Supreme Court of Canada hears appeals in TWU

By Mariane Gravelle November 30, 201730 November 2017

Supreme Court of Canada hears appeals in TWU


The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) held the first day of hearings in two concurrent appeals in the case of Trinity Western University’s proposed law school. The appeals, broadcast live here will continue tomorrow to determine whether the Law Societies of Upper Canada (LSUC) and British Columbia acted reasonably in refusing the accreditation of TWU’s proposed law school – a private institution. TWU Counsel Kevin Boonstra, in his opening argument, argued that the Canadian Charter “protects the right to establish communities of faith like TWU.  In order for any religious community to exist and thrive, it has to be able to define itself. In the evangelical context, this includes defining religiously appropriate conduct while individuals are part of the community."

Background

In 2014, three Canadian provinces – Nova Scotia, Ontario and British Columbia – refused accreditation to graduates of TWU’s proposed law school on the basis that a covenant that students were obligated to sign – which requires students to abstain from sexual relations outside of marriage between a man and a woman – was discriminatory towards the LGBTQ population.

In Nova Scotia and B.C., both trial and Appeal courts sided with TWU in ruling that the private university had the right to impose such a covenant. In Ontario, courts ruled that the LSUC was justified in refusing accreditation. For a more detailed overview of the court processes thus far, read CBA National’s article here.

Guy Pratte, counsel for LSUC, made the case today that as an accredited law school, TWU has certain responsibilities, regardless of its private status, which confers no right to impose its belief on others.

Intervention from the Canadian Bar Association

The CBA is set to intervene in this case tomorrow in support of the LSUC. The CBA’s factum argues two key points: the need for a requirement for deference to a law society’s decision; and the fact that the effect of a law society’s decisions on equality rights should be evaluated through the lens of law as an inclusive profession.

Adds the CBA :

As accreditation decisions lie at the heart of law societies’ core regulatory mandate, these decisions are owed significant deference from reviewing courts. Where these regulatory decisions achieve a reasonable balance between competing fundamental rights, the courts should not intervene.

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