If it is to be, it is up to me.Craig Langston was an activist, father, friend and fighter for civil rights who lived by these words. Hailing from Northern Alberta and the Fort Chipewyan band of the Dene First Nations, he was born with cerebral palsy affecting his right side. A former foster child and part of the Sixties Scoop, he was compassionate for his birth mother’s circumstances and reunited with her as an adult, after starting his own family. He leaves behind a loving daughter and son. Six years ago, following a car accident, Craig lost 173 pounds and began to walk again for the first time since childhood. His journey was a rollercoaster of accomplishments, setbacks, passion for his community and achievement.
Early YearsIn addition to living with CP since birth, Craig was raised in the foster care system just outside of Edmonton and adopted at age six by his physiotherapist at the time. He eventually learned that his grandmother married a French man and his birth mother was English, but always knew he was First Nations and identified as such. Growing up, Craig enjoyed playing, walking and running with the kids in his neighbourhood. He attended a Catholic school and was placed in a separate class in Kindergarten, but his intellect son demonstrated that separation was not necessary. This set the foundation for Craig to become engaged in serving the community.
Youth ActivistCraig has been involved in the community since he was young. While he was in high school, nuclear missile testing took place around Cold Lake, Alberta. Craig organized a sit-in at school, which was instrumental in getting the town to declare itself a nuclear-free zone. Not stopping there, Craig was also active with the TUXIS Youth Party, a religious-affiliated youth group, for three years. Through debates and annual parliamentary sessions, he caught the “political bug” and gained self-confidence. After completing business administration at the University of Camrose in Alberta, Craig worked at a bank for twelve years, moving to Vancouver in the process and then transferring to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). Following an injury, he went on a long-term disability leave, and his activism started in earnest.
Learning to walk againCerebral palsy never prevented Craig from living a Life Without Limits, but in September 2012, he faced a significant setback when he was hit by a car. The accident resulted in a 10-day hospitalization period and ongoing pain in his shoulder and back. Following a lengthy recovery, he underwent gastric bypass surgery that left him in intensive care and a coma for two weeks. At the time of the accident, Craig was more than 350 pounds. After the surgery, he lost 173 pounds, joking, “I finally got that [extra] person off my back.” The weight loss, and physio he received for his accident, were huge factors for Craig when it came to walking again. His recovery process included physiotherapy, where he was encouraged to take a few steps while supporting himself on a set of parallel bars. He had “already grieved” his inability to walk, but when he took his first few steps in physio, the light went on in his head. A few steps became 100 metres, and by the end of 2015, Craig was able to climb up and down stairs entirely on his own. A Political Life While at the CRA, Craig became involved with his union and assumed local, provincial, and national level positions as an Aboriginal representative and person with a disability. He was also elected into the Workers with Disabilities portfolio at the BC Federation of Labour Executive Council. In 1992, Craig attended a disability conference where he got his first sense of disability issues and the large representation of people living with disabilities. Craig joined the City of Vancouver Advisory Committee on Disability in 2002. He became active with the Cerebral Palsy Association of British Columbia in 2005 and a year later was elected president of the board, where he remained until 2013, creating a strong community connection and strengthening the organization’s outreach bonds. Craig served as the Vice Chair of the Transit Users Advisory Committee from 2001 to 2002 and remained involved for six years. In 2012, he was active with the Handy Dart Riders Alliance. He was part of Translink’s community consultations in 2011 and was later asked to join the advisory committee. In his last year, TransLink proposed eliminating TaxiSaver, an accessible program for seniors and people with disabilities. Craig was instrumental in organizing a coordinated community response that resulted in the program being saved. Making the connection “Think Globally, Act Locally”, Craig was involved locally in the 2011 Occupy movement, bringing to light issues of inequality and capitalism. On the political front, he hoped to make issues around disability more relevant to the larger community by becoming one of the first BC members of the legislature with a disability. He made two runs for provincial political candidacy, in 2013 and 2015. His platform pushed for a provincial and national accessibility act that would unite seniors, young families and people with disabilities. During the 2011 fight to save the TaxiSaver program, a fellow activist named him “Dene Wheelchair Warrior”, reflecting two significant aspects of Craig’s identify. From his earliest activism and incredible personal journey, to his civic and political pursuits, Craig truly earned the name “Wheelchair Warrior”. In 2010, Craig was a Paralympic torchbearer as part of the 24-hours torch relay in Vancouver. He wrote:
As a torchbearer, I was truly touched and moved by the spirit of the games. With the help of a close friend, I was able to purchase the torch. With this torch, I now offer to share this spirit with you all. The torch still holds the power of the ﬂame and always will.Craig’s bright flame and shining example will truly be missed; we hold a torch in his honour.