‘Every day I hurt’: Grieving family of Pelican Lake man found dead in B.C. want answers

“This still raises a lot of questions — where he was found is just unbelievable.”

Brandon Sakebow with his mother Laurie. Brandon's remains are to be returned to the family on Friday. Photo courtesy of Laurie Sakebow

A week before hearing the news of her son’s death, Brandon Sakebow’s mother Laurie Sakebow was baking at her Spiritwood home to raise money so that she could go look for him. 

“Every day I hurt. I won’t give up on searching for my son Brandon until I bring him home. He is missed every day — we love him so much,” told the Prince Albert Daily Herald. 

Soon after that conversation, her son’s body was found by a hiker just blocks away from an RCMP detachment in Mission B.C. Brandon was held overnight at that detachment in March 2020 before he went missing. The family say they spoke with him the day before — and that was the last they heard of him. When he didn’t call his mother on her birthday — which they said was unlike Brandon — his family reported him missing.

“If anyone had a chance to meet Brandon they would know he was a good kid with a big heart. He lived a hard life but made the best out of every situation,” Brandon’s aunt Debra Sakebow said.

“His laugh — oh my I miss it so much — his jokes and sense of humour. This year has been so hard for all the family but we can finally bring him home.”

Brandon Sakebow, of the Pelican Lake First Nation, was transferred from the Saskatchewan Penitentiary in Prince Albert to British Columbia where he served his parole. He had just finished his parole when he disappeared.

Brandon was staying in a halfway house in Abbotsford B.C. where he had a job as a rebar worker. Residents at the halfway house were uprooted by a fire last March and the family said Brandon wanted to return to Saskatchewan and start a new life.  

“He was calling the family saying he wanted to change his life. He didn’t want to spend more time in jail. He just wanted to settle down,” Debra said.

“Brandon had a hard life. He was in and out of  jail, but he has a big family — a big family that loves him.”

Debra said the RCMP didn’t initially make it easy for the family — who visited the province 9 times to look for Brandon — and were raising awareness to try and find him. 

“I had to phone three different detachments to even get a missing person’s report out there. They weren’t telling us certain things,” Debra said. 

That changed after the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations stepped in — RCMP then provided monthly updates to the family up until the remains were found, she said. 

RCMP said Brandon’s personal belongings, including a cellphone, bag and clothing, were found in a stolen van in Abbotsford a few days after he went missing.

Debra said she does find it concerning that her nephew’s body was found so close to the Mission RCMP detachment. 

“This still raises a lot of questions — where he was found is just unbelievable.”

The Independent Investigations Office (IIO) — B.C.’s civilian police oversight agency that looks into incidents where a police officer could be involved — is conducting an inquiry. 

“Information provided by the RCMP indicates that on March 21, 2020, a man was arrested, lodged in RCMP cells overnight and released later that day. The man police identify as having been released was reported missing on March 27, 2020,” the IIO said in a release.

“On April 6, 2021, human remains were found in a forested area near Hillcrest Avenue. On April 27, 2021, it was confirmed that the remains are those of the man who police report as having been in custody. The IIO will investigate to determine what role, if any, police actions or inaction may have played in the man’s death.”

After the remains were confirmed to be Brandon, the RCMP released a statement saying that they are working closely with the Coroner’s Service to determine the cause of death. 

“Given this matter is subject to an independent investigation by the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) BC, no further details can be released.”

According to his mother, Brandon’s body has yet to be returned to Saskatchewan for a proper burial because of the pandemic. His remains are expected to be returned to the family on Friday.

“We still are looking for a lot of unanswered questions. The family wants those answers,” Laurie said. 

“We want to create awareness for all MMIP (missing and murdered Indigenous people) and for the RCMP to take missing persons more seriously when families report a missing loved one.”