B.C. Lawyers, Law Society Say No to Faith-Based Law School

Image: CHRC

Image: CHRC

Law Society of B.C. benchers have passed a motion declaring Trinity Western University (TWU) is not an accredited law school. The vote came after a majority of B.C. lawyers forced a referendum over the Law Society’s earlier TWU accreditation for the proposed law school. The referendum showed 74% of the province’s lawyers wanted to have TWU accreditation reversed.

Of 8,039 ballots cast in the Oct. 30 binding referendum, 5,951 voted in favour of no accreditation, while 2,088 voted against a declaration that TWU is not an accredited university.

Law Society of Upper Canada & Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society will face TWU in court in December, for Judicial Reviews of their decisions not to accredit the faith-based school.
Friday’s decision means that the B.C. Law society joins Ontario and other jurisdictions that will not recognize TWU grads for lawyer licensing in their provinces. Oct. 15, a motion at the Law Society of the Northwest Territories, to accredit TWU’s proposed law school, was defeated.

University spokesman Guy Saffold said officials are disappointed with the law society’s decision, but have not yet determined whether to pursue legal action.

“Putting difficult issues of human rights up to a popular vote, essentially, is not the way these things should be done,” Saffold said. “In Canada we balance these issues in a very thoughtful way, through our courts, and don’t vote on issues of minority rights.”

Competing Human Rights in a Secular Society

Trinity Western University (TWU) is a Christian university in Langley, B.C. It plans to start a new, faith-based law school in 2016. Students and faculty sign a “community covenant,” vowing to abide by principles that govern their conduct, including sexuality. The covenant forbids “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.” The covenant’s wording has affected the proposed school’s requests for accreditation for its graduates from law societies across Canada.

The Law Society of New Brunswick voted in September to reverse an earlier decision to accredit the proposed school. Alberta, Saskatchewan, P.E.I., and Nunavut law societies have voted in favour of accreditation. Newfoundland and Labrador, and Manitoba, have chosen to defer the issue.

In April, LSUC Benchers denied accreditation. TWU applied for judicial review of that decision, and the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society decision that soon followed, not to accredit the school. Both cases are scheduled to be heard in December. In Nova Scotia, the Supreme Court case has been deemed to be both a judicial review and an Application in Court. Applications in Court permit the introduction of evidence beyond the record in the judicial review proceeding.

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