After more than 100 submissions chimed in on the controversy around whether the Law Society of Upper Canada should accredit Trinity Western University’s proposed law school, the university is now having its say.
In a 40-page submission to the law society, TWU says there is no real public interest in rejecting its bid to launch a law school with a community covenant that includes a provision on abstaining from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”
The law society’s mandate is to ensure law school graduates will meet its standard of learning, competence, and professional conduct, the submission says, adding there’s no evidence TWU graduates will fail to meet this standard because of the university’s religious beliefs.
“The skill of critical thinking about ethical issues can be taught at TWU regardless of its religious nature. The contrary proposition is extremely offensive to all faith adherents, especially parents and teachers. A contrary conclusion is not tenable as it rests on presumption and assumptions, not evidence.”
The Federation of Law Societies of Canada already considered all the concerns brought by other submissions to the law society and still gave a conditional approval to the law school, says , an associate professor at TWU.
“The federation has already conducted a thorough process and found that it is a sound proposal,” says Epp-Buckingham. “They even established a special committee and obtained legal advice. Four provinces have already accepted the federation’s approval and we think that Ontario should as well.”
TWU and its members are only asking they be afforded the same right to religion that every Canadian is entitled to, the university says in its submission, noting “diversity is not achieved by excluding the one and only private faith-based law school in Canada (among 18 other non-faith-based law schools) because of its religious beliefs.”
According to the submission, the Langley, B.C., university doesn’t wish to impose its beliefs on others who don’t subscribe to them.
“TWU acknowledges that not all people believe in the Bible or the person, works and teachings of Jesus Christ — but as a religious community, TWU, its faculty and staff do,” the submission reads. “TWU (and its graduates) do not seek to impose their own beliefs upon others, but instead to enjoy the constitutionally protected freedom to exercise those beliefs within a religious educational community.”
Denying it accreditation creates a patchwork system where TWU graduates can practise law in one province but not in another, the school added.
Since the law society opened up the debate on TWU, the majority of submissions from lawyers and legal associations have urged the law society not to accredit the the proposed school.
Gilbertson Davis LLP lawyer Lee Akazaki is one of the lawyers who called on the LSUC not accredit the school unless it changes or rescinds the covenant.
“TWU’s community covenant requires, as a condition of admission to the law school, that students collaborate in an overt practice of systemic discrimination,” Akazaki wrote.
For its part, TWU says it’s not even sure what criteria the law society is using to approve or not to approve its law school.
“TWU has never been advised of the grounds and considerations that Convocation considers most relevant to its determination of accreditation. The voluminous submissions from third parties, which may well include references to issues Convocation considers most relevant, also include many irrelevant documents and listed issues.”
Read more in Law Times and Canadian Lawyer 4Students.