VANCOUVER – The Law Society of New Brunswick will meet next month to review its decision to accredit a controversial proposed law school in British Columbia.
The group’s board of directors voted in June to recognize future graduates of Trinity Western University, a private Christian school that requires all students and staff to sign an alliance banning same-sex relationships.
Since then, hundreds of members have signed a petition asking the bar to reconsider its decision, triggering a special meeting under the group’s rules. This meeting is scheduled for Fredericton on September 13th.
“They are not happy with the decision,” Marc Richard, executive director, said on Friday.
According to company rules, 20 signatures can trigger a special meeting. The petition was approved by over 200 people.
“This is a motion on the table where they ask our board not to endorse Trinity Western University Law School,” he said.
Community engagement at Langley University in British Columbia demands that faculty and students refrain from “sexual intimacy that violates the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman.”
This requirement “discriminates against members of the LGBTTQ community,” says the motion that will be debated by New Brunswick lawyers.
Accrediting the institution “maintains and promotes discriminatory policy” and recognizing future graduates “would not be in the public interest or in the interest of justice and would not serve to promote and improve the status of lawyers in society” , he said.
It is not clear whether the result of the vote is binding on the bar. Richard said if the motion passes they will need legal advice.
No one from Trinity Western was immediately available for comment.
The school, which sits in the heart of what is known as the Fraser Valley’s “Bible Belt” east of Vancouver, applied for a law school to open in June 2012.
Since then, the debate has pitted religious freedoms against equality rights.
In February, the Council of the Canadian Bar Association urged law societies in all provinces and territories to recognize only legal education programs that provide equal opportunity, without discrimination of any kind, including sexual orientation. or religion.
But the BC Civil Liberties Association told the BC Law Society that denying Trinity’s application because of the pact would violate Charter rights.
“BCCLA has a long history of fighting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, including in multiple court cases,” the association said.
“At the same time, as civil liberties advocates, we value the fundamental freedoms of people to come together with like-minded people to express and seek to conscientiously advance their beliefs.”
The bars of Ontario and Nova Scotia voted against accreditation of Trinity students, prompting the school to turn to courts in both provinces.
Judicial reviews of Nova Scotia and Ontario decisions are scheduled, separately, at the Ontario Superior Court and the Nova Scotia Supreme Court in December.
In British Columbia, a group of lawyers are suing the provincial government over its decision to accredit the law school as an educational institution.
Its opening is scheduled for fall 2016.