Brandon Langhjelm Tribute

Tribute to
Brandon Langhjelm

Brandon’s Mom, Carol, was just 18 years old when she became pregnant with Brandon. Being so young, there was pressure for her to take the “easy way out” and abort her son. She recalls the moment when a nurse at the initial consultation in the doctor’s office tapped her on the leg and said in a matter-of-fact way, “you’ll have an abortion.” Carol recoiled when she heard those words and thought, “no, I am having this child.” She never regretted that decision.

Brandon was her son and she loved him dearly.

On the day Brandon was born, February 19, 1981, she became aware that Brandon had a disability, though it was not properly diagnosed until many years later. He suffered from mobility issues and began using an electric wheelchair in his early teens.  Brandon’s ultimate diagnosis was a connective tissue disorder called Loeys-Dietz syndrome. This disability profoundly affected Brandon, who underwent numerous surgeries and medical treatments throughout his life.

Despite his disability, Brandon at an early age showed exceptional intellectual aptitude. In grade five, he was assessed at a university level for his overall aptitude. He had a passion for geopolitical events even as young as seven and had a keen desire to learn and devour information. This penchant for learning and detail even played out in his love for hockey where he catalogued voluminous stats of NHL players.

Brandon throughout his life displayed great character and personal conviction. In one instance in grade five, his teacher required Brandon to write a story that violated Brandon’s conscience. Brandon would not budge, despite the teacher’s sustained pressure to see things her way. This strength of character never left Brandon.

Brandon suffered in the school system throughout his elementary years. He later testified before the B.C. Safe Schools Taskforce panel in 2003 regarding his experiences. In Brandon’s words:

It was anarchy, in this sense, that characterized my experience in elementary school. There was a common authority above me and my fellow students, namely teachers and administrators. This authority, however, was unwilling to step in and enforce fairness, or justice, between us. Relations between students were simply determined by who was stronger than who, who was more popular than who, who could marshal more students to gang up on and inflict torment upon who.

Brandon’s character and sense of justice was shaped by these and other similar experiences.

In grade 12, Brandon became a finalist in the B.C. provincial-wide Barry Sullivan Law Cup speech contest, where he gave an impassioned speech in defence of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in Canada before a panel of judges at the Law Courts in Vancouver.

In 2006 while studying at the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV), Brandon’s aorta ruptured and he underwent emergency, life saving surgery. Despite being absent from school for a period of time, Brandon went on to ace his semester and later graduated with the highest point average for his UFV B.A. degree in History. At that time, he also won the Excellence in Achievement award for his paper on Senate reform.

He continued from there to law school at the University of British Columbia, after which he landed an articling position with the federal Department of Justice in Vancouver. There he worked in areas such as extradition, aboriginal law and prosecution services.

Brandon’ interest and aptitude for constitutional law led him to the Justice Centre, where, in 2018, he assisted in the Justice Centre’s intervention in the Oger v Whatcott matter at the BC Human Rights Tribunal (“BCHRT”)”. The summer of 2019 saw him again at the BCHRT, where he provided key insight and legal research in the defence of numerous estheticians facing jeopardy for refusing to perform intimate waxing services in violation of their religious beliefs and security of the person: Yaniv v Various Waxing Salons.

Brandon was entrusted with his first court case in 2020, where he challenged the decision of the City of New Westminster to cancel an ethnic church’s youth conference, without notice, on the false, defamatory and unfounded assumption that it would “promote racism, hate, violence, censorship, crime or other unethical pursuits.” Brandon fought back against the City’s unjustified attack on the Church’s constitutional freedoms with his written and oral submissions. On July 19, 2021, Justice Maria Morellato agreed with Brandon’s submissions that the City violated the freedom of expression. In a statement that would uplift the spirits of any constitutional lawyer, Justice Morellato rejected the City’s argument that expression at the Church’s conference would be “low value”, stating:

In a free and democratic society, the exchange and expression of diverse and often controversial or unpopular ideas may cause discomfort. It is, in a sense, the price we pay for our freedom. Once governments begin to argue that the expression of some ideas are less valuable than others, we find ourselves on dangerous ground.

Winning one’s first court case is a notable accomplishment.

At the Justice Centre, Brandon’s colleagues greatly valued his keen legal insight, his thorough legal research and objective perspective.

2021 saw Brandon engaged in defending Canadians against government Covid measures violating their fundamental freedoms to gather for worship or to peacefully protest. He was making court appearances up until September.

Throughout 2020 and 2021, Brandon had frequently gone to the hospital to try and address health challenges he was experiencing, but the underlying issue was missed. Finally, in September 2021, a CT scan was administered and Brandon was diagnosed with stage four cancer. Brandon never left the hospital.

Within a few weeks, Brandon’s situation grew very grim. But Brandon held out hope and was actively speaking to medical staff and looking for a means to extend his life. He was at one point given a degree of hope where he would be able to come home and possibly receive treatment. However, Brandon ended up in the ICU, where he was intubated.

While there, a physician approached Brandon’s mother and suggested removing the intubation tube, in which case she was told that death would then occur. Horrified by this, Brandon’s mother made it clear that it was not to take place.

Brandon had stated in his representation agreement that reasonable measures were to be taken to preserve life. The next day, Brandon’s IV nutrition was removed, and his mother was told by the attending ICU nurse that its removal was to be permanent. She was further told that it was on the doctor’s instructions. Afterward, the doctor denied this when confronted by Brandon’s mother Carol. The IV nutrition was restored after a legal warning letter was issued to the hospital.

Brandon’s mother recounts that the afternoon before Brandon passed away that he was denied oxygen above 50%. She says she argued with the doctor, who relented on his stance of not elevating Brandon’s oxygen and raised it to 60%. The doctor refused to raise his oxygen level any further. Carol, Brandon’s mother was told to get an injunction if she didn’t agree with the decision. This was on a Sunday. Brandon died in the early hours of Monday morning, October 25, 2021.

In the end, Brandon lost the battle to cancer. He fought for his right to exist from the very beginning. And as Brandon’s mother puts it, no one has a right to subjectively put a value on someone’s life or shorten it for expediency’s sake.

Brandon did not and would not have agreed to any method of euthanasia according to his mother. Brandon personally held pro-life views and despised the utilitarian view of life where human beings are held to be of little value. As a person born with a disability, he was ever aware of the attitude of some in society that his life was less valued.

He believed in life and the sanctity of it. In a 2018 report recapping a Christian Legal Fellowship conference, Brandon had expressed his view that it was “essential…to prevent the expansion of assisted suicide from sending our country sliding downward toward a utilitarian view of human life”. In his mother’s view, Brandon was not shown sanctity in his final hours.

The inherent and incredible value of Brandon’s life is recognized and appreciated by his family, his friends and colleagues and the clients and the many people his life impacted in tangible and immeasurable ways.

Brandon faced life’s greatest challenge—just like he had faced and overcome other lesser challenges in his life—with courage, conviction and trust in God.

The Justice Centre’s staff, supporters and clients celebrate his life and mourn his loss.

In his final days, Brandon frequently spoke with his colleagues of his desire to get out of the hospital and back to his desk to continue in the fight to defend Canadians’ fundamental freedoms. Brandon’s memory will continue to inspire us to value the life and liberty of each Canadian in the continued fight for freedom. He will be greatly missed.