Members of the Toronto legal community protested Thursday against a British Columbia university’s application to create a law school that would potentially discriminate against gay students.
Trinity Western University, a private Christian school in Langley, has applied to open the country’s first faith-based law school.
Students currently attending the university, which does not recognize same-sex marriage, are required to sign a community covenant forbidding sexual activity outside of ‘civil union.’
Toronto lawyer Angela Chaisson encouraged the group of almost 30 lively protesters outside Osgoode Hall yesterday to speak up and not “be part of a profession that discriminates.”
“Trinity Western is very blatant about their discrimination, they don’t try to hide it, and it’s no answer to send people elsewhere,” Chaisson later told Metro.
The university’s application for a law school is currently before the Federation of Law Societies and the B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education.
If it were to be approved, provincial bodies, such as the Law Society of Upper Canada, could choose to not recognize the accreditation of TWU’s graduates.
The university declined an interview request from Metro, saying President Bob Kuhn, also the spokesperson for the proposed law school, was unavailable all day.
A TWU spokesperson instead provided a video link to an interview with Kuhn answering questions about the proposed school.
A statement on Trinity Western’s site says: “Our founding legislation requires us to provide a university education from a worldview that is Christian. As a religious community we are entitled to uphold our religious views…
“Gay and lesbian students are welcome to attend Trinity Western. We do not ask about a prospective student’s sexual orientation, and many gay and lesbian students have graduated from our university. Prospective students who do not agree with our religious views are welcome to apply to another university.”
Marcus McCann, a third-year legal student at the U of T, said spots in law schools are coveted and should not be based on sexual orientation.
“We’re going to have a problem if we start approving private religious colleges to give legal training and then let those lawyers practice in Ontario and other provinces,” McCann said.
Lawyer and executive director of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network Richard Elliot said he, too, was concerned that a school that “flouts the law of the land” could soon be training future lawyers.
“It’s troubling that you would allow under Canadian law the notion that someone can slap the religion sticker on something and thereby get a free pass to discriminate based on sexual orientation,” Elliot said.
The Federation of Law Societies has organized an advisory committee to review Trinity’s application and a decision is expected shortly.
- The headline on the previous version of this story said that Trinity Western University planned to exclude gay people altogether from their new law school. This has now been corrected, and more information has been added to the story.