Essay Contest

Your essay could change the way we think about freedom in Canada.  

"If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear."

― George Orwell

The 2024 Brandon Langhjelm Essay Contest celebrates academic excellence and fuels the ambitions of the next generation of scholars and leaders in Canada.  

We want to hear your thoughts on Canada’s most controversial and difficult questions about individual rights and freedoms.


This Year's Options

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing industries from healthcare to finance, manufacturing to entertainment, art to academia. Some Canadians are concerned about the impacts AI could have on their rights and freedoms, including their security, privacy, equality, expression, and legal rights. 

Question #1: Focus on one case in which AI threatens or could potentially threaten the rights or freedoms of Canadians. What role, if any, should the Canadian government play in protecting Canadians against AI in this case? Why should the government be permitted to intervene in the application of AI in this case (if at all)?

Freedom of expression is protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Many Canadians think, however, that hate speech should be illegal in Canada. Canadian governments are proposing legislation that would see hate speech punished more severely. For instance, in early 2024, Minister of Justice Arif Virani introduced Bill C-63 (the Online Harms Act) in the House of Commons to create additional penalties for hate speech in Canada – up to life imprisonment.

Question #2: What is hate speech? Is it possible to arrive at a workable definition of “hate speech”? Does the government have a legitimate interest in censoring hate speech? Why or why not? Cite a case in which a Canadian government has censored hate speech. Was the censorship legitimate in that case? 



First Place


Second Place


Third Place


Let your scholarship inspire change

Eligibility: Canadians aged 15-25 by contest deadline

Length: 1,200 to 1,500 words

Deadline: October 27, 2024, at 11:59 p.m.

Winners announced: December 9, 2024

Before submission, please review:

Criteria and Guidelines    |    Contest Checklist    |   Evaluation Rubric

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    “We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.”

    William Faulkner

    About Brandon Langhjelm

    Despite being born with a significant disability, a connective tissue disorder called Loeys-Dietz syndrome, Brandon Langhjelm graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in History degree and later went on to obtain his law degree from the University of British Columbia.

    Brandon joined the Justice Centre team in 2018 and won his most significant court case in 2020, where he challenged the decision of the City of New Westminster to cancel an ethnic church’s youth conference because the City did not like one of its speakers. Brandon made court appearances on behalf of the Justice Centre until September 2021, when he was hospitalized and diagnosed with stage four cancer. He passed away on October 25, 2021. Brandon is missed by his colleagues for his keen legal insight and objective perspective, his love of the NHL, and his compassion for vulnerable people. Brandon faced life’s greatest challenge with courage, conviction, and trust in God. The Brandon Langhjelm Essay Contest was established in 2021 in his honour.

    2023 RESULTS

    Meet the 2023 Winners

    Our contestants composed thoughtful responses to the following prompts:

    Canadian governments are implementing policies and laws that limit freedom of expression online. Focus on one case (or related cases) of governments limiting freedom of expression online. Are these limitations reasonable? If they are unreasonable, why? 

    Sometimes, governments place limitations on the ability of Canadians to express themselves through protesting. Focus on one case (or related cases) of governments limiting the ability of Canadians to protest. Were these limitations reasonable? If they were unreasonable, why? Further, why is the ability to protest an important feature of a healthy democracy? 

    First Place: Anita Pan

    “The Open Society: Why the Online News Act violates Canadian freedom of expression”

    Anita Pan is an avid debater in Grade 11 at York House School. She plans to study English literature at university, though she also enjoys learning about history, politics, philosophy, law, and film. In her free time, she’s busy reading Hemingway and Steinbeck, writing short stories, jamming to Pink Floyd, and exploring old movies, her favourite being Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. She hopes to eventually become a novelist or an editor at a magazine.

    Second Place: Alexandra Robbins

    “Bill C-11 and the consumption of online information: A sinister encroachment into Canadians’ freedom of expression”

    Alexandra Robbins is a third-year law student at Osgoode Hall Law School. She holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Criminology & Sociolegal Studies and Ethics, Society, & Law from the University of Toronto. Her primary areas of legal interest are constitutional law and administrative law. After graduation, she will be completing her articles at Thornton Grout Finnigan LLP. In her spare time, you can find Alexandra practising her French or cooking up a storm.

    Third Place: Tristan Helm

    “The importance of peaceful assembly to democratic health”

    Tristan Kelm was born and raised in Edmonton where he studies psychology and economics at the University of Alberta. He works as a Primary Care Paramedic in Edmonton and also serves as a church youth leader. For fun, he enjoys being in the mountains, hunting and going on trips to see new places. After he graduates, he plans on exploring either policing or fire fighting to be able to serve his community in new ways!


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    Please reach out to our development team to discuss sponsorship packages. We want to partner with you to support a generation of scholars who are passionate about freedom.