What Will a Trinity Western University Law Degree Be Worth?

The Law Society of BC recently voted in favour of approving Trinity Western University’s law school. The private Christian school, located in Langley and about an hour’s drive from Vancouver, has an anti-gay covenant that, essentially, discriminates against anyone who isn’t heterosexual. There is plenty of ink spilled and many keyboards pounded on the subject of the LSBC’s decision and the distaste for TWU’s exclusivity that’s worthy of reading. What strikes me though, is the question about the value of a TWU law degree.

When the first crop of law students begin looking for summer articles will they be met with resistance from employers? Are these students lifetime ambassadors of TWU’s Christian covenant and will they carry these attitudes with them into their career?

Surely the school has contemplated the value of such a degree from their school, but have future students? The ultimate value of a law degree is in an individual’s employability and/or the ability to develop one’s own law practice. Doing so depends on either an employer or clients, and usually both.

Diversity within law firms (and many companies) is on the rise, and it comes, in part, at the request of clients. Most mid to large-sized firms have received requests from prospective clients to report on their firm’s diversity. Evidently, being a good corporate citizen is important to many clients. In response, many firms have struck diversity committees and are actively working towards a more inclusive workforce in their firms.

As awareness on this front rises and firms are now more diverse than ever, would they consider hiring TWU grads – who, some would say, are the antithesis of diversity? How would a summer or articling student integrate into a firm where openly gay professionals and staff work? No firm wants to create a culture of oil and water.

My guess is, they need not apply to Dentons, McCarthy Tétrault, or Stikeman Elliott – unless these firms’ celebrated diversity policies include TWU law school grads too.

As potential employers decide whether to take a risk on hiring a TWU law school grad, so too will clients. To the chagrin of many lawyers, clients don’t hire their lawyer based on where they obtained their law degree – ok, maybe ONE client did in the last decade. However, if I were a forward-thinking, inclusive, socially responsible company maybe I would start now. And maybe I’d want assurances that a potential TWU law school grad could work with all walks of life. Time will tell.

Consumers and clients support companies who align with their values. Perhaps we’ll see some discriminating choices.


  1. It would appear that your definition of diversity is based on deliberately excluding at least one segment of society. How curious…

  2. I’d also be curious, I don’t generally deal with discrimination issues, if a firm declines to interview or hire people because they attended TWU, or requires “assurances” that they don’t from anyone else, isn’t that in effect discrimination on the basis of religion? Do schools refuse to hire TWU teacher graduates, hospitals refuse to hire TWU nursing graduates, etc.?

    I think a similar criticism was reported in some stories in regards to earlier comments by some lawyers that they wouldn’t hire anyone from TWU. It seems a no-brainer to at least think about this issue before blithely assuming that major Canadian law firms would refuse to interview or hire a graduate of TWU (not to mention, what about those, including current lawyers and law students, who attended TWU for their 1st degree?).

  3. Even putting aside issues of religious intolerance (which I expect are overblown anyway), something tells me employers won’t exactly be itching to hire TWU Law grads.

  4. In my mind, there are two types of students who would go to TWU for law school:
    1) Students who, religious or not, were simply not accepted to other law schools and applied to TWU as a safety school;
    2) Students whose Christian faith is so central to their very being that they would choose to go to an inferior law school that happens to be religious over a more reputable law school that happens to be secular.

    The first isn’t really an issue, since poor performance in undergrad and mediocre LSAT scores usually don’t bode well for success in law school, so it’s unlikely many of people in this category would be getting interviews at top firms.

    As for the second group, I would guess that if religion is so central to them that they would rather go to TWU because it is religious, knowing that it doesn’t have the same reputation as say, UBC and would likely hurt their career prospects with big firms as a result, that the majority of them would be looking for the kinds of jobs where a TWU law degree might be seen as an asset.

