According to Richmond News, the Richmond Centre MP Alice Wong argued against the Supreme Court of Canada decision on Trinity Western University’s proposed law school.
The recent TWU decision created a landmark decision in the SCC. The decision was 7-2 against the proposed law school. In particular, the decision “upholds the right of law societies to deny accreditation to a proposed law school at the evangelical Christian Trinity Western University, which opened a new, satellite campus in Richmond in 2015.”
Wong argued the decision made Canadian society more intolerance, and less free and inclusive. Two, at least, values in Canada came to a head. One for the freedom of (and from) religion. The other for the promotion of, through a variety of mechanisms, equality.
Values in society remain valid in the individual universe of discourse. As these values come to the real world contexts or environments, the values conflict to some degree. The conflict or the rub between the values, two or more, create the decisions in the courts based on the best judgment of the SCC and other legal authorities at the time.
“TWU requires students sign a covenant allowing sexual intimacy only between a man and a woman who are married,” the article stated, “As such, the Law Society of B.C. previously voted (28-21) to deny accreditation of the proposed TWU law school because the covenant amounts to discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people.”
Wong argued from the angle of a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That is, the decision to deny the Evangelical university’s law school created the basis for ‘breaking’ the Charter.
The judges on the SCC took the position of Section One of the Charter. This became the foundation for the denial of the law school. That is, the denial of the accreditation amounted to a reasonable limitation on the university’s rights.
This became the rub, the balance, between the public interest of the law societies and the rights of the university. In the individual universes of discourse, the public interest and the freedom of (and from) religion equate to valid values.
At the same time, when these conflict in highest court consideration, the comprises come to the fore. In this particular case, the SCC decided 7-2 to support the “public-interest objectives of the law societies.”
The judges stated, “It is inimical to the integrity of the legal profession to limit access on the basis of personal characteristics… This is especially so in light of the societal trust enjoyed by the legal profession.”
Of course, with the 7-2 decision, two judges supported the law school position rather than the law societies’ position.
Wong stated the decision against the law school amounted to a “profound interference with religious freedom” that will “ultimately diminish student choice and continues the trend towards a monolithic culture where one has to subscribe to specific beliefs.”
Wong argued the LGBTQ choice in the post-secondary world would not diminish, even if the decision by the SCC had gone the other way, 2-7 in other words. She stated the students are not compelled to attend a post-secondary institution.
Because TWU is a private institution, Wong considered the private funding of this particular post-secondary institution important as a factor. That is, the university is private, receives tax credits as a religious institute, and acquired public infrastructure dollars and research funding.
“In April, Wong also took aim at the Canada Summer Jobs program attestation of legally-enshrined rights for applicants, arguing it violated the rights of those who don’t agree with, for example, the right of a woman to have an abortion,” Richmond News noted.
The main concern from Wong comes from the other regulated professions being affected by the June 15 SCC decision.
The executive director of the proposed TWU law school, Earl Phillips, stated, “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.”
TWU made the original proposition for the law school during 2012. Approval was acquired through the Federation of Law Societies of Canada and the BC Ministry of Advanced Education; nonetheless, the BC Ministry of Advanced Education withdrew the approval at a later time.
Original publication in Richmond News.
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