cp-Vriend-1800776-inside

Delwin Vriend, speaking at a news conference in Edmonton Wednesday, says it's time for Alberta to recognize a decade-old ruling that gave gay people human rights protection. ((Canadian Press))

Gay rights activist Delwin Vriend marked the 10-year anniversary of his legal victory over the Alberta government by calling on the province to include sexual orientation in its human rights legislation.

Speaking Wednesday in Edmonton, Vriend said it is embarrassing to both Alberta and Canada that rights for gay people still aren't spelled out in provincial law.

Vriend was fired from his job as a lab instructor at King's University College in 1991 when the school discovered he is gay. The Alberta Human Rights Commission refused to investigate the case because the province's Human Rights Act did not cover discrimination based on sexual orientation.

As a result of their refusal, Vriend took the province to court in 1994, a case won by the government on appeal in 1996. Vriend continued the battle to the Supreme Court, and on April 2, 1998, the court ordered the province to legally protect its residents from sexual discrimination.

The province has not officially changed its legislation, but the Supreme Court ruling offers default protection to residents.

Vriend said the time has come for the province to accept the decade-old decision.

"If they [the government] want to continue to act like little babies and, say, you know, thumb their nose at the Supreme Court, they can do that. But the law is there. You know, it's read as being there," he said. "It really is a childish thing."

Alberta's culture minister says language explicitly protecting gay rights will be looked at as part of a review of the human rights laws.

Vriend and his supporters say the 1998 victory influenced other rulings across Canada, including the recognition of same-sex marriage.

With files from the Canadian Press