The Supreme Court of Canada upholds the B.C. Court of Appeal decision ordering approval of Trinity Western University teacher certification program

“This decision protects the principles of liberty and respect as fundamental Canadian values. Everyone will benefit from the wisdom the Court has brought to this issue,” says Dr. Guy Saffold, TWU Executive Vice President

Langley, B.C.—Trinity Western University is very pleased with the decision announced by the Supreme Court of Canada today, requiring the British Columbia College of Teachers (BCCT) to approve the University’s teacher education program.

“It is our view that the decision is a critical one for democracy in Canada,” said Executive Vice-President, Dr. Guy Saffold. “The Supreme Court has affirmed the government cannot discriminate against people who uphold their religious convictions while demonstrating understanding and respect for the views and dignity of others.”

“The Supreme Court of Canada has affirmed that, in our multi-cultural and multi-faith society, people cannot be arbitrarily penalized or barred from participating in public life simply because they hold religious views,” said Saffold.

Today’s Supreme Court decision marks the culmination of a dispute that started in 1996 when the BCCT refused to approve TWU’s teacher education program. Despite losing two lower court rulings, the BCCT appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, arguing it has the right to deny approval of TWU’s teacher education program because students while at TWU agree to refrain from extramarital sex, including homosexual behaviour. The BCCT argued that the agreement was discriminatory and might lead to TWU graduates discriminating against homosexual students in public school classrooms.

The lower courts in British Columbia had accepted TWU’s argument that there was no basis whatsoever for the BCCT’s decision. The University’s policies clearly require students to show love and respect to everyone. Hundreds of teachers trained at TWU already teach in B.C.’s public schools with distinction. The University argued the BCCT’s decision was based simply on a negative stereotype of Christian people.

In its decision today, the Supreme Court stated, “….there is nothing in TWU’s Community Standards that indicates that graduates of TWU will not treat homosexuals fairly and respectfully. Indeed, the evidence to date is that graduates from the joint TWU-SFU teacher education program have become competent public school teachers, and there is no evidence before the Court of discriminatory conduct by any graduate…”

“The BCCT was only able to cite vague suspicions and stereotypes to justify its position. Stereotypes are anathema to our laws and amount to discrimination,” said Saffold. “TWU believes that Canadian values require we treat one another with genuine respect and uphold each other’s basic human dignity while at the same time permitting us to disagree on certain issues. We believe the Court has affirmed this view.”

The University plans to move ahead now with implementation of the teacher certification year to begin in fall of 2002. Saffold explained, “Now that we have a final ruling from the top court in the country, we look forward to working with the BCCT to implement our proposed program. Our students will finally be able to complete their teacher education degree and receive public school certification without incurring personal costs for having to move to another university.”

Trinity Western University, located in Langley, B.C., is a privately funded Christian liberal arts and sciences university enrolling 2,850 students this year. With a broad-based, liberal arts and sciences curriculum, the University offers undergraduate degrees in 34 major areas ranging from business, education and computer science to biology and nursing, and 12 graduate degrees including counselling psychology, theology and administrative leadership.

Last Updated: 2012-08-21
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