  5. When I applied to TWU at 17, I did not consider whether law firm hiring committees might hold it against me decades later…. However my undergraduate degree from TWU did not seem to be an issue when I was applying for articles 7-8 years ago. For what it’s worth, I am aware of TWU grads (BAs) who now work as lawyers at McCarthy Tétrault and Stikeman Elliott, for example, and TWU’s nursing/education/business/etc. graduates generally have an excellent reputation in Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.

    It is of course ridiculous to assume that TWU law students will be unable to “integrate into a firm where openly gay professionals and staff work” — I attended law school with gay students and have worked with gay clients, and so far have managed to “integrate” without issue. The same applies to hundreds of other TWU grads.

    That said, I would caution prospective TWU law students to think carefully about the concerns raised in this article. There are certainly lawyers who would refuse to hire a TWU law grad, regardless of individual merit. This is unfortunate, but students do need to consider the risks.

  6. I have long held that political correctness in all its bizarre manifestations is beginning to cripple society and limit the prospects of anybody who does not tow the politically correct line.

    So called diversity is nothing of the sort. Of course, it is OLS’s prerogative to go down that path of excluding TWU graduates. But not everyone agrees with the decision. My preference would be to choose a graduate of TWU for my company’s legal work.

    Unfortunately the OLS has prevented this in Ontario. Perhaps though it would be useful to publish the names of those who voted for and against TWU’s exclusion in Ontario.

    Then I could vote with my fees and choose appropriately.

  7. Petra states,

    poor performance in undergrad and mediocre LSAT scores usually don’t bode well for success in law school

    I have never seen empirical evidence of that. LSAC provides some correlative material, but more objective findings by David Thomas only demonstrate a weak link which can be explained by a number of other factors. He concludes,

    The common practice in law school admissions of attributing special weight to the LSAT score as a predictor of law school academic performance is without merit or validity.

    Other studies by Leah M. Christensen explored how law students become mastery-oriented learners by focusing on learning in law school as something valuable and meaningful in itself by fostering a love of learning, rather than performance-oriented students who learn for the sake of meeting an identified goal or need. She found that LSAT scores had the weakest predictive role in law school success, followed by undergraduate GPA. The best predictor was the students’ ability to perform in a legal research and writing course (the “Lawyering Skills Grade”). The emphasis on legal writing skills has been emphasized elsewhere as well. These studies highlight some of the significant shortcomings of traditional law school admissions and pedagogue, and Christensen states,

    Achievement goal theory is one way to examine the motivational orientations of our students, and it can explain significant differences in students’ patterns of learning and achievement. The present study used achievement goal theory to examine the goals of the most successful law students. The study found that mastery-oriented law students tended to be the students at the top of their law school class despite the performancebased goal structure of law school.

    More importantly, success in any of these indicators, including in law school, is an extremely poor predictor of success in the legal field, especially when we remove noise created by the presumptions identified by Petra that may provide unique opportunities in big law or clerkships early on in a legal career.

    A law school which is not accredited in Ontario or Nova Scotia is not likely to be regarded positively by employers at all, but in large part this is the reason why the respective law societies in these provinces have chosen to oppose the school on public policy grounds. I do not think employers elsewhere should reject law graduates from TWU simply on the basis of their alma mater, but the incentives to go to a maintstream law school will hopefully operate to limit the potentially Charter-infringing conduct that TWU has engaged in.

  8. “Even putting aside issues of religious intolerance (which I expect are overblown anyway), something tells me employers won’t exactly be itching to hire TWU Law grads.”

    Of course, these days employers aren’t exactly itching to hire anyone.

  9. Jonathan Westphal

    I am so tired of reading things like “has an anti-gay covenant that, essentially, discriminates against anyone who isn’t heterosexual.” The reaction to TWU has at this point become simply hysterical and overblown. The covenant is a pledge to adhere to biblical standards of conduct, including sexual behaviour, which apply equally to non-married heterosexuals. Not really a surprise for a Christian university, I would have thought. The bible also commands Christians to “love your neighbor as yourself” and to refrain from judging others, since we are all sinners in need of forgiveness.

