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In a pair of 7-2 rulings, the majority of justices found the law societies of British Columbia and Ontario have the power to refuse accreditation based on Trinity Western University’s so-called community covenant.
The mandatory covenant binds students to a strict code of conduct that includes abstinence from sex outside of heterosexual marriage.
The majority judgment said the covenant would deter LGBT students from attending the proposed law school, and those who did attend would be at risk of significant harm.
It found the public interest of the law profession gives it the right to promote equality by ensuring equal access, support diversity within the bar and prevent harm to LGBT students.
In the court’s view, the law societies were acting within their mandate in considering TWU’s admission policies in the accreditation process, and striving to uphold a positive public perception of the legal profession.
“In our respectful view, the [law societies] decision not to accredit Trinity Western University’s proposed law school represents a proportionate balance between the limitation on the Charter right at issue and the statutory objectives the [law societies] sought to pursue,” it reads.
Two dissenting justices, Suzanne Cote and Russell Brown, sided with TWU, arguing that the law societies’ powers should be more limited when it comes to approving law programs.