TRINITY WESTERN UNIVERSITY'S LAW SCHOOL
The case of Trinity Western University’s Law is a matter of religious freedom. I have joined Members of Parliament in advocating on behalf of the University in Canada’s Parliament. Below you will find a timeline of recent events and statements that I and other Members of Parliament have made in the House of Commons.
- Trinity Western University confident following Supreme Court dates
- N.S. barristers' society can't block graduates of Trinity Western: appeal court (Vancouver Sun)
- September 2019: Possible open date.
- November 30 - December 1, 2017: Supreme Court of Canada Hearing.
- August 31, 2017: Chief Justice McLaughlin extends the hearing from one day to two (Nov 30-Dec 1), and increases the allotted amount of interveners in the case.
- February 2017: Supreme Court of Canada agrees to hear appeals from Ontario and BC, with hearing date of November 30, 2017.
- November 2016: B.C. Court of Appeal rules in favour of TWU.
- July 2016: Nova Scotia Court of Appeal rules in favour of TWU; Barristers Society decides not to appeal
- June 2016: Ontario rules against TWU.
- June 2016: Appeals take place in BC (June 1–3) and Ontario (June 6–7).
- April 2016: Appeal takes place in Nova Scotia (April 6–8).
- January 2016: Law Society of B.C. files an appeal of the December 2015 Supreme Court decision.
- December 2015: B.C. Supreme Court rules in favour of TWU.
- June 2015: Ontario Divisional Court rules against Trinity Western. Trinity Western to appeal.
- January 2015: Law Society of New Brunswick votes to approve TWU law graduates, and the Nova Scotia Supreme Court rules in favour of Trinity Western. The Nova Scotia Barristers Society to appeal.
- December 2014: BC Minister of Advanced Education revokes his consent for the TWU School of Law. TWU's challenge of the decision of Nova Scotia Barristers' Society is heard in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia. TWU files legal action against the Law Society of BC.
- October 2014: Law Society of BC reverses its approval of TWU’s School of Law based on a referendum of the Province’s lawyers. New Brunswick lawyers, in a non-binding vote, vote against the School of Law.
- June 2014: Special General Meeting by the Law Society of BC passes a non-binding resolution to reverse the initial approval.
- March-April 2014: Individual law societies review the FLSC approval. The School of Law is approved by the Law Societies of BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Yukon, but rejected by the Law Society of Upper Canada and the Nova Scotia Barristers' Society.
- January 2014: President Kuhn releases a celebratory letter, as all the major hurdles for accreditation have been met; the Deans of Canadian law schools, the Canadian Bar Association, and others, state their opposition to the School of Law.
- December 2013: FLSC and the BC Minister of Advanced Education decide in favour of the School of Law.
- June 2012: TWU submits the School of Law proposal to BC’s Minister of Advanced Education for consent to offer a Juris Doctor degree, and to the Federation of Law Societies of Canada (FLSC) for accreditation of the program.
Members of Parliament deliver statements in the House of Commons on the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia’s ruling on TWU’s Law School
Mr. Speaker, Canadians are shocked to find out that an organization is attempting to deny Canada's brightest students the right to work in Canada because of their religious views.
The Bank of Montreal has been discriminating against Trinity Western University students. BMO has aggressively opposed TWU law school graduates from practising law in Canada. This is one of Canada's largest banks. Why is it attacking religious freedoms?
Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms confirms and protects our religious freedoms. Both the Supreme Court of Canada and the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia have upheld these democratic rights. The Supreme Court has said that our religious freedoms should be permitted to exist and should be encouraged to thrive.
Canadians want their rights and freedoms to be taken seriously. They do not want a big national bank to bully a small private university. Canadians want their banks to focus on what they are there for, to focus on the economy and to provide financial assistance to Canadians.
We call on the Bank of Montreal to reverse its discriminatory position and respect the religious freedoms of all Canadians.
MP Leon Benoit
Date: February 27, 2015
Mr. Speaker, our right to freedom of religion was recently questioned by law societies and national banks across the country.
Once again, law students at Trinity Western University were under threat of being barred from practising in Canada simply because of their religion. Let me be clear. Because they believe in God, they were being told that they had no right to be lawyers in our country.
Clearly, neither law societies nor the Bank of Montreal have any right to deny Canadians the right to practise law because of their religious views. Thank God, Trinity Western has defeated this most recent discriminatory attack.
It is unacceptable that organizations such as the Bank of Montreal and members of the law societies have attempted to undermine this most fundamental of rights.
Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms confirms and protects our religious freedoms in our country, and that includes the religious freedoms of Christians.
MP James Lunney
Date: February 27, 2015
Mr. Speaker, many Canadians are shocked that law societies across the country voted to discriminate against Trinity Western University law graduates.
Compounding the alarm is the revelation that it is big banks and big money interests, led by the Bank of Montreal, that influenced the law societies. BMO and other large banks and corporations have been requiring legal and financial service contractors to reveal the diversity metrics of their associates, partners and management teams. The initiative branded “Legal Leaders for Diversity” is apparently opposed to religious diversity.
Asking a perspective employee about their sexual preferences would be against the law. Denying economic opportunity to any individual or any law firm based upon religious belief is just as surely a charter violation. The Supreme Court of Canada, and now the Nova Scotia Supreme Court, ruled against such religious discrimination.
Canadians expect our banks and our leading corporations to respect the charter rights and freedoms of all Canadians. We call upon the BMO and its recruits from corporate Canada to reverse this misguided initiative.
MP Kelly Block
Date: February 20, 2015
Mr. Speaker, Freedom of religion is a value that Canadians hold dear.
Sadly, there are some people, businesses and even law societies that are opposing this value.
Citing Trinity Western University’s student code of conduct, they say that either Trinity should not be allowed to have law school or that Trinity graduates should not be allowed to practice law.
Mr. Speaker, the Supreme Court of Canada has already ruled that Trinity’s student code of conduct does not constitute discrimination.
Thankfully, a ruling by the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia has brought some common sense to this most recent debate.
Last month, Justice Jamie Campbell dismissed a decision by the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society to deny future Trinity law school graduates the right to practice law.
Mr. Speaker, I call on all opponents of Trinity Western University’s future law school to withdraw their opposition and support the important Canadian value of freedom of religion.
Thank you Mr. Speaker.
Warawa comments on Law Society of BC's decision to deny accreditation to Trinity Western University's Law School
Date: October 31, 2014
Langley, BC – Today Langley MP Mark Warawa made a statement regarding the Law Society of British Columbia’s decision not to accredit Trinity Western University’s law school. The decision concluded today as the society’s benchers voted to abide by a referendum among the society’s members.
“I am deeply disappointed by the decision of the Law Society of BC to deny accreditation to Trinity Western University’s law school.”
“An individual’s ability to study and practice law should not be restricted by their faith.”
“Sadly, the referendum exposes an unconstitutional bias among members of the Law Society. It could have serious implications for the religious freedoms of all Canadians.”
“I remain confident that this decision will be overturned when the matter appears before the Supreme Court of Canada.”
MP Mark Warawa has raised this issue twice in the House of Commons: once on May 29, 2014, and again on September 22, 2014. He has called on the Law Society of BC to consider the gravity of their decision in light of protecting the religious freedoms of all Canadians, including an opinion editorial that appeared earlier this month in The Province. On this matter, MP Warawa has been joined by a number of Members of Parliament, representing constituencies across the country. To view these statements, or for more information, please go to markwarawa.com.
Fundamental Freedoms cannot be determined by a poll: Trinity Western University law school accreditation should be subject to the law, not a referendum
As a legislator and the Member of Parliament for Langley, I have watched with great concern as Canadian rights and freedoms are at the centre of a debate between Trinity Western University (TWU) and the Law Society of BC as TWU seeks to establish a private, faith-based law school.Some members of the Law Society have expressed disagreement with TWU’s Community Covenant, which asks students, staff, and faculty to practice abstinence if single and to respect the traditional definition of marriage. The voluntary Covenant does not forbid graduates from fulfilling the obligations and oaths of their chosen professions. It simply affirms the religiousbeliefs that TWU was founded upon.
In 2001, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that TWU’s Community Covenant balances the rights and freedoms of equality, belief, and religion. Religious organizations have the Charterright to have a statement of faith. This was recently affirmed by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, and reaffirmed by the Law Society of British Columbia in April 2014 when the Benchers voted to grant accreditation to TWU’s law school.
In June 2014, at a special general meeting, less than a third of the membership of the Law Society of BC voted to deny accreditation to TWU’s law school. Then, on September 26, 2014,they decided to hold a binding referendum among the Society’s members by October 30, 2014.By doing so, I believe that the Law Society has made a serious mistake that could cast a shroud of doubt over the entire legal profession.
