West Coast LEAF is pleased to report that BC lawyers voted overwhelmingly in favour of a motion directing the Benchers of the Law Society of BC to declare that Trinity Western University is not an approved faculty of law, with 77% voting in favour. In addition to prohibiting sexual intimacy outside of marriage between a man and a woman, TWU indicates an expectation that female students and staff will not seek abortion services while attending or working at TWU. We believe that TWU’s discriminatory practices disqualify it from operating a law school.
TWU requires students and faculty to sign a covenant with the University which prohibits sexual expression outside of marriage between a man and a woman. TWU also restricts the reproductive rights of its community members. Students and faculty who do not comply with these requirements may be expelled, or otherwise sanctioned. Despite its discriminatory policies, in April the BC Benchers approved TWU as an accredited law school. Yesterday’s vote by members of BC’s Law Society directs the Benchers to reverse that vote, bringing BC into line with Law Societies in Ontario and Nova Scotia, which have also rejected TWU’s accreditation in their provinces.
Freedom of religion protects a person’s right to hold whatever tenets of their faith they wish, including the belief that homosexuality and abortion are sins. However, it does not protect a person’s right to create a law school that excludes and punishes students on that basis. Women’s rights to make their own choices with respect to abortion and contraception are fundamental to our equality, autonomy, dignity, and security. Women should not have to give up the rights to control their own bodies and make their own reproductive choices in order to access a place in a law school.
The Covenant discriminates on the basis of sex, sexual orientation and gender identity. A Canadian law school tasked with educating future lawyers cannot be permitted to exercise policies that contravene Canadian law. Yesterday’s vote was an affirmation of equality, a fundamental value underpinning Canadian law.
The Law Society has one year to comply with the results of the vote. If they do not, the Law Society Rules state that a referendum may be called.