This case concerned the rights of individuals to be free from discrimination based on their sexual orientation. 

LEAF intervened before the Supreme Court of Canada. 

Facts 

Delwin Vriend was dismissed from his job as a lab coordinator at King’s College, a private religious college, solely because of his sexual orientation. Mr. Vriend unsuccessfully appealed the termination. He also tried to file a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission, but was not allowed to do so because the Individual’s Rights Protection Act (the IRPA) did not include sexual orientation as a protected ground.  

Mr. Vriend and others filed a motion in the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, asking the court to declare that sexual orientation be read into the IRPA as a protected ground. The trial judge agreed and granted the declaration; however, the Alberta Court of Appeal overturned the decision. Mr. Vriend and the others appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada. 

Arguments 

LEAF intervened to ensure that lesbians and lesbian inequality were visible before the Court, and highlighted the particularly discriminatory effects of the exclusion of sexual orientation from the IRPA on lesbians. Although lesbians faced discrimination based on other intersecting grounds of oppression, the “watertight compartment” approach to rights (where courts only looked at discrimination based on one ground at a time) used by the courts meant that lesbians would be denied the protection of the IRPA when discriminated against based on their sexual orientation. This violated their equality rights under s. 15 of the Charter

Outcome 

A majority of the Supreme Court of Canada held that the exclusion of sexual orientation from the IRPA violated s. 15 of the Charter, and could not be saved under s. 1. As a remedy, they ordered that sexual orientation be “read in” to the IRPA – meaning that the IRPA would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation from then on. 

LEAF is grateful to Gwen Brodsky and Claire Klassen, counsel in this case, as well as Carole Brown, Ottawa agent for LEAF. 

Download LEAF’s factum here.

Read the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision here

Our records are imperfect, but we are doing our best to update them – if you were involved with LEAF on this case but your name is not reflected here, please email us at [email protected].