The Government’s role is to create laws which balance all rights to maximize the freedoms of all Canadians. The Supreme Court of Canada’s role is to decide legal issues of public importance, thereby contributing to the development of all branches of law applicable within Canada. The independence of the Court, the quality of its work and its esteem contribute significantly as foundations for a secure, strong and democratic country like Canada that is founded on the Rule of Law. Its decisions are the ultimate expression and application of Canadian law and binding upon all lower courts of Canada. The role of Canadian lawyers is to “uphold the law and the rights and freedoms of all persons” and to never “pervert the law to favour or prejudice anyone”.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects and enshrines the rights and freedoms of
all Canadians in law:
“The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: (a) freedom of conscience and religion; (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication; (c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and(d) freedom of association.”
Every time legislation is introduced in Canada, it must be in line with the Charter. If it is not, amendments are required to ensure that the rights and freedoms of all Canadians are upheld. This question was considered in 2005 regarding the Civil Marriage Act, which recognizes ourfreedoms when it states: "It is not against the public interest to hold and publicly express diverse views on marriage" (preamble, s.3.1). It further outlines that, "No person or organization shall be deprived of any benefit, or be subject to any obligation or sanction... by reason of their exercise... of the freedom of conscience and religion... or expression of their beliefs in respect of marriage as the union of a man and woman to the exclusion of all others based on that guaranteed freedom" (s.3.1).
If the Law Society of BC proceeds to conduct a binding referendum that attempts to deny accreditation to TWU’s law school, prior to the Supreme Court making a decision on TWU vs the Law Society of Upper Canada, I believe they would be trying to rewrite Canadian law by using an opinion poll based on their beliefs and biases. I refer them again to the Barrister’s and Solicitor’s Oath that they took when they became lawyers which states, “uphold the law and the rights and freedoms of all persons” and to never “pervert the law to favour or prejudice anyone.”The attempt of Law Societies’ to discriminate against some of Canada’s brightest and talented future lawyers would prohibit them from practicing law in Canada, simply because of their Christian faith. This is a dangerous attack on our religious freedoms in Canada, and needs to be condemned. Who might be the next victims of intolerance…teachers, doctors, politicians, clergy, parents, you, me?
The Supreme Court will make the final ruling on whether to accredit TWU’s law school. Let us hope that earlier wisdom prevails when BC lawyers participate in their referendum. Let us hope that lawyers fulfill their oath to protect our rights and freedoms, not attack them. The integrity and credibility of the legal profession in British Columbia hangs in the balance.
By Mark Warawa, Member of Parliament for Langley.
Warawa Delivers a Statement in the House of Commons on Trinity Western University’s Law School
Ottawa, ON - Mr. Speaker, should a religious community be able to have a voluntary statement of faith? Absolutely.
That’s the question the Law Society of British Columbia will debate this Friday when it meets to discuss the future of Trinity Western University’s private, faith-based Law School.
Should highly-qualified lawyers be denied the opportunity practice law because of their faith? Should the religious freedom of all Canadians be under threat?
Canada is known around the world to be inclusive and diverse. Different perspectives are meant to be shared and valued. While we may not always agree with one another’s personal and religious beliefs, we can and must respect them.
By denying accreditation to Trinity Western University’s Law School, the Law Society of B.C. would not only be intolerant towards educational diversity, but systematically undermine one of the core fundamental freedoms we enjoy in this country – the freedom of religion.
I call on the Law Society to do the right thing and respect our religious freedom.
May 29, 2014
Ottawa, ON – Today, Langley MP Mark Warawa delivered the following statement in the House of Commons:
“Mr. Speaker, in 2016, Trinity Western University will open the first private, faith-based law school in Canada.
“Canadians were shocked to hear that the Law Societies in Ontario and Nova Scotia voted not to certify Trinity’s law graduates for practice in their province.
“The reason is not because of Trinity’s highly respected academic standards. No, these law societies voted against Trinity because they did not like Trinity’s Christian Code of Conduct for students that choose to attend. This is a dangerous attack on religious freedoms in Canada, and this affects us all.
“Canada is a country known for human rights and religious freedom. The intolerance demonstrated by these law societies tarnishes Canada’s international reputation, making it hypocritical for Canada to speak out internationally when our own religious freedoms are under attack from within.
“I call on the Ontario and Nova Scotia law societies to do the right thing and stop their attack on our religious freedoms.”
For more information, please go to: http://twu.ca/academics/school-of-law/
To read the university’s Community Covenant, please click here.
Videos of Members of Parliament on TWU’s Law School
The freedom to believe as we choose and practice accordingly is one of the most profound privileges we have as Canadians. - @TrinityWestern— Mark Warawa (@MPmarkwarawa) November 1, 2016