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International: Canada – Canadian law school denied accreditation

August 2018

A British Columbia university has had its appeal for accreditation of its proposed law school denied by the Supreme Court of Canada. Following several legal battles, the law school was refused accreditation because of a row over the school’s religious requirements.

According to advocacy group ADF International, Trinity Western University’s proposed law school asks students and faculty to follow its ‘community covenant’, based on biblical views of appropriate sexual behaviour on campus.

Some law societies deemed the covenant discriminatory, based on national equality laws, and this led to a denial of accreditation. The Canadian Supreme Court heard two appeals out of Ontario and British Columbia.

While Alberta, Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, the Yukon and Nova Scotia have agreed to recognise the school’s graduates, Ontario denied recognition and Trinity Western appealed. In British Columbia, the local law society appealed.

The British Columbia Court of Appeal ruled in favour of Trinity Western in ‘Trinity Western University v. The Law Society of British Columbia’, claiming Trinity Western had a right to uphold certain religious beliefs. The British Columbia law society appealed this decision, and in December last year, the Supreme Court heard both appeals.

In a statement, ADF International called the Supreme Court’s decision ‘a major blow to religious freedom and freedom of association’. Rev. Dr Andrew Bennett, director of the Cardus Religious Freedom Institute, commented: ‘The Supreme Court of Canada has consigned the fundamental right to freedom of conscience and religion to second class status with its decision on Trinity Western University’.