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Law, the long way

Adam Johnson
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, August 15, 2007

YELLOWKNIFE - It's not often that good news comes out of a Supreme Court. But as Justice Louise Charbonneau put it, "calls to the bar are one of the few exceptions."

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Jay Bran stands in Yellowknife Supreme Court after being called to the bar in the Northwest Territories last week. Bran starts work with legal aid this week. - Adam Johnson/NNSL photo

With a supreme courtroom full of supporters, Jay Bran,30, took on his new role in the NWT justice system Friday, ending his long journey from Yellowknife corrections officer to lawyer.

"Though you were born somewhere else, for all intents and purposes you are from here," Charbonneau said as she admitted Bran.

"The people of the NWT are lucky to have you join the bar today."

Bran moved to Yellowknife at the age of three, starting a journey about as Northern as Northern gets. Bran played hockey through high school, making his way to the Arctic Winter Games, leading to minor league dreams and school down south. Unfortunately, hockey never quite paid out."I've played hockey with Jay, and I must say, I'm not surprised," ribbed NWT legal counsel Brad Patzer, who presented Bran to the Bar.

After school, Bran took employment at the Yellowknife Correctional Centre (now the North Slave Correctional Centre) as a corrections officer.

Before long, he got "itchy feet," as Patzer put it, and moved towards a career from another side of the law. He would get his law degree from the University of Calgary in 2006.

After he'd taken some further ribbing from his cohort and the occasional prod from the crowd (members of which included NWT Commissioner Tony Whitford, Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus and Senator Nick Sibbeston), Bran spoke for himself.

"This ceremony is not the culmination of the efforts of Jay Bran," he said, thanking the people that had supported him. These included members of legal aid he had studied under, fellow lawyers and -- of course -- his family.

He mentioned how hard it was to continue after his father died during his second year of law school.

"I think it's what my dad would have wanted," he said, adding that his graduation on May 11 -- his father's birthday -- was as good a present as he could muster.

Before the event, his sister, Kim Hjelmelands, had no shortage of positive words about Bran's achievement.

"I love it, I think it's wonderful," she said. "It seems like forever he's been in school,"

While he was obviously not too thrilled about having a newspaper scrutinize such an important part of his life (his mom Eleanor tipped off Yellowknifer), Bran was happy enough to put it all in one word.

"Relief," he said. "It's nice to have all of this behind me."

This allows him to look forward to what the future holds, he said. Well, the near future, at least.

"I start Monday morning," he said with a smile.