[Update, thank you very much to Bev Baines of Queens, who sent along the (public) letters referred to below].
Elaine Craig (Dalhousie) (learn from her here, in a mini lecture on Understanding Sexual Assault Law) has posted The Case for the Federation of Law Societies Rejecting Trinity Western University’s Proposed Law Degree Program (forthcoming CJWL) to SSRN, here:
Should Canada have a law school that discriminates against gays and lesbians? Would the governing bodies of the legal profession in Canada approve a law school that prohibited mixed race sexual intimacy? Should a self-regulating legal profession require that the policies of the institutions that produce this country’s next generation of lawyers respect equality and academic freedom? Trinity Western University (TWU), a private Christian school in British Columbia is posed to become Canada’s first Christian law school. Trinity Western discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation in both its hiring and admissions policies. It has also been found to violate academic freedom.
Brief Background: Canada’s private Christian Universities, Trinity Western (perhaps familiar to you from British Columbia College of Teachers v TWU, 2001 SCC 31, here) has applied to open a law school, as this blog noted here. See here for their announcement about the law school plan.
Last week, the Canadian Council of Law Deans wrote to the Federation of Law Societies of Canada opposing the new school, partly although not solely because the school prohibits students and faculty from engaging in homosexual behaviour, through a policy they ground in religion. [Addition: Here is the letter, excerpt below:
The covenant specifically contemplates that gay, lesbian or bisexual students may be subject to disciplinary measures including expulsion. This is a matter of great concern for all the members of the CCLD. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is unlawful in Canada and fundamentally at odds with the core values of all Canadian law schools.
We would urge the Federation to investigate whether TWU’s covenant is inconsistent with federal or provincial law. We would also urge the Federation to consider this covenant and its intentionally discriminatory impact on gay, lesbian and bi-sexual students when evaluating TWU’s application to establish an approved common law program.
See link to Vancouver Sun story,
since the letter does not appear to be available online). [Also provided via the intervention of Bev Baines, here is the reply from the Federation to the CCLD, excerpt below:
When my colleagues and I met with you in Kingston on November 9, 2012, we indicated that determinations of the Approval Committee would be referred to the law societies for consideration. On verification, we have determined that in fact the Implementation Committee Report makes clear that the mandate of the Approval Committee is to make the final determination on compliance for both existing and proposed law degree programs and to post its final report respecting each such program on the Federation website in accordance with the Implementation Committee Report. I regret any confusion we may have caused on this point.
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. The only reference to admissions policy in the national requirement pertains to the minimum number of years of post-secondary instruction required to be completed prior to entry to law school
TWU have asserted their right to exemption from provincial and federal law for religious reasons. The Law Deans, let it be said, know the law. Their concerns are beyond legality – one cannot just open up a law school here. New law schools need to be approved by the Federation of Canadian Law Societies and the relevant provincial Ministry – more than just legality can go into that decision (see, for instance, this newspaper story about the approval of Lakehead’s new law school).