Supreme Court of Canada to make final ruling on contentious B.C. Christian law school

Canada’s highest court will have the final say on accreditation for lawyers graduating from a controversial legal program at Langley’s Trinity Western University (TWU).

The Supreme Court of Canada will hear two appeals related to the Christian university’s law school, one launched by the institution itself, and one headed by the Law Society of B.C.

The battle, which stretches back to 2014, centres around TWU’s contentious community covenant. That document bans students from having sexual relations outside of heterosexual marriage.

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Nov. 2016: What is it really like for LGBTQ students at Trinity Western University?
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Critics have charged that the covenant discriminates against LGBTQ students, and in 2014 the B.C.’s law society voted to deny TWU grads accreditation to work in B.C.

In 2016, the BC Court of Appeal ruled against the law society — finding the group’s attempt to deny accreditation to TWU grads was “unreasonable.”

READ MORE: Nova Scotia’s law society won’t appeal Trinity Western ruling to Supreme Court

The law society will be back in court on Thursday to challenge that ruling.

Ontario’s law society also denied accreditation to TWU grads, however, its ban was upheld by that province’s court of appeal — a ruling the school will be challenging in the top court.

WATCH: B.C. law school denied accreditation over anti-gay stance

B.C.’s West Coast LEAF — a women’s rights advocacy group — is participating in the hearing as an intervenor.

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READ MORE: B.C. Christian university loses appeal at Ontario’s top court

Raji Mangat, a lawyer with the group, says TWU’s restrictions should be assessed in the same way as if they were applied to First Nations, people with disabilities or other minority groups.

“That, I think, is the part that’s the most galling for the LGBTQ community,” she said.

“I don’t think we would be here, I don’t think Trinity Western would be trying to get a law school accredited that had those types of restrictions, it’s not a choice for people to be LGBTQ.”

Trinity Western has argued that the case is a matter of religious freedom and built around allowing diversity in educational choices.

READ MORE: B.C. lawyers vote against accrediting Trinity Western law school

“The court will be asked to once again emphasize the importance of those freedoms to supporting a thriving democracy and a vibrant diversity.  This promises to be one of the most significant Supreme Court of Canada cases in a generation,” says a statement on a new website dedicated to the law school.

The school denies that its covenant is discriminatory, and says that no student has ever been expelled for being a member of the LGBTQ community.

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The case will be heard on Thursday, Nov. 30 and Friday, Dec. 1.

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