BC Law Society Will Hold Referendum on Faith-Based School

TWU President Bob Kuhn. Photo: twu.ca

TWU President Bob Kuhn. Photo: twu.ca

The British Columbia Law Society will hold another vote, a binding referendum of all lawyers in the province, on accreditation for Trinity Western University (TWU)’s proposed faith-based law school. The Sept. 26 vote came after an historic vote in June, in which a vast majority of lawyers from across the province voted in favour of a non-binding resolution to reverse April’s accreditation decision.

Some 4,000 B.C. lawyers voted in the June special general meeting. They passed a resolution that: “Trinity Western University is not an approved faculty of law.” A motion before the LSBC on Friday, to accept that resolution and effectively reverse accreditation, was lost. A motion to wait and let the courts decide the issue, was withdrawn.

LSBC president Jan Lindsay said after the Friday decision that, “Everyone is trying to do the right thing” to support the rights of all people. “We can advocate different points of view and still remain respectful of those who disagree.”

The resolution will be binding if at least one-third of all B.C.’s lawyers vote in the referendum, and two-thirds of those vote in favour of the resolution. No date has been set, but the LSBC says it will be held as soon as possible and the results will be available on the Law Society website no later than October 30.

“Benchers decided that in a matter as important as this, it was important to provide all lawyers with the opportunity to express their views through a referendum,” Jan Lindsay said. “Holding the referendum will ensure that lawyers who did not vote at the special general meeting because they were unable to attend or because the vote was not binding will have a chance to be heard.”

Earlier this month, the Law Society of New Brunswick voted to reverse its accreditation for the controversial proposed law 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.

Trinity Western University (TWU) has its students sign a “community covenant.” Under the covenant, students are to report themselves and others who do not abstain from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”

TWU is challenging decisions made by the Law Society of Upper Canada and the Nova Scotia Barrister Society, not to accredit the school if its “community covenant” is not changed. Trinity Western University and Brayden Volkenant v. Law Society of Upper Canada is set to be heard Dec. 15-19 in Divisional Court at Osgoode Hall, Toronto.

On April 14, a petitioner represented by Toronto lawyer Clayton Ruby (an ex-officio LSUC bencher) commenced a lawsuit against the B.C. Education Ministry, to challenge the B.C. government’s approval.

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