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Vriend V. Alberta

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Submitted By justinsmom04
Words 3326
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In 1985, Canada implemented the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Under Section 15 of the Charter, all Canadians regardless of their (1)“race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability” were officially given the right to be protected by the law, and benefit from the law without discrimination.
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms (2)“reflect the fondest dreams, the highest hopes and the finest aspirations of Canadian Society” and although “Sexual Orientation” is not recorded under the sections protected from discrimination, it was deemed by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Egan v. Canada, 1995 case to be an equivalent ground to make claims of discrimination; Gay men and women are all equal in rights and dignity and should have protection of those rights.
The Vriend v. Alberta case was monumental in that it was not only a conflict to Alberta’s Individual’s Rights Protection Act, but the rights of all homosexuals in Canada based on the Charter Section 15 (1). It was an igniter against the Province of Alberta, the Government of Canada, as well as conservative religious groups. It was a conflict of religious rights versus human rights and which aspect of humanity is of greater importance to Canadian society as a whole.
The road to equality has been a long and hard road for all homosexuals, working towards this right the Vriend case was a small stepping stone on this long journey.
Vriend demonstrated to society, that as stated in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, all individuals are equal in both human rights and dignity, and therefore should not be discriminated against based on their sexual orientation. (1) Charter of Rights of Freedom (2) Case
The significance and worth of every Canadian must be recognized, regardless of any personal characteristic, such as sexual orientation.
Mr. Delwin Vriend was employed at King’s College, a Christian college in Edmonton Alberta, as a lab instructor in computer science, from 1987-1991. During Mr. Vriend’s 5 year employment, he received salary increases, positive evaluations and promotions for his work performance, which acknowledged his competence and his ability to perform his work. In 1991, after the college’s Board of Governor’s adopted a new position statement on homosexuality, the President of the college requested Delwin to resign, which he declined. Mr. Vriend had disclosed his sexual orientation to the President of the college the year prior to this new position stance. After Vriend declined to resign, the college terminated his employment for the sole reason (1)“his non-compliance with the college’s policy on homosexual practice”; he is a gay man.
He appealed his termination and applied for reinstatement, but was refused, so took his complaint of discrimination to the Alberta Human Rights Commission. At this time, Mr. Vriend was told he was unable to make a complaint under the Individual’s Rights Protection Act (IRPA) of Alberta because sexual orientation was not a protected ground in Section 7(1).
Section 7(1) of the IRPA stated;
(2)“No employer or person acting on behalf of an employer shall (a) refuse to employ or refuse to continue to employ any person,
OR
(b) discriminate against any person with regards to employment or any term of condition of employment, because of the race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, physical disability, mental disability, marital status, age, ancestry or place of origin of that person or of any other person.”
This was unfair and clear discrimination against Mr. Vriend and his sexual preferences. Should he have been fired based on his religious belief, for example if he were an atheist working in a Christian college, he would have been able to make his complaint with Alberta’s Human Right’s Commission, due to the fact that sexual orientation was omitted from the IRPA the Human Rights Commission was unable to help him. At that time Mr. Vriend, along with multiple gay and lesbian advocacy groups, filed a motion that he IRPA violated his Canadian rights to equality, with the Court of Queen’s Bench.
S.15(1) of the Canadian’s Charter of Rights and Freedom states;
(3)Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.
Judge Russell heard this case, she found that the omission of sexual orientation from the IRPA s.7(1) was unconstitutional and violated the equality provision of the Charter s.15, as well she found that the violations were not justified as reasonable under s.1 of the Charter, which states;
(4)The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.
Judge Russell ordered that the words “sexual orientation” be read into ss. 2(1), 3, 4, 7(1), 8(1) and 10 of the IRPA.
The Government of Alberta disagreed with this judgment and appealed to the Alberta Court of Appeal. The case was then heard by 3 Judges. Two of the judges concluded that there was no violation to the Charter, where the one judge agreed with Judge Russell’s final decision. The Court of Appeal reversed the previous decision based on a majority ruling.
