British Columbia

Trinity Western law school fight heading to Supreme Court of Canada

Canada's highest court will hear appeals from the law societies of B.C. and Ontario, which are seeking to deny accreditation to graduates of a proposed law school at a faith-based university in B.C.

B.C. and Ontario law societies argue TWU's Christian covenant discriminates against LGBTQ community

Students walk past a cross on campus at Trinity Western University in Langley, B.C., on Wednesday, February 22, 2017. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Canada's highest court will hear two appeals concerning a proposed law school at Trinity Western University and the law societies of British Columbia and Ontario, which are both seeking to deny the accreditation of graduates from the faith-based school in Langley, B.C.

The dispute stems from the university's controversial community covenant, which bans sexual intimacy outside of heterosexual marriage. All TWU students must sign the covenant.

A student jogs past the bell tower at Trinity Western University Feb. 22, 2017. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

The law societies argued the covenant discriminates against people in the LGBTQ community who want to enter the legal profession.

Two different rulings

In November of last year, the B.C. Court of Appeal found it was unreasonable for the B.C. Law Society to refuse to recognize Trinity Western law grads, because the negative impact on the school's religious freedoms would be greater than the repercussions on gay and lesbian rights.

The law society sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

But in a separate ruling in June, the Ontario Court of Appeal sided with the Law Society of Upper Canada and slammed the nature of the covenant, calling it discriminatory despite the university's statements it is an open and accepting school.

The university then sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. Both appeals will be heard together, the court announced on Thursday.

Meanwhile in Nova Scotia, the Barristers' Society announced in July it would not appeal a ruling allowing graduates to practise in the province.

Thursday's decision by the Supreme Court of Canada to hear the appeals is the latest development in a lengthy battle that dates to 2014 when the Law Society of B.C.'s board of governors voted to accredit TWU graduates.

That decision was reversed in October 2014 when the society held a referendum in which members voted 74 per cent against it.

With files from the Canadian Press