Release: Supreme Court Says No to Discriminatory Law School Admissions

VANCOUVER – West Coast LEAF welcomes the Supreme Court of Canada’s judgments, released today, in two cases concerning admissions to a proposed law school at Trinity Western University (“TWU”), an Evangelical Christian university located in Langley, BC. The Court ruled that the mandatory Covenant at TWU creates inequitable barriers to entry to their proposed law school and would harm LGBTQ individuals.

The two cases – one from BC and one from Ontario – made their way up to Canada’s highest court together. The law societies in both provinces had denied accreditation to TWU’s proposed law school on the basis that a mandatory Community Covenant (“Covenant”) imposed on students and employees of the university is contrary to the law societies’ mandate to promote and protect the public interest. Among other things, the Covenant prohibits sexual expression outside of heterosexual marriage and prohibits reproductive choice.

The law societies denied accreditation to the law school on the basis that the Community Covenant constitutes an unlawful, discriminatory barrier to accessing the legal profession. They determined that it would not be in the public interest to approve the law school. TWU argued, among other things, that the decision not to accredit the law school violates its freedom of religion.

A majority of the judges recognized that the Covenant creates inequitable barriers to entry to law school and ultimately to the legal profession, and that it would risk decreasing diversity in the profession and would harm LGBTQ individuals. The majority further found that the law societies acted reasonably to promote public confidence in the administration of justice.

West Coast LEAF intervened in the BC case at all levels of court to argue that the Covenant discriminates against, and penalizes, those who choose to exercise their reproductive rights, and that it discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation and marital status by prohibiting all relationships that are not heterosexual and between married people.

We welcome the Supreme Court’s ruling that the BC and Ontario law societies properly and reasonably exercised their decision-making power when deciding to deny accreditation to TWU’s proposed law school.

“Today’s decision marks a significant victory for equality,” observed Kasari Govender, Executive Director of West Coast LEAF. “Private institutions cannot engage in discriminatory admissions practices if they are looking for the state’s stamp of approval. The Court affirmed law societies’ obligation to ensure that equity, diversity, and inclusion are at the forefront of upholding and protecting the public interest.”

“The Supreme Court confirmed today that separate educational institutions are not equal,” stated Raji Mangat, West Coast LEAF’s Director of Litigation. “Equality in education is not just about how many law school seats might be made available. We couldn’t agree more with the majority that substantive equality means more than just having options, it means preventing the violation of human dignity.”