Elmira, ON – Canadian Council of Christian Charities is pleased that Chief Justice Hinkson, of the British Columbia Supreme Court, ruled in favour of Trinity Western University today. This is the third decision made in the on-going saga of Trinity Western University (TWU) and Canada’s legal profession. TWU is 2 for 1 – having won in BC and Nova Scotia but lost in Ontario. This saga will, no doubt, go to the Supreme Court of Canada.
On October 31, 2014 the Benchers of the Law Society of British Columbia voted to take away TWU’s approval for its proposed School of Law because the majority of lawyers in BC voted in a referendum against TWU.
That is where, according to Chief Justice Hinkson, the Law Society went wrong. Accepting the referendum results without a thorough evaluation of TWU’s Charter rights was an unjust fettering of their responsibility to ensure procedural fairness. “The goal of procedural fairness,” Hinkson noted, “is to ensure that affected parties have the opportunity to present their case to the ultimate decision-maker, with the assurance that the evidence presented will be considered fully and fairly.”
However, the Law Society refused “to allow TWU to present its case to the members of the LSBC on the same footing as the case against it was presented” – that was unfair. Further, Hinkson ruled that “[t]he fact that a democratic process was followed in the October Referendum proceedings does not protect the Decision from scrutiny.” In other words, just because the majority says it’s so – doesn’t make it so.
According to Hinkson, the Benchers did weigh the competing Charter rights of freedom of religion and equality when it made its original decision in April 2014 that approved the school. However, when it voted in October 2014 it “had bound itself to accept the referendum results of its members” without any regard of TWU’s Charter rights. Hinkson, therefore, quashed that decision and ruled the April decision, approving TWU, stands.
Canadian Council of Christian Charities was an intervener in the case and brought before the Court the importance of protecting the religious communal life of Canadian citizens. Constitutional law, statutory law, along with the requisite regulatory regimes, and the common law, have shown a consistent pattern of respecting the sovereignty of religious communities. Despite the increasingly secularistic legal challenges to religion, there yet remains a strong legal basis for respect to prevail.
You can read more about this case on the CCCC Blog – Intersection: A discussion on law and religion.