    If the covenant is by definition “anti-gay” and unacceptable, then in effect you are saying that Christianity is by definition anti-gay and unacceptable. I find it ironic that those who rail loudest against “intolerance” have no difficulty displaying that same intolerance against those whose views may differ from their own. I happen to be Christian – should I hand back my law license now, since apparently I am a hateful bigot? (This would be news to my gay friends btw).

  10. Yosie Saint-Cyr

    Jonathan thank you for your comment… I have wanted to say something similar but could not find the words. Law societies should not be looking at one’s religious beliefs to decide if we are adequate lawyers but dealing with the profession in a secular way… with attitudes, activities, or other things that have no religious or spiritual basis… supporting neither religion nor irreligion. All law graduates come into the profession with their biases and beliefs no matter what university they come from. Their qualifications as law graduates and passing the bar exams, their performances during articling, their skills, abilities for law and the love of the profession should be what law societies look at to accept them as lawyers… not the university they come from or what the university believes in… like money, religious beliefs, social advocacy, social standing… because they all believe in something we don’t all agree with!

  11. Is there any mention with regard to abstinence from extra-martial sex/relations/affairs in the TWU covenant?

  12. Anonymous Lawyer

    This TWU controversy has brought out many issues and many perspectives. With respect, it seems like many have failed to consider the key problem that I see. No one is prohibiting Christian lawyers from practicing law. No one is requiring TWU to cease being a Christian university. TWU is a private entity that requires its students to sign a covenant that prohibited homosexual conduct, even if they were in a legally recognized same-sex marriage. If you do not, you are not allowed entrance.

    But that is not all. TWU has stepped into the public sphere by requesting a law school and requesting a public entity to recognize it. The law society is a public regulating body that makes decision in ways as to protect the public good. Our society, as a collective has renounced discrimination based on sexual orientation, in the same way we have prohibited discrimination based on sex and race.

    When the BC Law Society accredited TWU, it was in essence an endorsement of the discriminatory practices this private entity engages in and sent a message to the public that discrimination against gay people was ok, even though they are protected under the Charter and even though same-sex marriages are legally recognized. This is not in the public interest and does not protect the public interest, which includes acceptance of gay people.

    TWU can go ahead with its anti-gay admission policies. But, it is not entitled to have a public regulatory body, that is supposed to act in the public interest, publicly endorse their privately held beliefs and discriminatory practices. If it does, we are taking a step backwards from so many years of hard work to recognize the human rights of gay people.

    You cannot say that these gay people can simply go to another school. The reality is, law school admissions are limited. Inevitably, there will be situation where a gay student may wish to attend law school at TWU, but only because it is a law school (and a gateway to the legal profession) and not because they want to attend TWU, since it has been publicly accredited. But they can only attend if they sign a covenant that is anti-gay and would be under threat of discipline and expulsion. If they don’t sign to say that homosexuality is wrong, even allowed under the law, they don’t get in. By having the law society accredit TWU, it is allowing and endorsing this discriminatory admission practice.

    I’ve set out my position here:

    I read many submissions, but none have been as eloquent as the submissions of BC bender Joe Arvey:

    Please don’t conflate the various issues together. I strongly encourage everyone to read the above articles and consider the various issues one by one, rather than make broad stroke statement.

  13. Yosie Saint-Cyr

    Anonymous lawyer… what about our society prohibiting discrimination based on religious beliefs confirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada? You cannot bar students into the law profession because they are adherents of a faith.

    Most of you Ontario lawyers were in an uproar and greatly offended because the PQ government was disregarding such protection against discrimination based on religious beliefs by the introduction of the Charter for a neutral secular government… You were all crying out for Canada’s image of pluralism, multiculturalism, diversity and tolerance!!!

    However, you seem to think it is OK for the law societies to discriminate based on religion because of their standing as a regulatory body!?

    If you claim Quebec was disregarding existing law on religious freedom, you are doing the same thing by deciding to refuse admission to Trinity Western University’s law school graduates!

    How can you logically think that a TWU graduate will not have the requisite skills to practise law because that person signed on to a covenant that upholds the sacredness of marriage between one man and one woman based on their religious belief?!

