The British Columbia Court of Appeal ruled on Tuesday that the Law Society of British Columbia made mistakes in deciding to reverse the accreditation of Trinity Western University’s proposed law school, because the Law Society failed to balance competing Charter Rights.
Trinity Western University is a religious university which requires its students, faculty and staff to sign a covenant refraining from sex except in a heterosexual marriage. The Court of Appeal found that it was indisputable that the vast majority of LGBTQ law students could not sign the covenant.
The Law Society had initially approved accreditation of TWU. After an outcry from the profession at the largest meeting of lawyers in BC history and a ballot vote, both of which overwhelmingly disapproved of TWU’s accreditation, the Benchers (governors) of the Law Society reversed their accreditation decision.
The Court of Appeal said that the Benchers’ decision was legally flawed because the Benchers failed to conduct their own analysis of Charter values before deciding to reverse the TWU accreditation.
In ruling in favour of TWU, the Court said that the Law Society should have concluded that the religious rights of TWU and its community were impaired more than the rights of prospective queer students, staff and faculty to be free from discrimination .
As the Ontario Court of Appeal has upheld the Law Society decision to refuse approval for the proposed TWU law school in that province, it is likely that the Supreme Court of Canada will eventually consider this case.