Trinity-Western University, a private Christian institution
located in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia with
approximately 4,000 students, has received approval from the BC
Ministry of Advanced Education and the Federation of Law Societies
of Canada (the "Federation") to develop a TWU School of
A TWU News Release of December 2013 cites TWU
President Kuhn was "thrilled with this news." The
President's joy is unsurprising in light of the considerable
controversy sparked by TWU's pitch for its new School of Law.
There has been significant backlash from both the legal community
and the greater community-at-large due to TWU's "Community Covenant Agreement", which
requires, among other things, that no faculty, staff, or student
may partake in "sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness
of marriage between a man and a woman". President Kuhn
welcomes all students, gay or straight, provided they are willing
to respect these community values. In response to the
question as to whether a gay couple could be expelled for having
sexual relations, TWU's School of Law FAQs state, "if a
member of the University community can't or won't accept
those standards, we invite them to seek one of many other
living/learning situations that would be more acceptable to
Given the power of the Canadian Charter and the underlying
values of tolerance and equality in the Canadian legal system, many
people are concerned with allowing TWU to develop a law program. In
a nutshell, how can you expect TWU to teach Charter values when
TWU's Covenant picks and chooses its Charter values
according to their fit within TWU's definition of a Christian
environment? Counter-arguments for the School highlight
that Trinity is a private, not public institution, that potential
students are making a choice to go there, and that TWU is capable
of teaching equality of the Charter and its application in Canada,
notwithstanding any personal views of the insitution or its
Although TWU was successful in a similar case respecting teacher
training in the 1990s, many people, including Dalhousie University
Schulich School of Law Professor, Elaine Craig, have been vocal in
the need to re-address the topic. This is due, in part, to the
considerable developments for the queer community over the last 20
years, including the right to marriage equality.
Ms. Craig's article in the Globe and Mail
"Globe Debate" outlines the above considerations, and
states her disappointment with the Federation of Law Societies' preliminary
approval of TWU's School of Law. Ms.
Craig's article is titled "Law societies must show more
courage on Trinity Western application." It appears
certain law societies are taking steps in that direction.
On January 14, 2014, Carsten Jensen, President of the Law
Society of Alberta spoke out against the Federation's
"As President of the Law Society of Alberta, I am concerned
about ensuring our
profession represents the
diversity of the communities that lawyers serve. The
Law Society of Alberta is
aware of likely challenges to the Federation's decision,
and we would welcome a
judicial determination on this question. We would also
welcome the opportunity to
work together with the other law societies in Canada,
through the Federation, to
consider amending the law degree approval criteria to
Working with other law societies may be in the foreseeable
future. On January 24, 2014, the Nova Scotia Barristers'
Society ("NSBS") Council will meet to discuss the
discrimination concerns and the Federation's approval. In a
Memo dated December 20, 2014, President of NSBS J. René
Gallant encourages input from both members of the profession and
the greater public. Please click here for the memo and more information on how
At the time of this blog, I have reviewed the other provincial
and territorial law society websites and have not been able to
locate any other bulletins expressing concern for the
Federation's approval. It remains to be seen whether more
provincial law societies will voice concerns, and whether the
judicial review welcomed by the Law Society of Alberta will become
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