Release: Supreme Court of Canada hears Trinity Western law school appeals

OTTAWA – Tomorrow, West Coast LEAF is at the Supreme Court of Canada to support the Law Society of British Columbia’s (LSBC) decision to deny accreditation to a proposed law school at Trinity Western University (TWU), an evangelical Christian university located in British Columbia, which requires its students and employees to sign a Community Covenant prohibiting abortion and sex outside heterosexual marriage.

West Coast LEAF has intervened in this case at all levels of court – at the BC Supreme Court in 2015, and the BC Court of Appeal in 2016. The appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada will be heard together with an appeal from Ontario, also concerning a decision to deny accreditation to the proposed law school by the Law Society of Ontario (LSO) (formerly the Law Society of Upper Canada). In both provinces, Trinity Western challenged the denials of accreditation. Courts in BC overturned the LSBC’s decision to deny accreditation, while courts in Ontario upheld the LSO’s denial of accreditation.

As an intervener in the BC case, West Coast LEAF will argue that discrimination on the basis of sex, marital status and/or sexual orientation in admission to law school will serve to widen the gap between historically disadvantaged groups and the rest of society, contrary to fundamental equality rights.

“The Community Covenant discriminates on the basis of sex, marital status, and sexual orientation by prohibiting all relationships that are not heterosexual and between married persons, and by denying reproductive choice,” says Raji Mangat, Director of Litigation at West Coast LEAF.

West Coast LEAF will argue in support of the Law Society’s decision to deny accreditation to TWU’s law school in the belief  that the Law Society’s decision reflects a proper weighing of the rights at stake by upholding the fundamental right to equality enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“Law societies – as gatekeepers to the legal profession and the judiciary – cannot allow discriminatory admissions practices to take hold. Trinity Western is seeking recognition as a provider of legal education to the public and, in doing so,seeks to discriminate contrary to the Charter,” adds Mangat. “It cannot be allowed to discriminate. Bound by the Charter, law societies must work to foster and promote a diverse and inclusive legal profession.”

West Coast LEAF Executive Director Kasari Govender adds, “Prospective female students should not have to choose between being able to make intimate decisions about their own bodies and their ability to study law. The Covenant is a violation of women’s fundamental right to choice.”

Read more about West Coast LEAF’s work on this case, including our written argument here.