Obiter Dicta Issue 6 - November 17, 2014 - Page 4

NEWS 4  Obiter Dicta OUTlaws call on B.C. government to reverse Trinity Western law degree approval douglas judson › contributor T oday, the le a ders of Canada’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer (“LGBTQ”) law students wrote to the Honourable Amrik Virk, British Columbia’s Minister of Advanced Education, to request that he reverse his Ministry’s approval of Trinity Western University’s (“TWU’s”) law degrees. TWU’s ‘Community Covenant Agreement’ prohibits sexual intimacy outside of heterosexual marriage, which discriminates against LGBTQ individuals. Earlier this year, the OUTlaws wrote to all provincial and territorial law societies, including the Law Society of British Columbia (“LSBC”), outlining their view that accrediting TWU is inconsistent with Canadian law and public policy, the equality rights of LGBTQ individuals under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the obligation of the legal profession to advance the cause of justice and protect the public interest. TWU’s law school has now been denied accreditation by law societies in Nova Scotia and Ontario, and most recently, in British Columbia. The Law Society of New Brunswick may soon follow suit. A July 2014 letter from Minister Virk to TWU indicates that the approval of the TWU degrees is conditional on TWU’s law program securing the accreditation of the LSBC. On October 30, the LSBC held a binding vote of its members to determine this question, where seventy-four per cent of the 8,039 ballots were cast in favour of a resolution stating that TWU is not an approved law faculty for the purpose of the bar admissions requirements in British Columbia. Accordingly, the LSBC benchers rescinded TWU’s accreditation on October 31. Minister Virk had originally hastily approved the TWU degrees in December 2013. His announcement came the day after the Federation of Law Societies of Canada (“FLSC”) recommended that their provincial and territorial members accredit the school. A key finding of the FLSC’s review was the absence of evidence of discrimination by TWU, even though there was no opportunity for anyone to present such evidence. The Minister’s approval of the degree program also ignored an expert panel’s “serious reservations” about the proposed law school’s academic freedom, the breadth of its world view, its ability to teach legal skills, and its course quality. In their message to the Minister, the OUTlaws state, “Although it should never have been necessary to do so, your Ministry can now rely on the numerous regulators, academics, and legal authorities that have consistently rejected TWU’s position on this issue.” The OUTlaws request a reversal of the Minister’s earlier decision that will align with both his statutory mandate under the Degree Authorization Act and his obligation to support the equality rights of LGBTQ individuals. The OUTlaws are a network of affinity groups for LGBTQ and Ally students. There are chapters at fifteen of Canada’s law schools. The groups at Osgoode Hall Law School and the law schools at the University of Toronto, Queen’s University, and the University of Windsor are intervening in TWU’s application for judicial review of Ontario law society’s decision not to accredit TWU’s law program.  u this week only Westlaw Research Trivia Begins Now Want to Win 1 of 20 Prize 6