The Case for the Federation of Law Societies Rejecting Trinity Western University's Proposed Law Degree Program
Canadian Journal of Women and the Law, Vol. 25, No. 1, 2013
24 Pages Posted: 19 Jan 2013 Last revised: 7 Aug 2013
Date Written: January 17, 2013
Should Canada have a law school that discriminates against gays and lesbians? Would the governing bodies of the legal profession in Canada approve a law school that prohibited mixed race sexual intimacy? Should a self-regulating legal profession require that the policies of the institutions that produce this country's next generation of lawyers respect equality and academic freedom? Trinity Western University (TWU), a private Christian school in British Columbia is posed to become Canada’s first Christian law school. Trinity Western discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation in both its hiring and admissions policies. It has also been found to violate academic freedom.
The purpose of this article is threefold. First, it argues that the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, the national coordinating body for Canada’s fourteen law societies, should not approve programs from institutions with discriminatory policies. Institutions with discriminatory policies that are antithetical to fundamental legal values are not competent providers of legal education. Second, it demonstrates that a law program delivered by TWU would not comply with the Federation’s academic requirements for Canadian law schools. TWU’s violation of academic freedom and its discriminatory policies make it incapable of delivering a law program in compliance with the Federation’s academic requirements on ethics and professionalism. Third, the article explains why a decision not to approve TWU’s application would survive a court challenge by TWU. The legal framework within which a decision of the Federation would be judicially reviewed has changed since the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of Trinity Western in Trinity Western v B.C. College of Teachers. The Federation’s decision would be reviewed on a standard of reasonableness rather than correctness. Based on the Federation’s mission, mandate, and current academic requirements a decision to deny TWU’s application would be upheld as reasonable by the courts. In fact given TWU’s policies it would be unreasonable for the Federation to approve a law degree program from Trinity Western University. TWU should be free to pursue research and education in a manner in keeping with its religious commitments. TWU should not be permitted to impose upon the public a religiously grounded program that is incompetent to deliver a legal education consistent with what the regulators of the law profession in Canada have identified as necessary to protect the public.
Keywords: discrimination, gay, lesbian, human rights, Trinity Western, same sex, religion, Christian law school, private university, Federation of Law Societies, equality, academic freedom, faith statement, American Bar Association, law student admission, legal ethics, duty not to discriminate
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