More than 120 lawyers are calling on the Law Society of New Brunswick to reverse its decision to accredit British Columbia’s Trinity Western University’s new law school.
The university plans to open a law school in 2016, but has faced criticism over a community covenant it requires students to sign that forbids sex, unless within a marriage between a man and a woman.
Carley Parish, a criminal defence lawyer and partner at Lutz Longstaff Parish in Hampton, started a petition after the province’s law society voted last month to recognize the Christian school’s proposed law school.
“To me this flies in the face of what it means to be a lawyer,” Parish said.
"If we don’t take a stance, then things like this are just going to stand."
"The covenant is a step backwards, it’s discrimination," Parish added.
In a vote of 14-5, the law society’s board decided to accredit the school, which means Trinity Western graduates would be able to practise law in New Brunswick.
The vote doesn’t reflect the balanced input of lawyers across the province, according to Parish.
The Law Society of New Brunswick says it recognizes both freedom of religion and the right to sexual orientation.
‘Asleep at the switch’
Four former New Brunswick justice ministers have signed the petition, including Michael Murphy.
Several members of New Brunswick’s legal community were unaware the law society’s vote was taking place, according to Murphy.
"I think the law society members across the province, including myself, were asleep at the switch," Murphy said.
"If we had been more responsible, we would have been at that meeting and this thing wouldn’t have gone through."
Murphy said he believes the petition will be effective and the law society’s decision will ultimately be reversed.
He said the law society’s decision doesn’t represent Canadian values.
“If we have stood up for fairness and equality and tolerance, than how do we turn a blind eye to what will clearly be an infringement of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” Murphy said.
In British Columbia, thousands of lawyers have voted to reverse the B.C. law society’s decision to accredit Trinity Western University.
The Law Society of Upper Canada in Ontario voted against approving the law school in April, meanwhile law societies in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador and Nunavut have decided to accept Trinity Western's graduates.