Controversial B.C. Christian law school lays out case ahead of Supreme Court of Canada hearing

A student leaves Trinity Western University in Langley, B.C., on Wednesday, February 22, 2017.
A student leaves Trinity Western University in Langley, B.C., on Wednesday, February 22, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

The B.C. Christian university at the centre of a pair of landmark appeals heading to the Supreme Court of Canada is making its case ahead of the hearings.

Beginning on Thursday, the nation’s top court is set to hear a pair of petitions regarding the power of provincial law societies to withhold accreditation from graduates of Trinity Western University (TWU).

The issue centres around TWU’s community covenant, which bars students from having sexual relations outside of heterosexual marriage, and which critics charge discriminates against LGBTQ students.

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Both B.C. and Ontario’s law societies have sought to bar graduates of the program from practicing in their provinces.

B.C.’s top court has ruled in favour of the university, while Ontario’s has ruled against the school. Both rulings are being appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

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READ MORE: B.C. court sides with Trinity Western University over proposed law school

Earl Phillips, executive director for the proposed law school, said the community covenant issue isn’t one of discrimination, but of religious freedom.

“It’s an important part of maintaining a distinctive Christian community at Trinity Western University,” he said.

“These are ideals and aspirations that we’re trying to work towards, we need each other’s support and encouragement to do that.”

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

Phillips added that while Ontario and B.C.’s law societies may not agree with TWU’s values, as organizations they have a responsibility to all Canadians, including Christians.

“They must act in a way that recognizes, in a fulsome way, those fundamental rights and freedoms, including the freedom of conscience and religion.”

Intervenors in the case, including Vancouver-based women’s advocacy group West Coast LEAF are set to argue that the school’s covenant violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

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

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