June 15, 2018, Langley, B.C: Trinity Western University (TWU) is disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision today, which diminishes the value of pluralistic diversity in Canada. In a very long complex ruling, with four sets of reasons, eight of nine judges agree that TWU’s religious freedom is violated but the majority still uphold the law societies’ decision not to approve the law school.
The Court ruling constrains TWU’s quest to establish a law school and offer 60 new law school seats to Canadian students.
“We feel this is a lost opportunity for Canadians, many of whom do not have affordable access to justice,” says Earl Phillips, executive director of TWU’s proposed law school. “There are only three common law schools in Canada that offer a course in charity law. The TWU law school would have offered a specialty in charity law. Because Canada has the second largest charitable and non-profit sector in the world, this loss stands to impact Canadians coast to coast.”
Until now, Canada has always encouraged the rich mosaic created by the diversity of views, race, gender and belief systems in this country. Regrettably, the Supreme Court’s decision limits the contribution of faith communities to Canadian society.
“Without question, the Trinity Western community is disappointed by this ruling. However, all Canadians should be troubled by today’s decision that sets a precedent for how the courts will interpret and apply Charter rights and equality rights going forward,” said Phillips.
TWU aimed to meet the demand for more law school spaces in Canada. It also proposed a unique law school with specializations in non-profit charity law and small-business law, which are not available to Canadian law students today. Above all, the university sought to graduate caring and trustworthy lawyers ready to represent and advocate for all Canadians, regardless of race, gender, religion or sexual identification.
TWU Law School Timeline
2012 The university begins steps toward opening a law school.
2013 TWU follows the provincial approved process for establishing a new post-secondary education program and receives approval from the Federation of Law Societies of Canada and the BC Ministry of Advanced Education.
2014 BC Ministry of Advanced Education revokes its approval following a reversal of support by the BC Law Society.
2015 BC Supreme Court rules in favour of TWU’s right to open and operate a law school.
2016 BC Court of Appeal upholds TWU’s right to open and operate a law school.
2017 Facing continued opposition from the Law Society of BC and the Law Society of Ontario, the university takes its case to the Supreme Court of Canada in November to seek a resolution.
2018 Supreme Court of Canada delivers its ruling against the university
“Today’s announcement marks a new chapter for Trinity Western University and other niche educational institutions and charities in Canada. This journey about the law school has been a long process, during which our community has been both challenged and encouraged in their faith,” says Phillips.
The university is reviewing the ruling in detail with its legal team and considering next steps.
Founded in 1962, Trinity Western University offers liberal arts and sciences, as well as professional schools in business, nursing, education, human kinetics, graduate studies, and arts, media and culture.
News release provided by TWU with minor modification in its presentation.