    If you faced a lawyer who believed that women were not equal to men… who believed that Stoning, or lapidation is a proper form of capital punishment because of their religious beliefs (Islamic Sharia law), would they qualify and have the required skills to practise law ?

    In my opinon they would… because their religious beliefs is not what qualifies them to be lawyers!

    Also Anonymous lawyer… You state: “in the same way we have prohibited discrimination based on sex and race.”… being a woman or black is not what qualifies me as a lawyer… so my sexual orientation or my religious belief should not decide if I will make a great lawyer or not!

  14. Anonymous Lawyer

    I can’t comment on your statements regarding Ontario lawyers – I’m not well versed in what happened in the events your are referencing. Without knowing all the relevant facts, it would be inappropriate for me take a side. So, I will keep my comments restricted to the TWU matter.

    First, there is no prohibition against lawyers who are Christian. I assure you, there are many, many Christian lawyers in BC (and probably the rest of Canada). In every law school in Canada, all persons are welcome to apply, including those who hold Christian values.

    Second, as a public entity, law societies have a duty to act and make decisions that are in the public interest. It cannot simply bow to discrimination policies simply because the private entity relies on religion. Some have chosen to not endorse a private entity which has an anti-gay admission policy. As a matter of public policy, it will not allow this admission policy to stand. In doing so, the law society has not required all persons applying, after law school, to declare who is and who is not Christian and then decide admission. These two different scenarios are very different. I don’t believe anyone refused admission on the basis that the individual law graduate from TWU is inadequate. I would refer you to the transcript of the BC bencher meeting to see what issues they really struggled with and the basis for refusing accreditation.

    Third, belief in gender inequality, or stoning, etc. does not necessarily make someone an unqualified lawyer. But, the law society is not make a judgment in this manner – they are refusing accreditation on a graduate per graduate decision. If there was a law school that sought accreditation from the provinces law societies and would not admit women or a certain race, I would hope that the law societies would refuse accreditation. And I think this would be the result – refusal to accredit, if a law school had anti- women or anti-black admission policies. An individual who holds such beliefs is very different from a school that has such admission policies. There is a very important distinction here.

    If TWU simply wants to teach law courses, then by all means, TWU can put up whatever barriers they think is appropriate for admission. But, when TWU approaches a public entity that regulates the profession with a view to the public interest, TWU needs to satisfy the public entity before getting public endorsement and accreditation. TWU is the one seeking something from the public entity; not the other way around.

    My blog post outlining my position:

    Submissions of BC bencher J. Arvey:

    As a side note, I appreciate everyone who has taken the time to read these articles, especially articles that take a different position than you. I have tried my best to read and understand the other side’s arguments and it is something that we should all do more often, no matter how difficult it is to do so.

  15. Anonymous Lawyer


    …But, the law society is not make a judgment in this manner – they are NOT refusing accreditation on a graduate per graduate decision…

  16. Verna, the answer to your question is yes. The relevant section is:

    “Members of the TWU community, therefore, commit themselves to: … observe modesty, purity and appropriate intimacy in all relationships, reserve sexual expressions of intimacy for marriage, and within marriage take every reasonable step to resolve conflict and avoid divorce …”

    You can read the full covenant here:

  17. Thanks, Luke. But now I’m stumped because there appears to be a contradiction between the values: “communicate in ways that build others up, according to their needs, for the benefit of all…
    treat all persons with respect and dignity, and uphold their God-given worth from conception to death…be responsible citizens both locally and globally who respect authorities, submit to the laws of this country, and contribute to the welfare of creation and society” and “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman”. I’m stumped simply because “same-sex” marriage is legal in Canada. I’m not questioning Christian beliefs; however, is it not a violation of the above values and societal law not to acknowledge (whether accepting or not) marriage between persons of the same sex?

