Edmonton Community Foundation and the Edmonton Queer History Project are proud to present Pride vs. Prejudice: The Delwin Vriend Story.

Pride Versus Prejudice: The Delwin Vriend Story is the most extensive and expansive first-person account ever produced about the pivotal legal battle over human rights that changed Canada.  

Written and directed by award-winning queer historian Darrin Hagen, and produced by Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF) and the Edmonton Queer History Project (EQHP), this feature film and podcast series comprises more than a dozen in-depth interviews. In this series, viewers and listeners are invited behind the scenes as the legal team of Sheila Greckol and Doug Stollery, working closely with academics, activists, politicians and the 2SLGBTQI+ community of Edmonton, set out to change the way the Government of Alberta treats its 2SLGBTQI+ citizens.  

Listen to the podcast below or on ECF’s national award-winning The Well Endowed Podcast. 

To fully understand how this historic Supreme Court decision changed the way we understand the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, we will need to look back at the political and social reality of being a 2SLGBTQI+ Canadian in the tumultuous decades leading up to the court challenge.

Welcome to episode 1 of Vriend Versus Alberta.

In the previous episode of Vriend Versus Alberta we learned how the creation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms laid the groundwork for 2SLGBTQI+ activists to begin pressing for progressive reform in Alberta.

All that was needed was a cause to rally behind; an injustice that could be used to launch a challenge to the exclusion of sexual orientation from Alberta’s human rights legislation.

That injustice would take place on January 28th, 1991 when a laboratory coordinator employed at The King’s College would be fired for being gay.

This man was Delwin Vriend.

Welcome to episode 2 of Vriend Versus Alberta.

When Delwin Vriend was fired from his job at a Christian college for being gay, he had two choices; he could accept his termination, or fight back.

He chose to fight. The first step was to file a complaint to the Alberta Human Rights Commission, but after the Commission denied his request it was time to take the Alberta Government to court.

In this episode we look at the series of serendipitous events that brought Delwin’s legal team together to continue the arduous journey toward equality for Canada’s 2SLGBTQI+ community.

Welcome to episode 3 of Vriend Versus Alberta.

With his legal team behind him, Delwin Vriend won his case at the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench. Justice Russel pulled no punches in her written ruling, stating that discrimination against the gay and lesbian communities was an historical, universal, notorious, and indisputable social reality.

It was a big win for Delwin and his team, however it would be short lived as the Government of Alberta appealed the ruling. The next stage in the legal process would not be so kind to Delwin’s pursuit for equality for Alberta’s 2SLGBTQI+ community.

Welcome to episode 4 of Vriend Versus Alberta.

The Supreme Court of Canada granted Delwin Vriend’s legal team the leave to appeal Justice McClung’s ruling in the Alberta Court of Appeal. As the team arrived in Ottawa, the excitement and tension was palpable. It was their last shot to compel the Government of Alberta to include “sexual orientation” as  protected ground in the Province’s human rights legislation.

In this episode, we take a deep dive into Sheila Greckol’s opening argument and visit a few of the submissions from the many interveners who spoke in support of Delwin’s case.

This would conclude the first half of the hearing before the Government of Alberta took the stand to argue its defense.

Welcome to episode 5 of Vriend Versus Alberta.

Sheila Greckol had delivered her opening arguments at the Supreme Court of Canada. It went well as she presented her submission in support of reading in sexual orientation as a protected ground in Alberta’s human rights legislation.

Now it was the Government of Alberta’s turn to defend its stance.

As the Province’s lead counsel took to the lecturn, the equality of countless Canadians hung in the balance.

Welcome to episode 6 of Vriend Versus Alberta.

Dewlin Vriend and his legal team returned home from the Supreme Court of Canada to find a massive crowd waiting for them at the Edmonton International Airport.

Alberta was in a frenzy, and the anticipation built as the province waited for the Supreme Court to issue its ruling on the future of equality for Alberta’s Queer and Trans community.

It was going to be a close call.  Delwin’s legal team’s hopes rested with Justice Sopinka — the swing vote.

But a week after the hearing, the tragic news of Justice Sopinka’s death shocked the nation.

Now, it was anyone’s guess as to which way the ruling would go.

In this episode, we learn about the Supreme Court’s ruling on Vriend v. Alberta and how the media factored into the public debate and warring PR campaigns over the use of the notorious Notwithstanding Clause.

Welcome to episode 7 of Vriend Versus Alberta.

The Supreme Court had ruled that sexual orientation should be read into Alberta’s human rights legislation. But the Alberta Government had one more tool it could use to deny equality to its Queer population.

That option was the Notwithstanding Clause.

The province slipped into turmoil as the Alberta Government debated whether or not to invoke the Notwithstanding Clause.

As Premier Ralph Klien remained silent, hate and vitriol bubbled to the surface of public discourse resulting in massive letter-writing campaigns and death threats.

Welcome to episode 8 of Vriend Versus Alberta.

The Supreme Court’s ruling on Vriend v. Alberta has impacted the lives of countless 2SLGBTQI+ people. Not just in Alberta, not just in Canada, but around the globe.

In this episode we look at the ripple effect Vriend v. Alberta has had over the past 25 years since first making its splash at the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench in Edmonton.

We also return to where this story began, and look at how The King’s University has worked to address its complicated legacy as ground zero for the court case that brought equality to Alberta’s and Canada’s 2SLGBTQI+ communities.

Welcome to episode 9 of Vriend Versus Alberta.

*CORRECTION: Dr. Kristopher Wells is the Canada Research Chair for the Public Understanding of Sexual and Gender Minority Youth at MacEwan University.

Though the Supreme Court’s ruling on Vriend v. Alberta helped pave the way for equality for Canada’s 2SLGBTQI+ communities, maintaining the road to dignity for all has been tumultuous.

