In my post yesterday about the decision by the BC Supreme Court in the case between the Law Society and Trinity Western University, I gave you the wrong link to the judgement. The 43 page decision can be found here.
The Court did not decide the merits of the case, in which TWU was challenging the Law Society's decision not to accredit graduates of its proposed law school because of TWU's discriminatory covenant requiring students not to have sex unless they are in a heterosexual marriage. The court decided that the Law Society should re-do its decision.
The B.C. Supreme Court today ruled that the Law Society made two mistakes in deciding to reverse its accreditation of TWU.
Remember the story? TWU is a Christian university that requires all of its students to sign a pledge that they won't have sex unless they are in a HETEROSEXUAL marriage - a condition that no queer student can comply with. TWU wanted to set up a law school. They needed approval.
The LSBC initially agreed that graduates from TWU would be admitted to practise law in BC.
The members of the Law Society, ie all the lawyers in the province, requisitioned a vote by ballot of all the lawyers in the province, to reverse the Law Society decision. The vote passed overwhelmingly.
But the Benchers (governors of the Law Society) were unconvinced. Maybe some lawyers didn't realize they should have voted???
So this is what they did. The Benchers directed that there be another vote, this time at by ballot. And they agreed, in advance, to be bound by the result of that vote.
Mike Mulligan, the lawyer who initiated the protest of the Law Society's accreditation, and I, were both concerned that in agreeing in advance to follow the results of the vote of lawyers, the Benchers were "fettering their discretion". That's a legal term that means you can't decide now, what you will decide later. Any board of directors is always empowered to make a decision different than they made at the last meeting and you can't bind a board in advance. I advised the Benchers of our concern.
The meeting was the largest meeting in Law Society history. A link to my motion to adopt the resolution to reverse the decision to accredit TWU is here. For a second time, the lawyers voted overwhelmingly to overturn the Benchers' decision to accredit TWU.
Following its own motion, the Benchers reversed their decision.
Today, the Supreme Court of BC said that the Benchers made two mistakes in their procedure: they improperly fettered their discretion; and they failed to balance the Charter-protected freedom of religion and the Charter-protected right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
The court did NOT decide that TWU was right, or that the Law Society should approve the law school. Rather the Law Scoiety has to consider the issue again...this time, following proper procedures.
The decision was in our view the right one; and is supported by the profession. It is the Benchers who need to get their procedures in order.
A link to the full decision is here.
Finally! BC Corrections has changed its policy on transgender prsoners to comply with human rights law.
Thanks to the persistent work of Prisoners' Legal Services, the new policy requires:
- placement according to gender, unless there are overriding health or safety concerns that cannot be resolved;
- transgender prisoners to be given the opportunity to choose the gender of officers performing frisk or strip searches;
- transgender prisoners to retain personal items necessary to express their gender and to be provided preferred institutional clothing;
- transgender prisoners to be integrated into the general population, rather than in solitary confinement, unless there are proven overriding health and safety concerns which cannot be resolved;
- transgender prisoners to be given private shower and toilet facilities;
- transgender prisoners to be addressed by their preferred names and gender pronouns verbally and in written documents; and
- training and education for staff on gender identity and expression.
The policy also prohibits double bunking if a trans prisoner is ever housed according to their assigned birth sex.
Prisoners' Legal Services believes the policy may be the best example of any jurisdiction in Canada and the world for the accommodation of trans prisoners.
Thanks to Jen Metcalfe, Executive Director of Prisoners' Legal Services, for all the work, and for this information!