Law Society Response – Trinity Western University’s Proposed Law School
June 11, 2014
LAW SOCIETY RESPONSE – TRINITY WESTERN UNIVERSITY’S PROPOSED LAW SCHOOL
In December 2013 Trinity Western University (TWU), a private institution in British Columbia, was granted preliminary approval by the Federation of Law Societies’ Canadian Common Law Program Approval Committee (“the Approval Committee”) to establish a law school. As a result, TWU’s program is now subject to regular reviews. If implemented as proposed, the program will meet the National Requirements approved by law societies which all Canadian law schools must comply with by 2015.
Public controversy has arisen from TWU’s requirement that students, faculty and staff sign a broad Community Covenant which, among other things, requires them to refrain from sexual intimacy violating the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman. TWU’s Community Covenant has been publicly denounced as discriminatory. Because this issue involves the competing Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms issues of freedom of religion and equality, legal challenges are underway which ultimately may be determined by the Supreme Court of Canada.
In addition, the Federation of Law Societies is in the process of striking a committee to review all of the National Requirements. This committee’s first priority will be to consider whether a nondiscrimination provision should be added to them.
Given the result of an earlier Supreme Court ruling, TWU formally asked whether the Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador (the “Law Society”) would accept or deny admission to graduates of its law school program.
The Law Society’s Position:
The Community Covenant required by TWU has triggered a public debate on whether or not TWU’s admission requirements are discriminatory and whether the school should have a law program at all. The legal questions regarding discrimination are not simple and will be debated at a national level through the court processes already engaged. A further review of the National Requirements is underway. The Law Society is committed to a national approach on the issue and, like everyone else, awaits guidance from those initiatives. TWU is not expected to produce graduates from a law school program until 2019 at the earliest.
Under the circumstances, on 6 June 2014, Benchers resolved to place the question of whether graduates of a TWU law school will be accepted for admission to the Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador as students-at-law, in abeyance.