Offering protection from discrimination is one of the law’s most important functions. So how can a law school justify admissions and hiring policies that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, marital status, and gender?
West Coast LEAF has just been granted leave to intervene in the high-profile Trinity Western University (TWU) case at the Supreme Court of Canada, where we will argue that such discrimination is unacceptable and unconstitutional.
We believe that the institutions that train our public legal system’s future lawyers and judges must respect the equality rights enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That’s why we’ve been involved at every stage of the case about the proposed law school at TWU, an evangelical Christian institution that requires its students and employees to sign a Community Covenant prohibiting abortion and sex outside of heterosexual marriage.
We defended equality rights in legal education at the BC Supreme Court in 2015 and at the BC Court of Appeal in 2016. And now we are preparing to travel to Ottawa for the final phase of the battle at Canada’s highest court.
The stakes are high: the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision will determine whether TWU can open a law school despite requiring all staff, faculty, and students to sign the discriminatory Community Covenant. Those who violate the terms of the Covenant may face consequences, including expulsion from the university.
West Coast LEAF maintains that the Law Society of BC was justified in denying accreditation to TWU’s proposed law school and is bound by the Charter not to approve a law school that discriminates on the basis of sex, marital status, and sexual orientation.
West Coast LEAF is the only intervener advancing an argument about discrimination on the basis of sex: we argue that TWU’s Covenant infringes on women’s constitutionally protected reproductive freedom.
The Law Society’s appeal of the decision at the BC Court of Appeal will be heard jointly with an appeal brought by TWU against the Law Society of Upper Canada’s decision not to grant TWU accreditation in Ontario.
We look forward to speaking out at our nation’s highest court for equal access to legal education for people of all genders, sexual orientations, and marital statuses.