accused of killing Métis hunters took law into own hands: prosecutor

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EDMONTON — A father and son accused of killing two Métis hunters took the law into their own hands when they chased them on a rural Alberta road, shot them and left them to die, a Crown prosecutor told court Thursday.

Jordan Kerr said Roger and Anthony Bilodeau were angry because they thought the two hunters were trying to steal from them and wanted to kill them for it.

The Bilodeaus face two counts each of second-degree murder in the deaths of Jacob Sansom, who was 39, and his uncle Maurice Cardinal, who was 57. Both the accused have pleaded not guilty.

“You knew you weren’t acting lawfully when you shot those two men, right?” Kerr asked Anthony Bilodeau during cross-examination.

“I believed our lives were in danger and I was very afraid that these men were going to kill us,” Bilodeau replied.

The trial has heard a recorded interview between an RCMP officer and Anthony Bilodeau on March 31, 2020 — four days after the shooting near Glendon, Alta., about 200 kilometres northeast of Edmonton.

In the recording, Bilodeau tells Sgt. Christian Reister that he did not shoot the hunters and didn’t know anything about their deaths.

Court has also heard that Bilodeau, 33, got a call from his father and younger brother, Joseph Bilodeau, on the night of March 27, 2020, saying they were following a truck they thought had been in their yard. Joseph Bilodeau, then 16, had seen a blue Chevy pickup earlier in the day.

Jurors have been told the teen and his father got into a truck to follow the other pickup, so they could ask the people what they were doing. The teen has testified that the vehicle they were following that night turned out to be a white Dodge pickup truck.

Anthony Bilodeau has said that he was home when he got the phone call to bring a gun and catch up with his father and brother in case they needed protection from the people in the Dodge.

“You could have told him, ‘Dad, this is ridiculous. Pull over. We’re calling police,’” Kerr told Anthony Bilodeau.

“I didn’t think of it at that time,” he replied.

Bilodeau has testified that his cellphone was still connected to a Bluetooth speaker in his father’s truck when he heard thuds and the sound of a window cracking. The window of Roger Bilodeau’s Ford F-150 was punched in before he and his son were allegedly attacked inside it, the jury has heard.

Kerr asked Anthony Bilodeau whether it was possible the people were upset because they had just been chased down the road in the dark in an isolated area.

“I believed that could be a possibility,” he replied.

He said he showed up at a rural intersection where his father and brother were stopped and could see one of the hunters choking his father.

He added that he wasn’t sure whether that person had a gun, so he quickly loaded his own rifle and got out of his truck with it.

From the witness stand, Anthony Bilodeau, using two hands, demonstrated how he said the man was choking his father.

Kerr pointed out that that the man couldn’t be holding a weapon if both hands were choking Roger Bilodeau.

“So nobody visible to you had a firearm,” Kerr said.

“That’s correct,” Bilodeau said.

“You’re the first person to introduce a gun to this situation, right?” asked the Crown.

“Yes,” Bilodeau replied.

Kerr said Anthony Bilodeau shot Sansom “point blank” in the chest.

Anthony Bilodeau has testified that both men were coming at him. After shooting Sansom, he said, Cardinal came at him with a gun and threatened to kill him in retaliation.

Bilodeau said at that point he ran over to the side of the road and shot Cardinal once in the shoulder.

By then, Roger Bilodeau had turned his truck around and Anthony Bilodeau could have hopped in and left, Kerr said.

Instead, Kerr said, Anthony Bilodeau went over to Cardinal, who was hunched by the side of the Dodge, and shot him a second time and then a third time when he was already on the ground.

Anthony Bilodeau said the man kept telling him he was going to kill him.

“That’s a lie,” Kerr said. “He never said that to you when you went back around that Dodge truck. He was physically incapable of saying that to you. He was dying.”

Court heard that Cardinal was found with no gun at his side. Instead, there was an unloaded one in the back passenger seat near where Cardinal had been standing.

An evidence photo presented to Anthony Bilodeau showed the gun did not have a clip in it. The photo also showed the clip was under a bag.

Anthony Bilodeau testified that after the shootings, he cut up his gun in four to five pieces, took a set of lights off his truck bumper and disposed of the items separately.

He said he didn’t recall talking to his father or brother about reporting the shooting to police.

Anthony Bilodeau has said he destroyed evidence and lied to police because he was afraid of going to jail for protecting his family.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2022.

Daniela Germano, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

‘Short-term pain’: Group of Alberta lawyers escalate job action over legal aid cases

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By Bill Graveland in Calgary

Alberta criminal defence lawyers are taking another step in their dispute with the provincial government over the amount of compensation paid by Legal Aid Alberta.

Organizations representing lawyers in Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer and southern Alberta began job action Aug. 8 by refusing to accept certain bail and duty counsel files from legal aid.

The lawyers also began refusing certificates for new cases for the most serious criminal charges, including sexual offences, firearms-related crimes and homicides.

