Supreme Court of Nova Scotia rules in favour of TWU

The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia issued its ruling in TWU v. NSBS today. Honourable Justice Jamie S. Campbell found that the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society did not have the authority to do what it did, and that even if it did have the authority it did not exercise it in a way that properly considered religious freedom and liberty of conscience.

“We believe this is an exceptionally important decision from Justice Campbell,” said TWU spokesperson Guy Saffold. “It affirms that protection of religious freedom is and must continue to be central value in Canada’s pluralist society.”

The decision, detailed in a 139-page court document, struck at the heart of the issue that has gained national media attention over the past year. Justice Campbell responded to the NSBS’s characterization of TWU’s Community Covenant as unlawful. “It is not unlawful,” he said. "Allowing the NSBS’s decision to stand would have a chilling effect on the liberty of conscience and freedom of religion” in Canada.

The hearings were held from December 16 to 19, 2014. The intervenors for TWU included the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, The Association for Reformed Political Action, The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and Christian Higher Education Canada, The Attorney General of Canada, The Catholic Civil Rights League and Faith and Freedom Alliance, The Christian Legal Fellowship, and The Canadian Council of Christian Charities. 

The NSBS argued in the Hearing that TWU’s Community Covenant was a discriminatory code, that the Supreme Court of Canada’s (SCC) 2001 ruling allowing TWU to operate an education program was now outdated. Justice Campbell, however, soundly rejected these arguements and concluded that the 2001 SCC case “is not an expression of outdated concepts,” and that the principles of that case remain relevant. Our “society is secular,” he said, “but the state does not have a secularizing mission.”

In the Court decision, Justice Campbell also recognized the value of religious communities. “Learning in an environment with people who promise to comply with the code is a religious practice and expression of religious faith.” It is wrong, he said, to require “a person to give up that right in order to get his or her professional education recognized is an infringement of religious freedom.”

“This decision is important not only to TWU’s effort to launch a School of Law,” Saffold said, “but also, we believe it sets an extremely valuable precedent in protection of freedoms for all religious communities and people of faith in Canada."

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