April 2, 1998: Discrimination based on sexual orientation ruled illegal

After college instructor Delwin Vriend was fired for being gay, the Alberta Human Rights Commission said it couldn't help him. What ensued was a seven-year legal battle that ultimately helped entrench gay rights in Canada.

Delwin Vriend wins case against Alberta after being fired for being gay

After college instructor Delwin Vriend was fired for being gay, he successfully sued the Province of Alberta, a case that set a precedent for sexual orientation rights in Canada. 1:40

College instructor Delwin Vriend was the focal point of a Supreme Court decision ordering Alberta to legally protect its residents from discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Vriend had been fired from his job as a lab instructor at King's University College for his sexual orientation.

The Alberta Human Rights Commission had refused to investigate the case on the grounds that discrimination based on sexual orientation was not covered by the Alberta Individual Rights Protection Act.

Vriend won his case in 1994, but the government won an appeal two years later.
Former Alberta Premier Ralph Klein (CBC)

In November 1997, the case reached the Supreme Court and on April 2, 1998, the court unanimously ruled that the exclusion of homosexuals from Alberta's Individual Rights Protection Act was a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The court also stated that Alberta had been sending a message to its constituents that it was "even acceptable to discriminate… on the basis of sexual orientation."

Alberta Premier Ralph Klein faced pressure from conservative and religious groups to override the court's decision by using the notwithstanding clause, but he refrained.

"It's pretty hard to go against that kind of judging and that kind of consideration," Klein said.