There have been many setbacks, followed by advances, followed by setbacks in the subsequent years.

It took the Government of Alberta (GOA) 11 years to officially add the words “sexual orientation” to its human rights legislation.

It also amended its education act to prohibit teachers from mentioning sexual orientation in schools without advising parents first. This was Alberta’s equivalent to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

And it rolled back equality rights by removing privacy protection for 2SLGBTQI+ youth who were involved in Gay/Straight Alliances at their schools.

But there have also been administrations, regardless of their political leanings, that have worked to repair and advance the path forward including Allison RedfordDavid Hancock and Rachel Notley.

In this episode, we will explore the importance of individual activism, as the pivotal movers in our story reflect back on what was one of the more memorable experiences in their lives.

And we’ll hear their advice for changemakers who are looking to carry the torch.

Welcome to the final episode of Vriend Versus Alberta.


A court case in 1998 led to sexual orientation being included in Alberta’s Individual’s Rights Protection Act

It’s easy to forget that less than a generation ago, 2SLGBTQI+ Albertans were not seen as equals in Alberta and had zero recourse to address the harm that occurred when homophobia prevented them from fully participating in the life of this province.

When Delwin Vriend came out as gay to the administration at The King’s College, he knew there was a risk that he could be fired. But he stood his ground, and was summarily dismissed. The King’s College reasoning was clear: he was fired for being gay.

Upon attempting to seek justice through the Alberta government’s own Human Rights Commission (HRC), he was shocked to learn that the HRC had been instructed to never investigate cases of discrimination that involved sexual orientation.

To get any justice, the only route forward was for Delwin to take the Alberta Government to court to compel them to include 2SLGBTQI+ Albertans in its Individual’s Rights Protection Act, setting in motion a sequence of events that would lead to the highest court in the nation.

Working initially with legal counsel Victor Leginsky and later with legal counsels Sheila Greckol, Doug Stollery, June Ross and Jo-Ann Kolmes, with friend and activist Murray Billett fielding the ever-increasing media frenzy, Vriend allowed his life to become a cause in a legal battle that would last seven years, ultimately changing the way Alberta viewed its Queer population, and Delwin’s life forever.


December 1987, Delwin Vriend is employed as a laboratory coordinator by The King’s College.


Late February, Vriend, in response to an inquiry from the President of the College, confirms that he is gay.


Early January, the Board of Governors at The King’s College adopts a policy on homosexuality.

Late January, the President of King’s College asks Vriend to resign. He declines. The College terminates his employment, based solely on his sexual orientation.

Mid-June, Vriend attempts to file a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission regarding his termination, on the grounds that he was discriminated against due to his sexual orientation.

Mid-July, The Alberta Human Rights Commission informs Vriend that he is unable to make a complaint as sexual orientation is not a protected status under Alberta’s Individual’s Rights Protection Act.


The application by Vriend, GALA — Gay and Lesbian Awareness Society of Edmonton, Gay and Lesbian Community Centre of Edmonton Society and Dignity Canada Dignité for Gay Catholics and Supporters (referred to collectively as “Vriend”) is filed in the Court of Queen’s Bench. The applicants are represented by Victor Leginsky.

The application challenges the constitutional validity of sections of the Individual’s Rights Protection Act on the grounds that they violate Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms because they do not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.


A hearing is held at the Court of Queen’s Bench, presided over by Justice Anne Russell.

“This was never about King’s College … this gave us the opportunity to put it into the court of the day … and with that, it’s going to have an impact on everybody.”

Murray Billett


Mid-April. Justice Anne Russell of the Court of Queen’s Bench rules in favour of the applicants, stating that sexual orientation is an analogous ground in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Further, she rules that the omission of sexual orientation from Alberta’s human rights legislation was unconstitutional, and the reading of “sexual orientation” into the statue was the appropriate remedy.

The Court finds that regardless of whether there was any intent to discriminate, the effect of the decision to deny homosexuals recognition under the legislation is to reinforce negative stereotyping and prejudice thereby perpetuating and implicitly condoning its occurrence.

Early May. The Government of Alberta files an appeal with the Court of Appeal of Alberta.


May 9. The hearing occurs for the Government of Alberta’s appeal, at the Alberta Court of Appeal.


February 23. The Alberta Court of Appeal issues its judgement, in favour of the Government of Alberta’s appeal, overturning Justice Russell’s decision.

April 22. An application for leave to appeal the decision is filed for Vriend with the Supreme Court of Canada.

October 3. The Supreme Court of Canada grants the application by Vriend to appeal the decision, with the Government of Alberta to cross-appeal.


November 4. The hearing for Vriend vs. the Government of Alberta occurs at the Supreme Court of Canada.


April 2. The Supreme Court of Canada unanimously rules that the exclusion of homosexuality from Alberta’s Individual’s Rights Protection Act is a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Mid-April, Premier Ralph Klein announces that the Government of Alberta will respect the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision and not invoke the “notwithstanding” clause from the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Delwin Vriend photographed on location in Paris. Photo by: Simon Reeves Photography

Delwin Vriend now lives in France. He still has intense admiration for the activists who have altered Canada.

“I’m nothing compared to everyone who’s come before and everyone who’s come since. I mean, there are still people working so hard to continue to advance rights for all sorts of communities and often in very thankless, thankless positions. And without the recognition I mean, I get so much recognition and honestly, it’s not deserved. It really is just my name. It’s one tiny event and a court case that I had nothing to do with.”

He says that every now and then one of the new people in his life stumbles on his story online and asks him why he has never mentioned it.

“It’s a different me. I mean, it’s me, but I’m not that person now. I would be again, but I’m living a different life… that’s something I’ve done; something I’ve been involved with.”