An undated photo of Trinity Western University in Langley, B.C. The Nova Scotia Barristers' Society decided to not appeal the province's appeal court decision demanding the Society to accredit the evangelical Christian university. Photo/courtesy of Trinity Western University via Facebook

Nova Scotia’s law society not appealing recent TWU ruling

  • August 16, 2016

OTTAWA – The Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society will not seek an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada of a recent court decision that prevents it from barring graduates of a proposed law school at Trinity Western University (TWU) from practising law in the province.

On July 26, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal ruled the Society did not have the jurisdiction to govern law schools outside of the province and therefore it must accredit future students of a proposed Trinity Western law school.

Trinity Western University, a private evangelical Christian university in British Columbia, welcomed the news.

“We’re pleased that the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society is going to honour the court’s decision,” said TWU spokesperson Amy Robertson in an e-mail. “As Justice Campbell affirmed, the freedom to believe in God — or not — and practice accordingly is a vital right not just for faith communities, but all Canadians. This is an important step in maintaining that freedom.”

At issue for the barristers’ society is Trinity Western’s community covenant that students and faculty must sign that includes an agreement to abstain from sexual activity outside of traditional marriage. Many organizations, including the Catholic Civil Rights League and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, have intervened in TWU cases because of the religious freedom implications.

In a news release, the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society said it made the decision after receiving legal advice.

“The society remains deeply committed to equity and diversity in Nova Scotia’s legal profession,” said President R. Daren Baxter. “These issues are clearly important to members of the profession and the public across the province. The society will continue making it a priority to advance equality and diversity issues in the practice of law.”

Trinity Western University is awaiting two more court decisions regarding whether its future law students will be received at the bar of the Law Society of Upper Canada and the Law Society of British Columbia.

In British Columbia, TWU and the B.C. Society await an appeal court decision. In Ontario, Trinity Western lost at both the divisional and the appeal court levels. On June 19, the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld the lower court’s decision that ruled the Ontario legislation on government law societies gave the Ontario law society jurisdiction to not accredit Trinity Western’s graduates based on its community covenant.

TWU has sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court in the Ontario case. If it is successful, it will not be the first time the university has gone to Canada’s highest court to defend its religious freedom to organize itself as an evangelical Christian university. The school faced opposition from the B.C. Teachers’ Federation when it set up a teachers’ college, but in 2001, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of TWU, noting the beliefs associated with the community covenant were not proof of future discriminatory conduct.

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