B.C. government revokes approval of Trinity Western University law school

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The B.C. provincial government has revoked the consent it had previously provided for Trinity Western University (TWU) to operate a law degree program.

This comes after the decision on October 31 by the B.C. Law Society’s benchers to reverse its approval of the controversial proposed law school. In effect, TWU’s law school graduates would be unable to practice law in the province.

“Based on the current situation, I have decided to revoke my approval of the proposed law school at Trinity Western University. This means the university cannot enroll any students in its proposed program,” said B.C. Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk in a statement.

“The current uncertainty over the status of the regulatory body approval means prospective graduates may not be able to be called to the bar, or practise law, in British Columbia. This is a significant change to the context in which I made my original decision.”

The benchers’ decision was a response to the Society’s membership’s concerns when 74 per cent of its members voted against the law school in a binding referendum.

TWU’s law school would have been built at the university’s campus in Langley and open in time for the new school year in fall 2016. However, the school has been the subject of much controversy from LGBT rights groups and supporters over a covenant that students and staff must sign.

Among its rules, the covenant requires students, faculty and administrators to refrain from engaging in sexual intimacy that “violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”

“It is difficult to conceive of a justifiable basis for the Minister to have revoked his approval of the school of law program,”said TWU President Bob Kuhn in a statement. “As a private Christian University, Trinity Western has demonstrated its place in Canada’s academic community, delivering some of Canada’s highest ranked professional programs. We believe in diversity and the rights of all Canadians to their beliefs and values.”

“We remain committed to having a School of Law and now have to carefully consider all our options. There are such important rights and freedoms at stake that we may have no choice but to seek protection of them in court.”

Law societies in the provinces of Ontario and Nova Scotia have also voted against allowing TWU’s law graduates from practicing in their jurisdictions.

TWU is challenging these Ontario and Nova Scotia decisions in court on the basis of their Charter right of the freedom of conscience and religion. It is expected that they will do the same for the recent decision made by the Law Society of B.C. and the provincial government.

Meanwhile, law societies in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Nunavut have given the approval needed for TWU graduates to practice law in their jurisdictions.

 

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