Protection of Individual Equality Paramount, says the Ontario Divisional Court

The Ontario Divisional Court has upheld the LSUC's decision not to accredit Trinity Western University's Law School. The protection of individual equality was held to be paramount in this three judge panel ruling. The Ontario Law Society has a duty to ensure that there are no barriers to law school admittance for every qualified candidate.

“Simply put, in balancing the interests of the applicants [TWU] to freedom of religion and of the respondent’s [LSUC's] members and future members to equal opportunity, in the course of the exercise of its statutory authority, the respondent [Ontario Law Society] arrived at a reasonable conclusion,” reads the decision.

The ruling comes months after a Nova Scotia judge found that the Nova Scotia Barristers Society could not deny accreditation to Trinity Western, and ordered that it pay the university’s costs. The society said it intends to appeal.

At issue is Trinity Western University's "Community Covenant Agreement", which asks students to agree to abstain from sexual intimacy outside of heterosexual marriage.

The Ontario court decision said that if lesbian, gay or queer students want to attend the law school, they would have to “essentially bury a crucial component of their very identity, by forsaking any form of intimacy with those persons with whom they would wish to form a relationship.”

LGBTQ students were not the only ones who would face discrimination as a result of the Covenant, the court found.

The “discrimination inherent in the Community Covenant extends not only to those persons, but also to women generally; to those persons of any gender who might prefer ... to live in a common law relationship rather than engage in the institution of marriage; and to those persons who have other religious beliefs,” the court decision stated.

If students contravene the agreement, the school can expel them. Critics have argued the provision infringes anti-discrimination provisions of the Charter and disqualifies it from teaching constitutional law.

In Thursday’s decision, the three judges found that benchers at the Law Society were well aware their vote could limit religious freedom. In voting against accreditation, benchers wrestled with how to balance that infringement with their duty to ensure that there are no barriers to law school admittance for every qualified candidate.