BC lawyers tell law society to rethink its approval of TWU law school

BC lawyers tell law society to rethink its approval of TWU law school

Nearly a thousand B.C. lawyers supported Trinity Western University’s bid to create a law school.

But more than 3,000 opposed the Langley university’s proposal, directing the Benchers of the Law Society of BC to reverse its earlier approval.

A special general meeting of the LSBC had been forced by a petition of lawyers dissatisfied with their association’s 20-7 decision on April 11 to approve the TWU law school.

A vote of members, held through the meeting, ended 3,210 to 986 against TWU.

TWU President Bob Kuhn spoke to the meeting, expressing his concern with the lawyers’ resolution to remove the LSBC’s approval of his university’s law school plans.

“Difficult decisions involving fundamental rights and freedoms should not be decided by popular opinion,” he said. “In April, the LSBC Benchers made their decision… after the thoughtful and measured expression of views and careful consideration of reports and submissions, and the judgment of the Supreme Court of Canada in Trinity Western University v. British Columbia College of Teachers 2001 SCC 31.”

He said that the “thorough process taken by the LSBC should not be undermined by a vocal group that organizes a special general meeting.”

The meeting was forced through a challenge by a Victoria lawyer, who gathered the support necessary to raise the vote to all members of the society.

The primary issue has been TWU’s code of conduct, a covenant that students of the university must sign, which includes strict rules with serious implications for gay persons.

Specifically, it requires abstention from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”

Kuhn noted that the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 2001 to allow TWU education graduates to teach in public schools, despite the covenant.

He maintained that there is no evidence to suggest that the religious beliefs of TWU-educated lawyers would affect the ability of those lawyers to serve all clients.

“In a free and democratic society, the faith of TWU graduates cannot preclude them from practicing law,” said Kuhn. “A just society protects the rights of religious minorities.”

Canadian law regarding homosexual relationships has changed markedly since the education ruling, and many lawyers expressed concern about the TWU covenant precluding the school’s ability to effectively train lawyers.

If the LSBC Benchers reverse their position, B.C. will become the third province, after Ontario and Nova Scotia, to prevent any TWU law school graduates from practising law.

The resolution accepted by the LSBC as a whole is not binding on the Benchers, and does not legally compel them reverse the April decision.

If the resolution has not been implemented within the following year, and the executive director receives another petition signed by at least five per cent of LSBC members, a referendum on the resolution must then be conducted.

Even that resolution, if passed, would not be absolutely binding on the Benchers.