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Landmark Case: Sexual Orientation and the Charter – Vriend v. Alberta

Each OJEN Landmark Case includes a case summary, classroom discussion questions and worksheets that encourage students to explore both the legal and societal importance of the case.

Delwin Vriend was employed as a laboratory coordinator at a private Christian college in Edmonton, Alberta. In January 1991, the college fired Mr. Vriend after they became aware that he was a gay man. Mr. Vriend attempted to file a human rights complaint, but the Alberta Human Rights Commission advised him that he could not file a complaint because sexual orientation was not included as a protected ground under the Individual’s Rights Protection Act. Mr. Vriend sought a declaration that the Act violated his equality rights as guaranteed under s. 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Supreme Court of Canada held that the exclusion of sexual orientation as a ground of discrimination in the Act created a distinction that resulted in the denial of equal benefit and protection of the law on the basis of sexual orientation. The court held that this was a violation of s. 15 of the Charter that could not be saved under s. 1, and ordered that sexual orientation be read in to the provincial legislation. The full decision is available here.

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