Friday, June 15, 2018

Canada's Supreme Court: Provinces Can Refuse Law School Accreditation Over LGBTQ Rights

In a pair of decisions today, the Supreme Court of Canada held that the bodies controlling the legal profession in British Columbia and Ontario can, without violating Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, refuse to accredit Trinity Western University's proposed new law school.  At issue in Law Society of British Columbia v. Trinity Western University and in Trinity Western University v. Law Society of Upper Canada, (Sup. Ct. Canada, June 15, 2018), is the requirement by Trinity Western, an evangelical Christian university, that its students and faculty abide by a religiously-based code of conduct.  The so-called Community Covenant Agreement prohibits "sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman."  In 7-2 decisions, the court concluded that the decision to refuse accreditation significantly advances the objective of maintaining equal access to and diversity in the legal profession and prevents the risk of significant harm to LGBTQ people.  In British Columbia decision, the court added:
The public confidence in the administration of justice could be undermined by the LSBC’s decision to approve a law school that forces some to deny a crucial component of their identity in the most  private and personal of spaces for three years in order to receive a legal education.
In the Ontario decision, the court said in part:
The LSUC’s decision means that TWU’s community members cannot impose those religious beliefs on fellow law students, since they have an inequitable impact and can cause significant harm. The LSUC chose an interpretation of the public interest which mandates access to law schools based on merit and diversity, rather than exclusionary religious practices.
CBC News reports on the decision.