Trinity Western law school – the saga so far

  • November 28, 2016

Trinity Western University’s application for accreditation for a law school has been challenged in the courts in three provinces to date, with varying results.

In the latest ruling, on Nov. 1, the British Columbia Court of Appeal dismissed the Law Society of British Columbia’s appeal of judicial review that set aside the Law Society’s decision not to approve TWU’s law school. The Law Society has announced its intent to appeal the ruling.

“The issue on appeal is whether the Law Society met its statutory duty to reasonably balance the conflicting Charter rights engaged by its decision: the sexual orientation equality rights of LGBTQ persons and the religious freedom and rights of association of evangelical Christians,” the court wrote.

“The Law Society’s decision not to approve TWU’s law school is unreasonable because it limits the right to freedom of religion in a disproportionate way — significantly more than is reasonably necessary to meet the Law Society’s public interest objective.”

In Nova Scotia, TWU won its case at the Court of Appeal against the Nova Scotia Barrister’s Society, with the court ruling in July that “the regulation relating to the Society’s conditional approval of TWU’s proposed law school is ultra vires, in other words beyond its current authority in the Legal Profession Act.”

In August, the Barristers Society announced it would take the matter no further.

The Law Society of Upper Canada, whose Benchers had voted to deny accreditation to a TWU law school, won its case in the Ontario Court of Appeal. Trinity Western has applied for leave to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The CBA intervened in the appeals in Ontario and Nova Scotia.

A February 2014 CBA resolution titled Non-Discrimination in Legal Education sets out CBA policy on the issue. It would have the CBA urge the Federation of Law Societies of Canada and all law societies to require

… all legal education programs recognized by the law societies for admission to the bar to provide equal opportunity without discrimination on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity, age or mental or physical disability, or conduct that is integral to and inseparable from identity for all persons involved in legal education – including faculty, administrators and employees (in hiring, continuation, promotion and continuing faculty status), applicants for admission, enrolled students and graduates of those educational programs.

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