Profile: Fired from his lab instructor job at The King’s College in Edmonton for being gay, Delwin Vriend launched a Charter of Rights court challenge. The 1998 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada established that omission from Alberta’s human rights legislation of sexual orientation as a characteristic protected from discrimination was unconstitutional. The Court added “sexual orientation” to relevant sections of that legislation, effective immediately.
Delwin Vriend grew up in a Christian Reformed community and attended The King’s College and then a Christian college in Michigan. After completing his science degree in 1987, he filled in for a semester as a chemistry lab instructor at King’s. Soon he became a full-time, permanent lab instructor. In 1990, responding to an inquiry by the College president, Vriend disclosed that he was gay. In 1991, after the College Board of Governors adopted a statement on homosexuality, the president requested Vriend’s resignation. Vriend declined and was fired. The sole reason given for the firing was his sexual orientation. The Alberta Human Rights Commission told Vriend that he could not file a complaint of discrimination because sexual orientation was not a protected ground in the legislation.
Vriend, supported by the 2SLGBTQ+ community, then launched a legal challenge, based on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, against Alberta’s omission of sexual orientation from its human rights legislation. The case was heard before the Court of Queen’s Bench, the Court of Appeal of Alberta, and finally the Supreme Court.
Vriend’s courageous effort and the resulting judgment of the Supreme Court in the case have had considerable impact in Alberta, Canada, and internationally.
Keywords: Alberta Human Rights Commission; Charter of Rights and Freedoms; Douglas Stollery; Gay and Lesbian Awareness Society of Edmonton (GALA); Individual’s Rights Protection Act; Murray Billett; Sexual orientation; Sheila Greckol; Supreme Court of Canada; The King’s College
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See also: 2SLGBTQ+