Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada at SCC for TWU vs LSUC

On 30 November and 1 December LRWC attended at the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) to intervene in the twin appeals of Trinity Western University (TWU) and the Law Societies of BC and Ontario over their refusal to accredit TWU’s proposed law school.

Accreditation was denied because of the discriminatory admission and discipline policies created by TWU’s mandatory Community Covenant. Admission to the proposed law school would be restricted to students willing to be bound by the Covenant, which prohibits sexual intimacy (undefined) other than between a married man and women, requires students to report non-compliance by other students, and empowers disciplinary measures, including expulsion, for breaches.

Before the SCC, TWU claimed to be protected by, but not bound by, the Charter, and therefore not capable of committing Charter breaches. LRWC, intervening in both appeals on the application of international human rights law (IHRL) argued that as public bodies, the Law Societies were required by IHRL to protect and prevent infringement of rights violated by the Covenant, namely:

  • to equality and non-discrimination;
  • to privacy and family life;
  • to hold and practice a belief contrary to the Covenant;
  • to be free from coercion that would impair holding a belief of choice; and
  • to equal access to education and particularly to education required for admission to the legal profession.

LRWC’s factum noted that while rights to equality and non-discrimination, freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, and freedom from coercion are non-derogable, IHRL requires restrictions of the manifestation of religious beliefs when restrictions are necessary to protect the fundamental rights of others. LRWC’s Factum cited IHRL acceptance of a pressing social need to give special attention to historically disadvantaged members of the LBGTQ communities when considering the necessity of restrictions.

While this case ultimately included 27 interveners, LRWC was one of only 9 interveners granted leave by the initial Order of Justice Wagner, who specifically thanked LRWC for our factum. The LRWC pro bono team included:

  • Gail Davidson and Lois Leslie (Factum research and writing);
  • Gavin Magrath, Michael Mulligan, Peggy Stanier (Factum editing and input);
  • Carolyn McCool, Ed Levy, David F. Sutherland, Omar Ha-Redeye, Audrey
    Boissonneault (submissions review and support); and
  • Joey Doyle (IHRL research assistant).
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