This ruling was unacceptable to both Vriend and the other appellants, who then, appealed to the highest level of court in Canada the Supreme Court of Canada; where all decisions are binding. Mr. Vriend, the appellants and their supporters had now appeared in 3 different courts and before 13 separate judges, leading to the S.C.C. final decision. The majority of the Supreme Court of Canada held that the provisions of the IRPA were unconstitutional and an (7)”unjustifiable violation of the appellants’ equality right”. They overturned the verdict of the Court of Appeal and stated that (5)“the rights enshrined in s.15(1) of the Charter are fundamental to Canada”, and that the significance of every individual must be acknowledged (6)”regardless of the age, sex, colour, origins, or other characteristic of that person”. The Supreme Court also declared that the silence of the IRPA with respect to the exclusion is not neutral and denies equal protection and equal benefit of the law in Canada. The Supreme Court of Canada concluded that the provisions of the IRPA must read “sexual orientation”, as this was the optimal resolution to complete this legislation.
This decision was to be amended immediately, but took over a decade to be written in. The equal rights of a gay man or woman have been challenged since the beginning of time, but continues slowly to be acknowledged and amended every year. 1. Taken out of the case 2. Section 7(1) IRPA 3. Charter of Rights and Freedom s.15(1) 4. Charter s.1 5-7. Taken from the case
Over time Canada has revised many different laws and regulations to include equal rights for people based on their sexual orientation. However, the Vriend v. Alberta case is what really commenced the evolution of gay rights.
In 1965 a mechanic in the Northwest Territories names Everett Klippert admitted to police about his homosexuality, stating that he has had sex with men for over 24 years and was unlikely to change. This led to a trial, Klippert was labelled a “dangerous sex offender,” and was condemned to life in prison; this decision was backed by the Supreme Court of Canada. During the trial “the appellant pleaded to four charges of gross indecency under s.149, of the Criminal Code”(1). In 1969 Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau passed an amendment into the Criminal Code to which decriminalizes homosexuality in Canada; this lead to the release of Klippert in 1971.
On December 16, 1977 Quebec becomes the first province in Canada to include sexual orientation in its Human Rights Code. In 1980, Bill C-242, act prohibiting discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, is read into the House of Commons declaring an act to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation; his bill would have included sexual orientation in the Canadian Human Rights Act. This bill was not passed.
On February 5, 1981, police raided four bath houses arresting more than 300 men. The following night approximately 3000 people marched downtown Toronto in protest of the arrests. “This was considered to be Canada’s Stonewall.” (2)
1991 was the period that things genuinely started to turn around for people in same-sex relationships. This was the year that Vriend was fired from his position as a professor at Kings University College in Edmonton Alberta. His case brought a lot of attention and was known as the “Stepping Stone” for gay rights.
In 1992 the government of Canada releases its ban on homosexuals in the military allowing gays and lesbians to serve in the military. As well in 1992 the government tries again to permit sexual orientation in the Canadian Human Rights Act; unfortunately the bill is never passed because the government dissolved. However, just three short year’s later in 1996 Bill C-33, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, passes adding sexual orientation into the Canadian Human Rights Act. Bill C-23, the modification of benefits and obligations, is then passed in April 2000, which establishes gay and lesbian couple’s equal social and tax benefits and common-law couples.
On January 14, 2001, two same-sex couples in Toronto got married at the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto by Reverend Brent Hawke. However, the government states that same-sex unions will not be legally recognized. That is until June 10, 2003 when Ontario ultimately legalizes gay marriage, being the first province to do so. British Columbia promptly followed suit and legalised gay marriage on July 8, 2003. Followed by Quebec, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador in 2004, stating that gays have the right to marry and that the traditional definition declaring that marriage should be between a man and a woman in unjustified and discriminatory.
