TWU will have no choice but to rescind its covenant

If the discriminatory pact in place at TWU remains, its graduates might have nowhere to work

Trinity Western University’s law school is set to open in 2016, but if none of the law societies in Canada accredit it, what exactly will be the point?

Let’s hope someone at TWU is considering that. The Community Covenant in place requires students to pledge that they will abstain from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman” in keeping with “biblical and TWU ideals.”

If you’re going to school to become a lawyer, you may very well find yourself representing someone whose views, beliefs or lifestyle you do not yourself believe in or agree with. But lawyers are nothing if not professional, and they are taught to act this way in school. They are taught to understand that a barrier exists between their personal and professional lives, and that this barrier is an important part of their ability to hold the principles of law above all else.

If this barrier exists professionally, and it is taught in school, what sense is there to signing a covenant that poisons the well from the very beginning? What sense is there to reinforcing a personal ideology in a setting meant to foster professionalism?

None that I can see, but I can’t vote on the matter.

Thankfully I’m not alone. Earlier this year in June, 3,210 B.C. lawyers voted for reversing the decision for the Law Society of B.C. to accredit TWU’s school of law. There were 968 who voted against.

That non-binding decision made in June informed the Benchers (those who sit on the board of the Law Society of B.C.) as to the ideological climate among B.C. lawyers. On Friday, Sept. 26, the Benchers decided that a referendum will be held on the matter and that its outcome will be binding.

For the referendum to be successful, the vote must show a two-thirds majority for adopting the resolution that the TWU school not be an approved faculty of law.

If the upcoming referendum results are anything like June’s vote, it’s likely to succeed.

And it won’t be the first time a group of lawyers has decided that TWU’s covenant isn’t welcome among Canada’s law school cohort.

Earlier this year in April, the Law Society of Upper Canada voted 28 to 21 against accrediting the school. So Ontario is out.

In Nova Scotia, just a day later, the Barristers’ Society approved accreditation, but with a major condition: that TWU exempts law students from the covenant or that it changes the covenant so that it does not discriminate. So Nova Scotia is out, at least with the covenant in its current state.

In New Brunswick, members of the Law Society of New Brunswick voted 137 to 30 at a special general meeting against approving TWU. Now, New Brunswick is in the same spot B.C. was in a few months ago. It’s waiting for a decision from its governing body as to whether or not that vote will be binding or if a referendum needs to be held. So N.B. might be out, too.

So if B.C. follows suit and votes to refuse accreditation for TWU’s law school (and by all indications it will), TWU will be left with those who have until now remained silent, and who knows what might happen once the place actually exists.