Photo from TWU.ca

B.C. Supreme Court Restores Earlier Law Society Decision to Accredit Trinity Western Law School

OTTAWA – The BC Supreme Court ruled today in favour of Trinity Western University (TWU) in its legal challenge against the Law Society of British Columbia.

In today’s judgment, Chief Justice Hinkson ruled that the Law Society of BC had not adequately considered the religious freedom Charter rights of TWU and its students.

“We welcome the outcome of the decision and the court’s recognition that the Law Society’s refusal to recognize future TWU law graduates’ degrees ‘conclusively… infringe[s] [their] right to freedom of religion’,” says Bruce Clemenger, President of The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.

Lawyer Geoffrey Trotter of Vancouver, who served as co-counsel to the EFC, explains: “The court ruled that the benchers denied TWU the opportunity to present its case during their deliberations and to have its submissions fairly and fully considered, and that the benchers wrongly bound themselves to a referendum of all BC lawyers in which there was no evidence that the voting members gave any consideration to the Charter rights of TWU and its students.”

Facts:

  • TWU, a private Christian liberal arts university with six professional schools, won approval from the Federation of Law Societies of Canada in December 2013 which represented the provisional approval of the LSBC as well. As a result, the B.C. government approved the law degree program two days later.
  • In April 2014 the LSBC benchers (directors) considered a motion to not recognize TWU’s law school and the motion was defeated, thus confirming TWU’s law’s accreditation.
  • In June 2014 a special general meeting requisitioned by LSBC members was held to reconsider TWU’s law school and a resolution not to recognize TWU’s law school passed. The benchers then put the matter to a referendum of all BC lawyers, promising to implement the results of the vote.
  • In October 2014, based on the referendum results, the benchers reversed themselves and banned future TWU law graduates from admission to the law society. As a result, the B.C. government subsequently revoked its approval for the law degree as well.
  • TWU’s legal challenge to the LSBC decision was heard in the BC Supreme Court in August 2015, and The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and Christian Higher Education Canada jointly intervened in support of robust religious freedom guarantees for minorities including through respecting voluntary Statements of Faith and Conduct, and a robust pluralism requiring the State to respect religious difference and not to restrict access to professions based on minority religious beliefs or affiliations.

TWU has already challenged similar decisions not to accredit its law school by the Law Society of Nova Scotia and the Law Society of Upper Canada, winning a favorable ruling in Nova Scotia while failing to do so in Ontario. These Nova Scotia and Ontario decisions are presently under appeal.

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