Supreme Court of Canada Releases Reasons in Trinity Western University Appeals

On June 15, the Supreme Court of Canada released its reasons in the appeals of Law Society of British Columbia v. Trinity Western University and Trinity Western University v. Law Society of Upper Canada.  The appeals centered around the decisions of the law societies not to accredit a proposed law school at Trinity Western University ("TWU") on the basis that students, faculty and staff at TWU would be required to sign a "Community Covenant Agreement" which prohibits "sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman".

The majority of the Court, made up of Justices Abella, Moldaver, Karakatsanis, Wagner (who had not yet been sworn in as Chief Justice when the appeals were heard) and Gascon, held that the decisions of the law societies were reasonable.  Former Chief Justice McLachlin and Justice Rowe each wrote separate sets of reasons which concurred in the result reached by the majority.  Justices Côté and Brown jointly wrote a dissenting opinion.

In reaching its decision, the majority of the Court emphasized the positive impact of diversity in law schools on the provision of legal services and respect for the administration of justice, noting that:  "Eliminating inequitable barriers to legal education, and thereby, to membership in the legal profession, also promotes the competence of the bar and improves the quality of legal services available to the public."  The majority continued: "A bar that reflects the diversity of the public it services undeniably promotes the administration of justice and the public’s confidence in the same.  A diverse bar is more responsive to the needs of the public it serves.  A diverse bar is a more competent bar."

The majority’s holding is consistent with the submissions of The Advocates' Society as intervener in these appeals, which stressed that promoting equal access to legal education and fostering diverse law school populations serves the public interest by developing better lawyers, improving access to justice, and facilitating a more representative bench and bar.

"The decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Trinity Western University appeals affirm the importance of enhancing diversity in the legal profession, including at the early stages of admission to law school and the provincial bars," said Brian Gover, President of The Advocates' Society.  "As The Advocates’ Society noted in our factum, law schools train prospective lawyers in advocacy and negotiation, and these skills are enhanced when students appreciate different standpoints in an environment of thoughtful conflict and contestation."

The Advocates’ Society thanks its intervention counsel in these appeals: Chris Paliare, Joanna Radbord, Monique Pongracic-Speier, and Emily Lawrence.

To learn more about TAS’s diversity initiatives, and to complete our demographic survey, click here.