On Friday, May 14, Chief Justice Hinkson granted Canadian Council of Christian Charities (CCCC) intervener status in the Trinity Western University (TWU) case against The Law Society of British Columbia (LSBC).
TWU is asking the BC Supreme Court to review the LSBC decision to reverse its original approval of the TWU School of Law. Without the LSBC approval TWU law graduates will not be permitted to practise law in BC. When LSBC first approved the School of Law it was following the lead of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada. However, opposition arose among a number of BC lawyers who disagreed with TWU’s admission requirement that students sign the Community Covenant to live in accordance with the school’s Biblical view of marriage as between one man and one woman.
CCCC will now have the privilege of assisting the BC Supreme Court in understanding the implications of this decision on the larger religious institutional context. We plan to argue that the LSBC decision is a rejection of the diversity of views and opinions in the country. It fails to appreciate the constitutional right of religious communities to decide for themselves their own internal organizational rules. Not everyone, or institution will have the same religious or moral position on such matters as marriage. Nor should we all be forced into one mold. We will argue that we are better off as a country to protect our institutional diversity and accept a plurality of voices and identities within the mosaic of Canadian culture. “Private” religious institutions are equally valuable members of Canadian society as are “public” secular institutions. Only together are they reflective of the face of Canada.
It was heartening to see the BC Court reject the approach of the Ontario Divisional Court last year in the TWU case against the Law Society of Upper Canada. The Divisional Court did not grant CCCC intervener status in that case as noted in a previous blog. That was unfortunate – especially on such an important case as this for the religious sector. Given the BC Court’s different approach than the Ontario Court – I hope that the long term effect of the Divisional Court’s decision will be limited.
In the meantime, we are now finalizing our documents to be filed in the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal. Justice Jamie S. Campbell, of the lower court in Nova Scotia, ruled in favour of TWU but the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society has appealed that decision as they felt it would limit their promotion of “equality.” Evidently their notion of “equality” fails to include religious equality. As Justice Campbell noted, “The discomforting truth is that religions with views that many Canadians find incomprehensible or offensive abound in a liberal and multicultural society. The law protects them and must carve out a place not only where they can exist but flourish.” Great words of wisdom.