On November 30 and December 1 the Supreme Court of Canada held hearings on the Trinity Western University School of Law Case. Below are the arguments given by CCCC in-house counsel Barry W. Bussey on December 1. While Barry presented the argument it was a collaborative effort with co-counsel Philip Milley and with our CEO John Pellowe You may watch his presentation beginning at minute 42:30:
Canadians take pride in describing their country as a pluralistic and welcoming society. However, the positions of the law societies, we suggest, are anything but. That is not to criticize the law societies, but we are addressing their rationale. The law societies were put in a very difficult position when they were approached by individuals who been offended because, in their view, their identity and dignity was challenged. But pluralism by definition is all about differences and accommodating them. Carving out space for those communities that are in the minority. The law societies are attempting to force those communities with minority views to conform with the majority view. That is not pluralism. Our rights and freedoms are not based on popularity.
The law societies submit that they cannot and in fact are bound not to accredit TWU. This does not follow. Because, the law societies hold the faulty premise that accreditation is tantamount to endorsement. By this logic government cannot authorize any religious entity. This is a great concern to our 3400 members across Canada who all need government authorization. They need government license for corporate registration; and licenses to operate as nursing homes, soup kitchens, educational institutions; and they all need charitable status. To suggest that all religious entities must conform to the current view of what is acceptable by the government, in order to operate, then we are standing on, I would suggest, the abyss of a revolutionary change in how government has operated to this point regarding religious entities in Canada.
Should the logic of the law societies be accepted by the court this decision will become the template for how we will resolve differences that exists because of pluralism. Ultimately, we will drive out all differences and become a homogenous society. There will be no longer a Canadian mosaic. The Canada we long for is one where reasonable people may disagree about what is immoral or moral.
The law society also maintains that when Trinity operates in the public sphere it loses its private religious status and in essence becomes a public actor. The net effect of this position is that Trinity loses Charter protection. Accreditation standards and procedures are not, at their core, a demand that accredited institutions adopt the responsibilities of government. Religious communities are not the arm of government and if they are now to become such we have rejected the whole notion of Pluralism.
Today we are at a crossroads. Will the state impose its secular views and practices upon religious organizations thereby diminishing Pluralism and religious equality – as happened in the Ontario courts? Or, will we have a Pluralistic Canada, a diverse community of opinion and practices on matters of social policy such as marriage – as approved in the BC courts?
Never before, in the history of Canada, have we seen a case where the state was so well-intentioned, well positioned, and articulate in the law, but, nevertheless sought to impose its own understanding of tolerance, in a most intolerant, illiberal and non-Pluralistic manner, upon a religious minority – as in this case. If ever this court needs to jealously protect religious minorities – it is now.