The Law Society of British Columbia’s Board of Governors, also known as Benchers, has rescinded its approval of Trinity Western University’s (TWU) new law school program.
The decision was made on Friday following the results of a binding membership referendum. In the vote, 8,039 valid ballots were cast with 74 per cent or 5,951 lawyers voting in favour of the motion that requested Benchers to not approve TWU’s faculty of law.
TWU’s proposed law school has been the subject of controversy for the law community. The school’s covenant bans sexual activity that “violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.” Opponents of the law school argue that this is a form of discrimination that contradicts the principles of the Law Society of B.C.
Last spring, the Benchers voted 20-6 against a motion that would have prevented TWU’s law graduates from practicing law in the province. It led to several membership referendums over the issue, culminating with last month’s mail-in binding referendum.
“The Act also provides for member input to be considered in certain circumstances. The referendum enabled all of BC’s lawyers to have a say in whether the Benchers should recognize the Trinity Western University law school,” said Law Society of B.C. President Jan Lindsay, QC in a statement.
“In their meeting, the Benchers considered the result of the referendum in the context of the many other factors related to this issue and have now passed a resolution disapproving of the proposed law school at Trinity Western University for the purpose of the Law Society’s admission program.”
Law societies in the provinces of Ontario and Nova Scotia have also voted against allowing TWU’s law graduates from practicing in their jurisdictions.
TWU is challenging these Ontario and Nova Scotia decisions in court on the basis of their Charter right of the freedom of conscience and religion. It is expected that they will do the same for the recent decision made by the Law Society of B.C.
Meanwhile, law societies in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Nunavut have given the approval needed for TWU graduates to practice law in their jurisdictions.
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