Sept 18, 2003 the Parliament of Canada voted to amend the Criminal Code to admit sexual orientation as a distinctive characteristic for security from hate crime under the Hate Propaganda Sections 318 and 319. The rectification included gays and lesbians to a position of other groups secured by hate crime governance.
“In 2004, for the first time, the General Social Survey (GSS) on victimization asked Canadians to identify their sexual orientation. This profile examines victimization rates, perceptions of discrimination, fear of crime and attitudes towards the justice system among gays, lesbians and bisexuals.”(3)
“According to the GSS, just over 362,000 Canadians aged 18 years and older (1.5%) identified themselves as being gay, lesbian, and bisexual.”(4)
Four gay couples from New Brunswick challenged the Court of Appeal to acknowledge same-sex marriage. This action was successful on June 23, 2005, same-sex marriage is legalized. At this time the only provinces who have not yet legalized gay marriage are: Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Alberta and Prince Edward Island. Finally Bill C-38 is passed giving same-sex couples in Canada the right to marry. The bill receives royal sent and becomes law.
Gay rights have evolved over time, although not completely altered we are moving steadily towards reform. However, tThe slowest reform is coming from conservative religious groups. 1) Canlii Case Klippert 2) CBC article timeline same-sex rights in Canada 3) Sexual Orientation and Victimization 4) Sexual Orientation and Victimization As Christian Schools are publicly funded institutions, they are expected to uphold the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms including section 15. Religious schools along with public schools are indentured to maintain the rights of citizens and the laws of the land by way of: Provincial teacher’s codes of professional conduct, the criminal code, human rights legislation, and most significantly the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Although in recitation Christian Schools often find ambiguity to more often than not try to avoid the obligation if they perceive/comprehend there to be a conflict with their religious philosophical belief. Catholic School Board spokesperson said “We’re bound by Catholic teachings, which says all persons are to be treated with dignity. You have to respect their human rights”, “If a school were to fire somebody just because it found out they are lesbian or gay, the school would in fact be going against the teachings of our church” –BC teacher sent home for being gay-CTV News
When a school fires a much admired teacher for no other reason than they have entered into a same-sex relationship, or for being in a same-sex marriage, the school is undoubtedly denying the students a human relationship with a professional person with whom they have come to trust and respect, this is certainly a lesson in injustice. With national statistics exhibiting that young people are progressively more likely to conceive anti-gay discrimination as improper, it could be the precise objective that infers them from religion in its entirety. Pope Francis has recently stated “The Church must be more compassionate with homosexuals, if a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?” –http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/13/catholic-church-gay_n_5976134.html
North American society seems impelled by a secular moral system which commenced by defining racism as reprehensible, then asserted sexism as impermissible, and is now drifting towards the attitude that homophobia is also unacceptable. In a 1996 poll by Angus Reid Group found that 59% of Canadian adults approved protection against discrimination for gays and lesbians, but only 40% of Albertans agreed (margin of error 8.4%).-http:///www.religioustolerance.org The most recent General Social Survey (GSS) states
“The proportion of gays, lesbians, and bisexuals who felt they had experienced discrimination was about 3 times higher than that of heterosexuals. Furthermore, 78% of gays and lesbians who experienced discrimination believed it was because of their sexual orientation compared to 29% of bisexuals and 2% of heterosexuals.”-Canadian Center for Justice Statistics Profile Series, Sexual Orientation and Victimization 2004 by Diane L. Beauchamp
The sexuality of a teacher, their skin colour, gender, or dress sense for that matter, should not matter. Students merely necessitate a teacher who is competent at fulfilling their duties. Good teachers are arduous to acquire in any school regardless whether the school is of religious faith or not. Christian students are unquestionably getting an education about what religion is not. “EFC (Evangelical Fellowship of Canada) argued in the Vriend case that there could be serious ramifications to the right of religious organizations to require their employees to adhere to moral standards based on the organizations religious beliefs.” –http://www.efc-canada.com/what/breaking.htm#gayrights
In Ontario, and some other provinces educational organizations are permitted to enforce discriminatory prerequisite on their employees, if they can constitute that those obligations are essential for employees to properly execute their jobs. The Bona Fide Occupational Requirement (BFOR) included in nearly all human rights codes in Canada consider that every rule constituted in a place of employment must be essential for suitable or effective execution of a job. For a regulation to be moderated as a BFOR it must be: made in good faith, and in solemn belief that it is made in the benefit of effectual, safety, and productiveness. The School Board could not demonstrate this with the Vriend case as he was a lab instructor in computer science-a domain of distinctiveness that does not have an outstanding religious or spiritual cognitive content.
“Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Catholic community. Are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities? Often, they wish to encounter a church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising the Catholic doctrine on family and matrimony?”-http://www.latintimes.com/Vatican-gay-rights-church-under-conservative-pressure-recants-tolerance-report-says-it-was-269035
Religious assembly’s may conceive that when the law compels them to broaden equal treatment to homosexuals, that they would be constrained to desecrate their own religious beliefs. Since teachers are positioned as having a moral determinant on their students, a Christian school could debate, and demonstrate, that being in a heterosexual relationship is an essential prerequisite of the job. Many catholic followers quote similar common passages from the bible that are frequently interpreted by conservative Christians condemning lesbians and gays. Religion often charge in the face of laws of the Canadian land asserting they can petition their employees that they support all philosophical characteristics of the Christian faith. According to Christian doctrine, it is all right to be gay as long as one does not actively express on it. Is the Catholic Doctrine talking about behaviours or identities? “However more and more of these kinds of restrictions are being recognized as reasonable. If religious schools want to continue operating, these kinds of policies are also unsustainable and should be abandoned”-http://www.care2.com
Ultimately, while it is the individual teacher who are distressed now, it is the religious foundation who will lose out and further designate themselves if they proceed to actively dispute their battle against gay spousal relationships by discharging teachers (whom in all probability would count themselves as religious), for no other reason than their confidential lawful relationships. Rev. Bruce Miller, Minister of the Robertson-Wesley United Church in Edmonton, Alberta said speaking of the Vriend case “I think Christians in Alberta are going to have to do some soul-searching and see if they are really following Jesus’ ethics and love. Egalitarianism is something Jesus was all about. Sometimes we forget that” –http:///www.religioustolerance.org
Religious schools across Canada are firing teachers for entering into same-sex relationships, but it’s a battle they cannot and will not win
The Vriend v. Alberta case is a landmark case with a significant decision, providing a new chapter in the equal human rights of homosexuals.
After tolerantly waiting for the security of their self-respect and equal human rights, the Vriend case finally restored a severe inequality against both gay and lesbian people. It opened the door for them into a life of fairness, bringing to light the religious aspects of not only discrimination, but the religious beliefs of being above the law. The Supreme Court’s momentous decision is a small success to this disadvantaged group that have spent decades being the target of discrimination.
Vriend proved not only to Canada, but to the world, that it is discrimination and a severe violation of a person’s human rights to fire someone who is competent, based solely on their sexual orientation. Delwin spent multiple years fighting for not only his rights but the rights of all homosexuals to follow.
Although, Canada is one of the world’s most liberal and progressive countries when it comes to human rights and equal treatment, it has taken the government too long to move towards reform. The goal of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is to make all Canadians equal in their Rights and Freedoms, and eradicate all prejudiced practices in Canada. Each case heard at the Supreme Court of Canada, based on our Charter, helps make this happen; taking one small step at a time, until all humans are equal in both rights and dignity and are never again discriminated against, for any reason.
Finally, after his triumphed win and the restoration of his pride Vriend suggested (1) “the government had some soul searching to do”, then superbly added: "Ha, ha, I win." An excellent conclusion to this ground-breaking case!

(1) http://www.canada.com/story_print.html?id=958e0355-ef90-4e7d-b027-8ba1db0d13a5&sponsor=

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