B.C. law society pulls backing for TWU

The Law Society of B.C. is overturning its vote on accepting Trinity Western University Law School graduates after a member referendum.

The society is following the mandate from the member referendum initiated by Victoria lawyer Michael Mulligan.

Earlier this year the B.C. society debated whether to accredit TWU’s law school which then means its grads can work in this province. Without it, grads have to take other measures.

The benchers of the law society (the group that governs the professional organization for lawyers in this province) voted 25 to one to overturn its previous approval. Another four benchers abstained from the vote.

It’s the latest blow for the law school which is slated to open September 2016 at the private Christian university. TWU requires students and staff to sign a Community Covenant that says they will abstain from sex outside of marriage which is defined as between a man and woman.

The issue has sparked debate and controversy across the country as people debate whether TWU’s law school can turn out grads who can represent all Canadians.

TWU spokesperson Guy Saffold said the university is disappointed with this outcome.

“Trinity Western is open and welcoming to all, and places a high importance on respect and care for everyone in our community,” Saffold said. “In line with our mission and values, TWU’s new law school will focus on developing leaders to serve those who are currently underserved and vulnerable – that means educating lawyers to work in rural communities and the not-for-profit sector.”

“The process for the TWU School of Law is ongoing,” said Saffold. “We will take some time to review our course of action in British Columbia.”

TWU is mounting court challenges against the legal societies of Nova Scotia and Ontario for their decisions not to accredit the school, which means its grads cannot automatically practise law there. Those cases are in court Dec 16-19 for Nova Scotia and in mid January 2015 for Ontario.

The Prairie provinces have approved TWU grads.

The provincial government approved the law school but that issue is not resolved. A petitioner represented by Toronto lawyer Clayton Ruby commenced a lawsuit against the BC Minister of Advanced Education to challenge the province’s December 2013 approval. TWU is a respondent to this litigation, which will be heard Dec. 1-5.

Langley MP Mark Warawa sides with TWU, raising the issue in the House of Commons in May and September.

“An individual’s ability to study and practise law should not be restricted by their faith,” Warawa said in response to the LSBC overturning its approval. “Sadly, the referendum exposes an unconstitutional bias among members of the Law Society. It could have serious implications for the religious freedoms of all Canadians. I remain confident that this decision will be overturned when the matter appears before the Supreme Court of Canada.”

TWU was founded in 1952, and has six professional schools, including business, nursing, education, human kinetics, graduate studies and arts, media and culture. The School of Law will be its seventh.

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