Beginning Monday, they say all services will be withdrawn.

“We’re going to stop taking all certificates. That will include some our prior job actions still allowed us to take certificates for people who are already existing clients and there will be a very, very limited set of circumstances now where our members will do that,” said Kelsey Sitar, vice-president of the Criminal Defence Lawyers Association in Calgary.

“The default will be: ‘We are just not taking any new work from legal aid until the problem is fixed.'”

Sitar made her comments at a rally in front of the Calgary Courts Centre on Friday that drew about 50 criminal defence lawyers.

A table with a sign reading “Save Legal Aid” offered bake goods for sale. Lawyers carried signs reading “Access 2 Justice Must be Equal.” Another read: “This sign is too small to fit my outrage.”

“This is drastic. I mean, what we were doing up until now is something I know has happened in Ontario before, it did not last long, frankly,” Sitar said.

“I can tell you that none of us want to be out here. We all want to be in there doing our jobs.”

Justice Minister Tyler Shandro has said nothing is going to be done until a review of the Legal Aid Alberta administrative system is complete, which is scheduled for next month.

He said any budget changes for legal aid wouldn’t happen until next year.

Sitar said the ministry chose to undertake “an incomplete and, frankly, useless review” at a time when the governing United Conservative Party is about to go through a leadership change.

“So we have to act now and they need to respond now,” she said.

Sitar said she understands the people being affected the most by the job action will be people with lower incomes who need the services to afford legal representation.

“It’s short-term pain right now,” she said. “It’s really unfortunate, but I can tell you that most of the people I’ve talked to on the street who are finding themselves caught up in this understand and are grateful that we’re doing it.”

Alberta Opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley said the problem has been growing over the last three years. She said when her party was in power, it committed to additional funding for Legal Aid, but the UCP government backtracked.

“We simply cannot be asking the Legal Aid bar to be doing what we are asking them to do at the rate that we are asking them to do it,” she told reporters.

“We have the lowest funding for Legal Aid in the country. What that means is that we don’t have equal access to justice. It undermines the integrity of our justice system and, overall, it undermines our ability to build a sense of community safety, community security and an overall respect for the rule of law — all of which are important to community health and economic growth.

“It sounds like a niche issue, but it’s not. It actually has knock-off effects to very, very important issues that affect all of us. So, the government needs to come to the table and negotiate decently with these lawyers.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 23, 2022.

— With files from Colette Derworiz in Calgary.

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Alberta

‘Kind of like carnies’: International balloon festival returns to High River, Alta.

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By Bill Graveland in High River, Alberta

The windswept prairie east of the Rocky Mountains seems an unlikely spot for a hot-air balloon festival, but the town of High River, Alta., is celebrating the event’s 10th year.

More than 20 brightly coloured balloons — including a pink elephant, a black and yellow bee and the purple and yellow Eye of Ra, named after the Egyptian sun god — took advantage of a lull in the prevailing wind this week to get some up-in-the-air time to mark the opening of the Heritage Inn International Balloon Festival.

“We get about 50 per cent of our flights off. Weather impacts us everywhere,” said event director Jamie Kinghorn, who is also a town councillor.

“This is our 10th. We started in 2013 partly because of the flood that happened. I’d been to a number of balloon events and thought this might lift the spirits of the folks in town.”

The town of 12,000 just south of Calgary gained an international profile in 2013 when flooding in parts of southern Alberta caused billions of dollars in damage.

High River was one of the hardest-hit communities. Entire neighbourhoods were under water for weeks.

“I called in a bunch of friends from the balloon community and they knew what happened, so 20 of them came into High River and we put on a balloon festival that was actually amazing for the community,” Kinghorn said.

“That was sort of the first major thing toward recovery after the flood and we’ve been doing it every year since at the end of September.”

Kinghorn said the festival is a boon to local tourism and there’s not a hotel room to be had in town.

He had his first hot air balloon over the city of Calgary in 1988. A year later he was a balloon pilot.

There are 23 balloons participating this year, including some from the United States, Belgium and the United Kingdom.

Kinghorn said it’s a pretty small community.

“We tend to meet at various events. We tend to travel. We’re kind of like carnies to some extent,” he said with a laugh.

“We travel around to different cities to different balloon events.”

Alan Davidson, who has been involved in the sport since 1977, is one of the volunteers.

He said those who get involved tend to stick with it.

“The amazing thing is that there are still seven or eight of the people I was ballooning with in the ’70s and early ’80s who are still here at this event,” said Davidson. “They’ve been working with balloons for over 40 years.”

Kinghorn, who is the owner and pilot of the Eye of Ra, was the first balloon in the air Thursday morning after a Wednesday evening flight was cancelled due to the wind.

“My God am I glad we got this off,” he said as the flight came to an end.

The festival runs through Sunday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 23, 2022.

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