Friday, December 11, 2015

British Columbia Court Requires Law Society Approval of Trinity Western Law School

In Trinity Western University v. Law Society of British Columbia, (BC SC, Dec. 10, 2015), a British Columbia trial court reinstated an April 2014 vote by the Benchers of the Law Society of British Columbia approving graduates of Trinity Western University Law School for entry into the Society's bar admissions program.  In October 2014, the benchers had reversed their earlier approval after a referendum of the full membership disapproved of Trinity Western's required community covenant for students and faculty. The covenant includes a prohibition on sexual intimacy outside of a marriage between a man and a woman. (See prior posting.) The court however concluded that the referendum and subsequent October vote of the Benchers were procedurally flawed:
There is no basis upon which a conclusion could be drawn ... that the LSBC’s membership considered, let alone balanced, the petitioners’ Charter rights against the competing rights of the LGBTQ community....
While the Benchers clearly weighed the competing Charter rights of freedom of religion and equality before voting on the April Motion, the record does not permit such a conclusion to be reached with respect to the Benchers’ vote of October 31, 2014. As the respondent had bound itself to accept the referendum results of its members, I am unable to find that the vote of the LSBC’s members or the impugned decision considered, let alone balanced, the two implicated Charter rights. Further support for this conclusion comes from the fact that opposite results were reached by the Benchers’ votes of April 11 and October 31, 2014, despite the October 31, 2014 vote being conducted without any substantive discussion or debate.
CTV News reports on the decision.