BC Law Society Approves TWU Law School Graduates

The BC Law Society benchers voted 20-6 against a motion that would have seen TWU law school graduates not be able to practise law in BC.  The failure of that motion means that the Federation of Law Schools decision on December 16, 2013 to approve TWU stands.

At first glance the 20-6 decision appears to be lopsided however the sentiments expressed even by a number who voted against the motion were not at all flattering to TWU’s Community Covenant Agreement” [i] that requires all students to “voluntarily abstain from the following actions…[including] sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”[ii]  A number of the benchers described it as “repugnant,” and “abhorrent.” Bencher Joe Arvay opposed what he said was a “metaphorical” sign on the law school which says, “‘No LGBT students, faculty or staff are welcome.’”[iii]  However, another bencher, Lynal Doerksen rightly pointed out that to refuse accreditation “on the basis their exercise of their belief in a traditional marriage is not in the public interest is, in my view, a very shaky legal foundation which will not stand up in court.”[iv]

What was convincing to the benchers was the fact that the Supreme Court of Canada’s (SCC) decision in 2001 involving TWU’s application to the British Columbia College of Teachers (BCCT) for accreditation of its education program still remained the law.

In the 2001 case the BCCT refuse to accredit TWU’s teacher training program [v] because TWU required students to sign on to a “Community Standards” that forbade “practices that are biblically condemned,” including (but not limited to) sexual intimacy outside the relationship of one man and one woman committed in marriage.

The SCC decided (8-1) that the BCCT could not simply consider equality rights without regard to religious freedom. “British Columbia’s human rights legislation accommodates religious freedoms,” said the SCC, “by allowing religious institutions to discriminate in their admissions policies on the basis of religion.” [vi]  The SCC concluded that BCCT’s denying TWU accreditation because of a fear that the Community Standards requirement would lead to TWU graduates discriminating against the LGBT community was unfounded. There was no evidence to support such a view. Further, the SCC rightly opined that “it is difficult to see how the same logic would not result in the denial of accreditation to members of a particular church. The diversity of Canadian society is partly reflected in the multiple religious organizations that mark the societal landscape and this diversity of views should be respected.”[vii]

Despite the recent opposition by virtually all of the law faculties and law deans across Canada – the BC Law Society felt it was compelled to abide by the law.  That is as it should be.  To have gone against TWU would have been to ignore the 2001 ruling of the SCC.

I am reminded of a conversation in Robert Bolt’s play A Man For All Seasons between Sir Thomas Moore and his son-in-law about giving the Devil the benefit of the law:

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

More’s point was that even though he did not agree with his opponent he would give his opponent the benefit of the law.  That appears to have been what was going on with the BC Law Society.  They did not agree with TWU but, thankfully, they supported the rule of law.

We now await word from the Nova Scotia Barrister’s Society, The Law Society of Upper Canada, and The Law Society of New Brunswick.



[iii] http://www.news1130.com/2014/04/11/law-society-of-bc-moves-to-reject-faculty-of-law-at-trinity-western-university/comment-page-1/#comments

[iv] http://www.news1130.com/2014/04/11/law-society-of-bc-moves-to-reject-faculty-of-law-at-trinity-western-university/comment-page-1/#comments

[v] Trinity Western University v. British Columbia College of Teachers 2001 SCC 31.

[vi] Trinity Western University v. British Columbia College of Teachers, para 28.

[vii] Trinity Western University v. British Columbia College of Teachers, para 33.

Series Navigation<< Will Lawyers In Canada Soon Face A Religious Test? The Hypersensitive Response Over Canada’s First Openly Christian Law SchoolThe Cold Chill of the Legal Profession’s Rejection of Religious Freedom >>

Thoughts on BC Law Society Approves TWU Law School Graduates

  1. Nicholas Miller

    Great piece, Barry. Amazing that the school has to jump through these hoops, but glad it is successful so far, and we pray for the future. We fear you are experiencing our future here in the US.

    Reply
    1. Barry W. BusseyBarry W. Bussey Post author

      Thanks Professor Miller for your kind words. I think it would be of benefit I think for the US to review our experience and determine what is the best course of action to ensure that diversity and equality is respected for all concerned.

      Reply
  2. Hon G. W. Baynton

    I complement you Barry on your articulate and well researched article. What is particularly disturbing about the whole TWU fiasco, is that those who object to its law school seem to forget that Canadians still enjoy freedom of religion and freedom of speech. One can’t exist without the other. Yet some of our legal academics and practitioners seem to ignore these rights and freedoms in their zeal to find discrimination on the part of those with whom they are not like minded.

    One can understand how single interest groups can become vicious in their attempts to get their own way. Too often the news depicts boisterous mobs on some of our university campuses who shout down and harass individuals who have been invited to speak at the university. Sometimes unruly students destroy property and commit assaults in their zeal to silence what the speaker might say. These misguided and uninformed youth fail to understand that in a democratic and civilized nation, none of us can always have our own way. We have to be tolerant and respect the rights of others if we expect to exercise these rights ourselves. Unfortunately, in some instances, instead of addressing the civil disobedience, the university administration has sent the invited speaker packing in order to appease the mob.

    At one time, universities were respected for their objectivity and quest for knowledge. They fostered a healthy environment where differing, and sometimes unpopular, views and ideas were debated. This tolerance of others and their ideas and views, was considered to be an essential aspect of learning that enabled faculty and students to be better equipped to contribute to the physical and social environment of society. Recently the quest for knowledge seems to have been replaced by the quest to silence or penalize anyone with views that differ from that of the mob. Often religious students are publicly belittled and mocked by their secular professors because of their beliefs. Yet seldom, if ever, is such conduct challenged as discriminatory.

    Unfortunately it appears that the Canadian law deans have, to a degree, also become influenced by this kind of contempt for those who hold religious views. Their concerted attack on TWU calls into question their impartiality and objectivity. It appears that they are attempting to stifle and penalize those who have differing views of life than their own. Instead of presenting a scholarly and balanced analysis of the often conflicting rights protected by the Charter, they have focused on one Charter right while ignoring the other. Thankfully the protection of our Charter rights is vested in our courts of law, not in our deans of law. The discrimination they allege on part of TWU and its students may well be exceeded by their own.

    I commend the BCLS for its courage in standing up to partisan bullying and doing the right thing, namely upholding the law, whether or not they agree with the religious views of TWU.

    Hon. G. W. Baynton

    Reply
    1. Barry W. BusseyBarry W. Bussey Post author

      Dear Hon. Baynton, thank-you for your kind words and thoughts. Because we live on the same real estate it is imperative that we come to the place where we accept our differences and allow institutions such as TWU the space to grow and develop. I too am baffled by the position of the law deans and the faculties of law in their refusal to recognize the very clear rulings made by the Supreme Court of Canada concerning the place of religious freedom. The BCLS recognized its duty to uphold the law – it is hoped that the remaining law societies will do the same. Thanks again. Barry

      Reply

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