Trinity Vote Do-Over in N.B.

Michael Murphy, former N.B. Justice Minister - cbc.ca

Michael Murphy, former N.B. Justice Minister – cbc.ca

New Brunswick’s law society is following in the tracks of its British Columbia counterparts, reconsidering its June decision to accredit a controversial proposed law school.

More than 200 LSNB members signed a petition asking the law society to reconsider, triggering a special meeting. That meeting is scheduled in Fredericton on Sept. 13. Carley Parish, a criminal defence lawyer and partner at Lutz Longstaff Parish, started the petition after the decision to accredit TWU. Four former justice ministers signed the petition.

If the reconsideration motion passes, the society will seek a legal opinion on its effect.

If a school’s protected religious rights infringe on a student’s protected sexual orientation rights, should that school be accredited by an organization whose members are sworn to uphold human rights?
Trinity Western is a Langley, B.C. faith-based post-secondary school “with an underlying philosophy and viewpoint that is Christian,” according to its material. Trinity has its students sign a “community covenant” related to sexual orientation and other behaviour. Students and staff vow to endorse strict interpretations of marriage and permissible sexual expression.

The crux of the legal, moral and public interest choices around TWU accreditation, is this: If a school’s protected religious rights infringe on a student’s sexual orientation rights, should that school be accredited by an organization whose members are sworn to uphold human rights?

Challenging Decisions, Judicial Review

Since 2013, 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 qualify to be licensed to practise law in a province.

TWU is challenging decisions made by the LSUC and the Nova Scotia Barrister Society, not to accredit the school if the covenant stands. 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. The B.C. Law Society voted in favour of accreditation, but a large majority of lawyers in the province overwhelmingly approved a special resolution directing that: “Trinity Western University is not an approved faculty of law.” That vote is symbolic and does not reverse the law society’s decision.

After the Law Society of Upper Canada decision not to accredit TWU graduates for licensing in Ontario, the school filed a Judicial Review challenge. 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. Law students and groups such as Out On Bay Street seek to intervene in that case. The motion for leave to intervene will be heard by the Divisional Court Wed., Sept. 3.

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.

Past LSUC Treasurer Tom Conway and other legal experts have said the TWU issue will ultimately be decided at the Supreme Court of Canada.

TWU President Bob Kuhn has said the school plans to open its law program in 2016.

Related Information
Return to SCOPE Home
%d bloggers like this: