Manitoba law school calls for action on TWU covenant

The Faculty of Law at the University of Manitoba is requesting Trinity Western University amend its community covenant, and that the Law Society of Manitoba conduct a public consultation regarding accreditation of potential TWU graduates in the province.

TWU’s covenant, which is at the centre of the controversy surrounding the faith-based institution’s proposed law school, requires students, staff and faculty to pledge they will abstain from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and woman.”

U of M’s law faculty denounces that requirement.

“The Faculty of Law acknowledges the history of discrimination in legal education and barriers to the legal profession on grounds such as gender, race, religion, disability, and sexual orientation, and regrets that such discrimination continues to exist in some forms,” reads a motion approved by the council on April 10.

“In this context, Faculty Council respectfully requests that TWU eliminate discriminatory language and content from its community covenant that constitutes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and marital status. It will result in a disproportionate reduction in available law school admissions spaces for groups excluded on the bases of sexual orientation and/or marital status and it gives rise to the possibility that a student could be expelled from the law school on discriminatory grounds.”

The motion has been forward to TWU, the LSM, and the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, which granted the school preliminary approval in December 2013.

Each law society in Canada determines the licensing criteria for lawyers within its own jurisdiction. Some law societies, including the LSM, entrusted the FLSC with the authority to approve undergraduate law degree programs that qualify graduates to enter a bar admission course within their regions.

U of M argues, however, that Manitoba’s law society did not “delegate its overarching mandate to regulate the legal profession in the public interest.”

As a result, it is calling on the LSM to “conduct an open, transparent consultation, consistent with its public interest mandate, Charter values, and the laws of Manitoba to consider whether to accredit the TWU law program for purposes of admission to the practice of law in Manitoba (and relatedly, whether to revoke its delegation to the FLSC).”

The LSM has also received a petition from U of M students and a group of lawyers, totalling approximately 200 people. It urges the LSM to find that accrediting TWU is not in the public interest, according to law society CEO Allan Fineblit.

The LSM will be addressing the issue at its May 22 meeting.

Last Friday, the Law Society of British Columbia approved TWU’s law program. The Law Society of Upper Canada debated the issue the day before and will vote on whether to accredit TWU law grads on Apr. 24. The next day, the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society will vote on the issue, and the Law Society of New Brunswick takes it on Apr. 27.

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