Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Nova Scotia Appeals Court Overturns Refusal To Recognize Christian Law School's Graduates

In Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society v. Trinity Western University, (NS Ct., App., July 26, 2016), the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal, without reaching religious liberty claims, held that the Nova Scotia Barristers' Society exceeded its authority in adopting a regulation that effectively barred graduates of a Christian law school based in British Columbia from being admitted to the bar in Nova Scotia by refusing to allow them to article there.  At issue was Trinity Western University's "community covenant" that requires students and faculty to abide by various Biblical teachings, including a ban on sexual intimacy outside of heterosexual marriage.  The Barristers' Society passed a resolution refusing to recognize Trinity Western's degrees because the community covenant is discriminatory.  The Society subsequently amended its regulations to allow non-recognition of law schools that unlawfully discriminate on grounds prohibited by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act. The court said:
It is inconceivable that the Legislature, without expressing a supportive word in either the Legal Profession Act or the Human Rights Act, intended that the Society’s Council could assert for itself an autonomous jurisdiction concurrent with that of a human rights board of inquiry.
The court went on to conclude that even if the Society's regulation had been properly adopted, Trinity Western did not violate Nova Scotia's Human Rights Act since all its activities occurred in British Columbia, and Trinity Western is not subject to the Charter of Rights because it is a private university. ADF issued a press release announcing the decision, and The Globe and Mail reports on it.