Law students oppose TWU law school bid

Law students across the country are speaking out against Trinity Western University’s application for a law school.

Students are not happy with the private Christian university’s covenant, which requires students to abstain from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”

“It’s very clear in this policy that LGBTQ individuals are not welcome at Trinity Western University,” says Douglas Judson, a second-year JD/MBA student and co-chairman of the Osgoode OUTlaws.

“The policy directly targets LGBTQ individuals and we think that the type of environment that creates for legal study is not necessarily suitable for inspiring young lawyers,” he tells Legal Feeds.

Student groups from various law schools — including Osgoode Hall Law School, University of Victoria, University of Saskatchewan, Dalhousie University, University of Alberta, University of British Columbia, University of Ottawa, and Université du Québec à Montréal — wrote letters to the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, asking the federation to consider their concerns when deciding TWU’s fate.

Judson says law schools should propagate the values of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Canadian legal values.

“There has to be an added duty on a law school to reflect the spirit of the law and give the law itself a fair hearing in the classroom. We don’t see how [TWU] could do that when their policies inherently discriminate at risk of expulsion,” he says.

“How do you have open discussions about contemporary issues? How does a student become fluent in dealing with clients from various walks of life with various personal legal problems?”

Students aren’t the only ones speaking out against TWU’s application.

The Canadian Bar Association also weighed in on the issue earlier this week in a letter to the FLSC. "In our view, the federation and the committee charged with approving new Canadian law degree programs must strike a balance between freedom of religion and equality, and give full consideration to its public interest mandate and to the values embodied in Canadian human rights laws," wrote CBA president Robert Brun.

"Based on the delegations of power from its constituent law societies, the federation has a duty to go beyond a strict determination of a proposed law school’s compliance with the national standards. It must assess whether the institution and its program complies with Canadian law, including the protections afforded by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the human rights legislation in B.C., and in every province and territory where a proposed law degree may be recognized by the law societies for admission to bar."

At the bi-annual meeting of the Canadian Council of Law Deans on Nov. 9, there was also quite a buzz about this very issue. The CCLD expressed its concerns in a letter to the FLSC shortly after.

“As law schools we’re committed to non-discrimination and equal treatment of our students, and we certainly would not purport to discipline students who engage in extra-marital activities or same-sex activities,” Bill Flanagan, Queen’s University law dean and CCLD president, told 4Students.

In response, the FLSC wrote: “The national requirement, approved by law societies, does not contemplate or authorize an inquiry into the admission philosophy of a law school program, either existing or new, or an investigation into whether the admission policies of an educational institution are consistent with federal or provincial law.”

Trinity Western was previously challenged on this issue when it tried to establish its teachers’ college. The British Columbia College of Teachers refused to accredit the program because the school’s standards “embodied discrimination against homosexuals.” That dispute went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled the BCCT was required to approve the program.

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