B.C. Supreme Court rules in favour of Trinity Western University School of Law
Trinity Western University is celebrating the British Columbia Supreme Court’s recognition of true Canadian diversity today. The court has restored the B.C. Law Society’s April 2014 decision recognizing graduates of Trinity Western University’s proposed School of Law.
The B.C. Law Society originally voted to accept graduates of TWU’s proposed law school, but reversed their decision after a lawyers’ vote in October 2014. TWU took them to court in August 2015, and Chief Justice Hinkson ruled today that the Law Society’s first decision, which approved the academic qualifications of TWU graduates, should be restored.
“TWU law graduates will only enrich the diversity that we celebrate as Canadians,” said Guy Saffold, a senior advisor to the president of TWU. “People from many different faith communities have long been part of Canada’s professions and cultural identity. Our graduates are practicing law, teaching in the public school system, operating successful corporations and working as nurses—while treating clients, students and members of the public with the utmost compassion, respect and integrity.”
“We’re very pleased that the court recognized the errors made by the Law Society,” said Earl Phillips, the executive director of TWU’s proposed School of Law. “As the Chief Justice has affirmed, the decision to approve a law school graduate must be based not on personal opinions and feelings, but on the law and evidence. The evidence shows that TWU teaches its students to work and live with the highest levels of skill and integrity.”
The Chief Justice wrote that “the evidence in this case and the relevant precedents conclusively establish that the decision does infringe the petitioners’ Charter right to freedom of religion,” which the Law Society failed to properly consider.
The university’s plans to open a law school have drawn attention from critics of its Community Covenant. One section asks students to abstain from sexual intimacy outside of traditional marriage.
Saffold believes the objections stem from a lack of understanding. “The covenant isn’t about pushing anyone away, but about building a community where we’re free to honour our consciences,” he said. “The same covenant calls for all members of the TWU community to respect the dignity of others regardless of their background. Loving one another without exception is one of the most important principles of Christian faith.”
Saffold went on to say that, contrary to some perceptions, TWU does not inquire about sexual orientation during the admissions process, and LGBTQ students are welcome to attend the university.
Alberta, Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and the Yukon will recognize TWU’s law graduates. A decision by the Nova Scotia court requiring approval of TWU law graduates has been appealed by the Nova Scotia Barrister’s Society. An Ontario court decision against TWU has also been appealed.