West Coast LEAF reasserts our call to ensure that entrance to BC’s legal profession remains discrimination-free and equally accessible to all, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, or marital status. We were recently granted permission from the Court to intervene in the ongoing case about Trinity Western University’s (“TWU”) proposed law school admission policy, and are now busy preparing for the upcoming hearing.
TWU requires incoming students to sign a Community Covenant, which outlines the University’s values and mores, including a prohibition on sexual expression outside of heterosexual marriage. Additionally, and of great interest to West Coast LEAF, the Covenant restricts the reproductive rights of women, including an expectation that women attending or working at the University will not seek abortion services, a constitutionally protected right for Canadian women. Those who do not comply are subject to disciplinary measures and expulsion from the university. We believe that these discriminatory practices disqualify TWU from operating a law school to train the future lawyers and judges of our province.
After a referendum within BC’s legal profession last year, the Law Society of BC decided not to approve a law school at TWU for the purposes of admission to the practice of law in the province. TWU is now heading to BC Supreme Court to challenge the Law Society’s decision.
As an intervenor, West Coast LEAF submits that the Law Society’s decision to not approve the law school at TWU is consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We will argue that TWU’s Community Covenant violates equality protections because it discriminatorily excludes prospective students and staff:
- on the basis of sexual orientation and marital status because it prohibits all sexual relationships that are not between heterosexual and married persons; and
- on the basis of sex by penalizing female students for exercising autonomy over their own bodies, effectively restricting their reproductive choices.
This case provides an important opportunity to explore how equality rights should be balanced against religious freedom. While TWU is a private educational institution, it is seeking approval to issue law degrees that will be recognized by the public legal system through the Law Society and the Ministry of Advanced Education. In our view, when entering the public realm, TWU must do so in a way that reflects fundamental equality protections.
We hope the Court will uphold the desires of the Law Society’s members, who voted 77% in favor of not approving the proposed law school at TWU. The hearing is set for August.