Trinity Western University appeal appears headed for Supreme Court
Evangelical Christian law school has gone to court in 3 provinces to get accreditation
The case of a British Columbia university that wants to open a law school based on evangelical Christian values appears almost certain to end up before the Supreme Court of Canada.
On Wednesday, the Ontario Court of Appeal rejected an appeal by Trinity Western University, based in Langley, B.C.
The university and one of its students were trying to overturn a decision by the Law Society of Upper Canada, which is refusing to accredit students from a law school Trinity Western plans to establish.
The university's students and staff must sign a community covenant as a condition of being at the school. That covenant includes a promise to abstain from sexual activity unless it is between a husband and wife.
Law societies and others have argued that the covenant discriminates against members of the LGBT community. The university argues it should be free to enforce its covenant under charter guarantees of religious freedom.
The courts have been trying to find the proper balance between these competing rights and freedoms. Shortly after the Ontario court released its ruling against the school, the university announced it's seeking leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Accredited in some provinces
Prior to opening its school, the university approached law societies across the country to ensure its graduates would be able to practise law in all provinces. Five law societies — Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island — have all granted accreditation to the law school. The society in Newfoundland and Labrador has yet to decide its position on the question.
But the law societies in Ontario, B.C. and Nova Scotia have refused accreditation. The university has gone to court in each province to challenge these decisions.
In Nova Scotia, the university won at the provincial Supreme Court level. The Nova Scotia Barristers' Society appealed that decision to the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal. The appeal was heard in April, and the court has yet to release a ruling.
A B.C. court also overturned the decision by that province's law society. That decision was taken to the province's appeal court earlier this month.
Justice James C. MacPherson sat on the three-member panel of the Ontario Court of Appeal. He wrote in the decision that the school's community covenant is "deeply discriminatory to the LGBTQ community, and it hurts."
In a statement issued shortly after the court decision was released, a Trinity Western spokesperson said it was "a loss for all Canadians."
"Freedom of conscience and religion is the first of the fundamental freedoms mentioned in the charter," Amy Robertson said in a statement.
"It is deeply compromised by this decision, and everyone in Canada, religious or not, should be concerned."