Trinity Western University Graduates overturns decision by the Barrister

Published On: Jul 28,2016

Trinity Western University Graduates overturned a decision by the Barrister’s Society of Nova Society to prevent graduates to practice law given notwithstanding the restrictions and putative discriminatory treatment against the LGBTQ community, July 26, 2016

trinity-university The Nova Scotia Court of appeal (“NSCA”) recently rendered a controversial decision permitted graduates from the Trinity Western University, in Langley, British Columbia (“TWA”), to practice law in the Province of Nova Scotia.  TWA is a private Christian School that requires its students to honor a covenant that says students must abstain from sexual intimacy that violates the “sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”The Nova Scotia Barrister’s Society (along with numerous other law societies in Canada) banned graduates from practicing law in that province. Trinity Western University is a private Christian university in British Columbia. Trinity Western’s students must adhere to a “Community Covenant” that prohibits sexual intimacy outside the marriage of man and woman. The Federation of Canadian Law Societies approved the proposed law degree offered by NWT.  The NWT operate as a private university under the aegis of the Evangelical Free Church of Canada.  It views itself “an arm of the Church”. It was chartered by the Trinity Junior College Act, S.B.C. 1969, c. 44. That statute said the College would educate its students “with an underlying philosophy and viewpoint that is Christian”. The College later changed its name to Trinity Western University. Since 1984, Trinity Western has belonged to the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. Its degrees, including those in nursing and teaching, have been recognized as academically sound in British Columbia and elsewhere. Its enrollment approximates 4,000.  The Covenant of the NWT is an encompassing code of conduct that, in addition to mundane items, prohibits sexual intimacy outside the marriage between a man and a woman. Excerpts from the Covenant include:

The TWU community covenant involves a commitment on the part of all members to embody attitudes and to practise actions identified in the Bible as virtues, and to avoid those portrayed as destructive. Members of the TWU community, therefore, commit themselves to:

  • Observe modesty, purity and appropriate intimacy in all relationships, reserve sexual expressions of intimacy for marriage, and within marriage take every reasonable step to resolve conflict and avoid divorce . . .
In keeping with biblical and TWU ideals, community members voluntarily abstain from the following actions: … according to the Bible, sexual intimacy is reserved for marriage between one man and one woman … . Trinity Western’s student body includes LGBTQ students. The Covenant prohibits harassment based on sexual orientation.The Covenant governs the student’s term at Trinity Western in British Columbia. It does not govern post-graduation activities, such as articling or law practice. This is precisely the locus of the compliant by the NWT against the Barrister’s Society. Trinity Western and its supporters say the Covenant manifests their genuine beliefs that are protected in a pluralistic society governed by constitutional freedoms of religion, conscience and association. The Barristers’ Society undertook broad consultations that culminated in a resolution and regulation to restrict the ability of Trinity Western’s law graduates to article in Nova Scotia.   Along with a prospective law student, the NWT, applied to challenge the Barrister’s Society’s statutory authority to pass the resolution and regulation. They also submitted that, if the resolution and regulation were intra vires the legislation, they infringed the applicants’ religious and associational freedoms under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. A judge of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia agreed. The judge held that the resolution and regulation overstepped the Society’s statutory authority and, in the alternative, unjustifiably infringed the Charter freedoms of Trinity Western and the prospective student. The Barrister’s Society appealed to the NSCA. The Court essentially found that the Barrister’s Society did not have the authority to “issue rulings whether someone in British Columbia ‘unlawfully’ violated the Human Rights Act or the charter.”  No comment was made regarding the issues that were raised under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  It is anticipated that the Barristers’ Society will likely leave to appeal this decision to the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa.

The ruling may be reviewed: