In Memoriam: Thomas Braidwood

  • April 15, 2020

From John Mackie of Vancouver Sun

When the provincial government decided to launch an inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver airport, B.C. Attorney-General Wally Oppal tapped retired judge Tom Braidwood to conduct the probe.

“He was really a fair judge, a guy who really cared about people,” said Oppal. “He was a sound person, objective. It was controversial — the police had Tasered a guy to death, and their position was that they had done everything that their training taught them to do.

“He went through it all and wrote a remarkable report. Now the police have new guidelines and new procedures before they use Tasers. So he left a mark.”

Braidwood died April 11 at his home in West Vancouver. He had been battling lung cancer. He was 89.

Thomas Reid Braidwood was born on Dec. 29, 1930, at the old Grandview Hospital in East Vancouver. Legendary lawyer Angelo Branca was a family friend, and predicted that Braidwood would become a lawyer.

He did, joining Branca’s firm after he received his law degree from the University of B.C. Admitted to the bar in 1957, he became one of B.C.’s top criminal defence lawyers.

“He mentored a lot of people, particularly young lawyers,” said Oppal. “He came from that era where older lawyers would make themselves available to younger lawyers. He was like that with me, when I first started out. We defended three murder cases together, and I prosecuted two murder cases against him that I can think of.”

According to a profile in The Advocate, a magazine published by the Vancouver Bar Association, Braidwood took over Branca’s unfinished cases when Branca became a judge in 1963.

One of his most high-profile cases was the successful appeal of Penthouse Cabaret owner Joe Philliponi’s 1977 conviction for conspiring to live off the avails of prostitution.

In 1990. Justice Minister Kim Campbell named Braidwood to the B.C. Supreme Court. He later sat on the Court of Appeal. He retired in 2005, but in 2008 Oppal brought him back to preside over the inquiry into Dziekanski’s death.

The Braidwood inquiry released two reports, Restoring Public Confidence: Restricting the Use of Conducted Energy Weapons in British Columbia,and Why? The Robert Dziekanski Tragedy.

“It’s difficult doing inquiries, but he did a first-class job on that,” said Oppal. “Those inquiries are volatile, because people who come and testify have a lot of emotional issues, a lot of people who are real victims. And you have to be fair in what you do.

“It’s a balancing act, and at the end of the day you have to give advice to the government so whatever happened doesn’t take place again. He did that.

“He was highly respected. In a way he was a judge’s judge.”

Braidwood’s first wife, Ann, died from cancer in 2001. He’s survived by his three children, Tom Jr., Kim and Mark, and his second wife, Phyllis.

A memorial will be held, but it’s unclear on what date due to the COVID-19 pandemic.