The Law Society of Manitoba (LSOM) has decided not to decide on a method by which it would decide, whether to accredit a faith-based law school.
Last week, the Benchers (Board) of the LSOM chose to “monitor processes and decisions in other jurisdictions,” and await a possible national requirements review before discussing the issue.
Trinity Western University (TWU) is a Christian liberal arts school in Langley, British Columbia. The school 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.”
Manitoba Benchers chose “not to engage in a discussion about a local approval process at this time.” They had met to discuss how the law society would address TWU’s request for approval. The Benchers found that the issue should be addressed “on a national basis” rather than having different decisions in different jurisdictions. They noted that the Federation of Law Societies of Canada may review the national requirements.
Yes, No, Maybe
Since late last year, TWU accreditation requests have been dealt with differently, and with varying outcomes, by law societies across the country. Accreditation means that a law school’s grads are able to be licensed to practise law in a province.
In April, the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) voted against accrediting TWU, after two full days of public debate. Its decision was made under its administrative authority, and based on procedural fairness. B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, P.E.I., and Nunavut law societies voted in favour of accreditation.
The Nova Scotia Barrister’s Society cited the community covenant’s wording on sexuality as a primary reason for its conditional TWU approval; the school will be accredited if it removes the “sacred marriage” reference.
The Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador votes June 6 on TWU accreditation.
Reconsideration in B.C.
The B.C. Law Society will vote on reversing its decision, at a special general meeting, June 10. Members will consider a resolution directing that “Trinity Western University is not an approved faculty of law.”
The Law Society of New Brunswick (LSNB) has invited both the public and TWU representatives to make presentations in advance of its vote, June 27.
Even as law societies consider the processes related to accreditation, issues around TWU’s policies are heading to the courts. On April 14, a petitioner represented by Toronto lawyer Clayton Ruby (an ex-officio LSUC bencher) commenced a lawsuit against the B.C. Minister of Advanced Education to challenge the B.C. government over its December 2013 approval of TWU’s law school. TWU will apply to be added as a respondent to that case.
TWU has applied for a Supreme Court Judicial Review of several law societies’ decisions, including the LSUC.
Trinity officials have said they intend to open the law school in 2016, with or without accreditation from law societies.
Cases Related to the TWU Issue:
Trinity Western University v. College of Teachers,  1 S.C.R. 772, 2001 SCC 31.
Dunsmuir v. New Brunswick,  1 S.C.R. 190, 2008 SCC 9.
R. v. Big M Drug Mart Ltd.,  1 S.C.R. 295.
Saskatchewan (Human Rights Commission) v. Whatcott, 2013 SCC 11,  1 S.C.R. 467
Alberta v. Hutterian Brethren of Wilson Colony, 2009 SCC 37,  2 S.C.R. 567
R. v. N.S., 2012 SCC 72,  3 S.C.R. 726