Darren Lund, a former Red Deer teacher who helped form Alberta’s first gay-straight alliance, passed away Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of Darren Lund’s Twitter page)

Darren Lund, a former Red Deer teacher who helped form Alberta’s first gay-straight alliance, passed away Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of Darren Lund’s Twitter page)

Former Red Deer teacher who helped form Alberta’s first gay-straight alliance dies

The man who helped develop Alberta’s first gay-straight alliance at a Red Deer high school has passed away.

Darren Lund, a former teacher at Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School, passed away this past Wednesday, a post on his Twitter page stated.

“Darren was an extraordinary and internationally respected human rights activist, inspiring educator, passionate advocate, effortless mentor, intuitive community leader, devoted father and unconditionally loving life partner,” the Twitter post said.

Lund had been a professor at the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary since 2002. He was awarded the first-ever 2021 Werklund Equity, Diversity and Inclusion award in September.

In 2000, Lindsay Thurber student Rachel Evans approached Lund, who was an English teacher at the high school, about starting a gay-straight alliance.

They decided the group would run under the STOP (Students and Teachers Opposing Prejudice) banner. STOP was started in 1987 and won several awards, including a 2001 award of distinction from the Canadian Race Relations Foundation.

RELATED: First school-based gay-straight alliance in Alberta was in Red Deer

In a 2014 interview, Lund told The Advocate Evans and another student continued to push for the alliance – the two of them got up in front of more than 100 staff and expressed their belief in the importance of an alliance.

“They really insisted. It was really the courage of a couple of 16- and 17-year-olds who made it happen,” Lund had said.

“These courageous kids got up in front of the staff and came out to them. They talked about their life growing up in Red Deer, what they fear when they come to school and how they wanted the staff to help make it a better school.”

The staff at Lindsay Thurber responded with a standing ovation.

“It wasn’t about a lifestyle choice, it wasn’t about morals or religious beliefs,” said Lund, “it was about how can we make our school and all schools safe for all kids.”

In 2002, Lund made a formal complaint to the Alberta Human Rights Commission after an anti-gay letter, written by a then-Red Deer pastor, was published in The Advocate. The letter got broad coverage after the complaint was made.

A court case over it was eventually heard by the Alberta Court of Appeal, which ruled in 2012 the pastor did not go far enough to violate the Alberta Human Rights Act.



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