  18. TWU does not object to acknowledging the legal existence of same-sex marriage, Verna. Most of the activities proscribed under the covenant are similarly legal in Canada: gossip, drunkenness, use of pornography, use of tobacco or obscene language. Many Canadians don’t object to these activities, or at least consider that one’s university should not forbid them for adults. Members of the TWU community voluntarily agree to forgo these, for the benefit of the university community as a whole. TWU considers that sexual intimacy outside heterosexual marriage falls into this category of actions permitted under Canadian law but inconsistent with their biblical view of sexuality.

  19. Luke thanks for taking the time to enlighten me on TWU’s beliefs.

  20. Anonymous Lawyer “But that is not all. TWU has stepped into the public sphere by requesting a law school and requesting a public entity to recognize it. The law society is a public regulating body that makes decision in ways as to protect the public good.”

    This is a ridiculous argument (albeit one that apparently found favour with some of the benchers on the LSUC) and one that is wholly without merit. By your logic, religious organizations cannot participate in the public sphere without having to give up their religious identity. That is the anti-thesis of the protection of religious freedom afforded by the human rights legislation in both BC and Ontario (both of which expressly permit religious organizations to discriminate in favour of members of their religion in the provision of services in the public sphere) and the Charter. I note that the majority of the SCC of Canada made this point expressly in the 2001 TWU decision (I note too that the dissenting opinion consisted of Justice Heureux Dube and can be dismissed on that basis alone – though it’s also a very poor reasoned opinion).

    More to the point, in the 2001 TWU decision, the Court Found that the BC College of Teachers couldn’t claim to protect the public interest by refusing to recognize teachers who graduated from TWU on the basis that they might be homophobes, it held that the public interest would only be advanced if it refused to allow individuals to be come teachers on the basis that they WERE homophobes. Tellingly, it does not appear that the BC College of Teachers has had much success (if any) in dismissing graduates from TWU from the teaching profession on the grounds that they actually discriminated against gay or lesbian students, which suggest that, in fact, TWU graduates are not generally homophobes. That the 2001 TWU Decision is directly on point with the current situation makes the decision of the LSUC particularly disgraceful.

    Anonymous Lawyer: “Our society, as a collective has renounced discrimination based on sexual orientation, in the same way we have prohibited discrimination based on sex and race.”

    This statement is, at best, overly broad and incomplete. Our society has also enshrined the protection of religious freedom, both in the Charter and in provincial human rights legislation. As the SCC noted in TWU, the charter values which protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (or race or gender) do not necessarily override those values favouring religious freedom, they must be balanced against one another. This balance is reflected, for example, in section 41 of the BC human rights code and section 18 of the Ontario human rights code, which provide exemptions from human rights legislation for certain organizations whose mandate includes serving a group identified by a protected grounds, including a particular religious group. For example, section 18 of the Ontario HRC reads as follows:

    “[R]ights under Part I to equal treatment with respect to services and facilities, with or without accommodation, are not infringed where membership or participation in a religious, philanthropic, educational, fraternal or social institution or organization that is primarily engaged in serving the interests of persons identified by a prohibited ground of discrimination is restricted to persons who are similarly identified.”

    If TWU is identified as an education or religious institution “primarily engaged in serving the interests of persons identified by a prohibited ground of discrimination [i.e., Christians, or people willing to abide by what TWU identifies as Christian beliefs – religion being a prohibited ground]” (which it almost certainly is) the fact that TWU may limit attendance to people who subscribe to similar beliefs is not necessarily discriminatory. The fact that TWU has been operating in BC for decades without sanction by BC’s human rights authorities would tend to support this analysis.

    Anonymous Lawyer: “When the BC Law Society accredited TWU, it was in essence an endorsement of the discriminatory practices this private entity engages in and sent a message to the public that discrimination against gay people was ok, even though they are protected under the Charter and even though same-sex marriages are legally recognized. This is not in the public interest and does not protect the public interest, which includes acceptance of gay people.”

