‘In a league of his own’: Loved ones memorialize Alberta human rights advocate Dr. Darren Lund

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‘In a league of his own’: Loved ones memorialize Albertan human rights advocate Darren Lund
A well-known Albertan educator and human rights advocate died after a short battle with cancer. Darren Lund was 60 years old when he died on Nov. 10, 2021. As Jill Croteau reports, those who knew him say Alberta is a better province because of him. – Nov 15, 2021

Albertan Dr. Darren Lund was a champion for human rights.

His cherished friends say he was a man of conviction and compassion, advocating for inclusion, acceptance and social justice.

He had just celebrated his 60th birthday surrounded by people who loved him.

Darren Lund
Darren Lund. Courtesy: Nina Howorun

Less than three months later, his friends are memorializing him. Lund was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He died on Nov. 10, 2021.

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Darren Lund and his partner, Nina Howorun. Courtesy: Nina Howorun

Nina Howorun, his partner, said it’s a devastating loss.

“He was so brave and so hopeful and so optimistic,” Howorun said. “He thought his health could help buy him more time.

Darren Lund. Courtesy: Nina Howorun

She said he was also a devoted father and lived life passionately, without regret.

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“He was such an incredible man, adventurous, wise beyond his years and so vibrant and youthful,” Howorun said.

Darren Lund during his prostate cancer battle. Courtesy: Nina Howorun

Lund was diagnosed when the cancer was too far gone and had wanted to urge people to speak up for their health.

“He trusted me to take care of him and advocate for him,” Howorun said.

“He assumed with his yearly physical he was getting screenings. Had he known he was at high risk, he would have wanted to be screened earlier on.”

Darren Lund and Micheal Gretton. Courtesy: Michael Gretton

Friend and colleague Michael Gretton recently nominated Lund for the Order of Canada.

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“He was a catalyst in Alberta, influencing human rights, acceptance, inclusion, racism and multi-culturalism,” Gretton said.

“What Jerome Iginla is to hockey Darren Lund is to human rights: compassionate courageous collaborators who both moved the needle in their areas.”

Jerome Iginla with Darren Lund.
Jerome Iginla with Darren Lund. Courtesy: Nina Howorun

“We lost a bright star in this province, someone who gave so much of himself to this province,” Gretton said.

“He is one of Alberta’s finest.”

Darren Lund with Margaret Trudeau. Courtesy: Nina Howorun

Lund leaves a legacy of advocacy work in anti-racism. Colleague and friend Michael Embaie said he was special and humble.

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“He didn’t do it for fame or for the limelight; he did it because he was a principled person who believed in equality and justice,” Embaie said.

“There is a huge gap now, but more importantly, for the students who had so much to gain from his knowledge, experience, commitment and compassion for diversity inclusion and anti-racism.”

Darren Lund as Pride parade marshal.
Darren Lund as Pride parade marshal. Courtesy: Nina Howorun

When he was a high school teacher, Lund started Alberta’s first gay-straight alliance (GSA) and became an esteemed professor at the University of Calgary’s Werklund School of Education.

Dr. Ed McCauley, U of C’s president and vice-chancellor, said the UCalgary community is grieving the loss of this influential member of its family.

Darren Lund with Ed McCauley, the University of Calgary’s president and vice-chancellor. Courtesy: Nina Howorun

“Dr. Darren Lund’s unparalleled advocacy for diversity and human rights stretches back all the way from his early career as a high school teacher to his 19-year tenure as a professor of education. He dedicated himself to enriching equity, diversity and inclusion in education through the service-learning program for diversity and other community partnerships,” McCauley said.

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“In both academia and beyond, Dr. Lund led with empathy and unconditional respect.”

Darren Lund with former mayor Naheed Nenshi. Courtesy: Nina Howorun

Lund beat out 200 other applicants for a spot on the Calgary Police Service’s first-ever anti-racism action committee.

Darren Lund with former police chief Rick Hansen. Courtesy: Nina Howorun

Insp. Avril Martin is the co-lead for the committee.

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“What impressed me about Darren was his grace and humility. He was so authentic and the way he talked about himself and his privilege, those are his words, privilege and it really resonated with our membership and our service,” Martin said.

Darren Lund with Rachel Notley.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley said she was deeply saddened by Lund’s passing.

“I will always be grateful for his early support of me. I took inspiration from his courageous and principled leadership in setting up Alberta’s first gay-straight alliance,” Notley said.

“Darren was tireless in his decades-long fight for equality in Alberta, and our province is a better place because of him.”

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