    Ironically, you are mirroring the sort of argument typically made by opponents of gay rights – that recognizing such rights constitutes an endorsement of their sexual orientation. That’s nonsense (if true, it would also be irrelevant). Tolerance of certain behavior does not constitute endorsement of it, simply a recognition that it permitted. Accrediting TWU can hardly be characterized as an endorsement of TWU’s religious practices – it’s a recognition that the laws of BC (and, I note, Ontario) permits such a religious practice, for better or worse. It’s also a recognition that TWU graduates should not be presumed to be homophobes (and therefore incapable of becoming lawyers) solely on the basis of their religious views (after all, it is entirely possible to believe that homosexuality is immoral and that homosexuals are entitled to the full protection of the law), rather than on their individual conduct. To believe otherwise is to accept that the Supreme Court of Canada has endorsed, at various times, pornography of different varieties (including, in the Sharpe case, certain forms of child pornography), certain forms of hate speech, children’s advertising, I could go on.

    Indeed, the view that tolerance of a particular constitutes an endorsement is a profoundly totalitarian world view, as it is a means to suppress unpopular minority views and lifestyles. The whole point of the Charter and the various provincial human rights regimes is to ensure that people whose religious or political beliefs are not endorsed, indeed, are opposed, by society at large, are nevertheless entitled to tolerance.

    What is particularly offensive about the LSUC’s decision not to accredit TWU, is that of all people, lawyers should understand the importance of tolerating unpopular dissident views and respecting the rights of otherwise unpopular minorities. The LSUC’s decision not to accredit TWU was wrong in law (and I expect some of my LSUC fees will be wasted in a futile court defense of that decision in future years). More troubling, though, is that so many benchers (including people who are prominent human rights lawyers – that doesn’t say much about the quality of the Ontario human rights bar) were able to so easily cast aside the rights of TWU and its graduates.

  21. Anonymous Lawyer: “But they can only attend if they sign a covenant that is anti-gay and would be under threat of discipline and expulsion. If they don’t sign to say that homosexuality is wrong, even allowed under the law, they don’t get in.”

    As a starting point, it might be helpful for you to actually read the TWU covenant (Luke provided the link above) as your description of it is inaccurate. It does not say that “homosexuality is wrong”, not even close. I’m struck by how many opponents of TWU are not remotely familiar with the provisions of the covenant to which they object. When this story first arose, that was the first thing I read.

    Once you’ve read the TWU covenant, I think you’ll agree that the characterization of the TWU covenant as “anti-gay” does it a disservice. The provision of the TWU covenant that is the subject of controversy is the following:

    “In keeping with biblical and TWU ideals, community members voluntarily abstain from
    the following actions:

    sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a

    It goes on to say:

    “Further, according to the Bible, sexual intimacy is reserved for marriage between one man and one woman, and within that marriage bond it is God’s intention that it be enjoyed as a means for marital intimacy and procreation.”

    I would make two observations on this point. First, note these are two sentence in a 5 page document. Too often the TWU covenant is identified by its opponents as being a an “anti-gay” document. But read in context, it’s clear that the document as a whole is intended to promote a certain conception of a Christian lifestyle (not, admittedly, one that I would ascribe to, but there you go). To characterize the TWU covenant based solely on those two sentences in a five page document, strikes me as being intellectually unfair.

    Second, I note that the restrictions implied the covenant are both narrower and broader than is commonly recognized. They are narrower in that nothing in that TWU covenants prohibits a TWU student from being openly gay – indeed, I understand that TWU has had a number of openly gay students in recent years, and the provisions of the covenant prohibiting prejudicial language and mandating that one “treat all persons with respect and dignity, and uphold their God-given worth from conception to death” would tend to serve to protect gay students from the prejudice one might find on more secular campuses (and who are we kidding, anti-gay prejudice exists in secular universities). In that sense, the view that TWU excludes homosexuals is not correct.

    Moreover, the restrictions are broader in the sense that they impose very real restrictions on heterosexuals as well. It prohibits both homosexuals and heterosexuals alike from engaging in sex before marriage (which would have kept me from attending law school there) and it precludes married heterosexuals (and I supposed, homosexuals) from engaging in adultery while married. To the extent that it discriminates against homosexuals, it is in that it allows married heterosexuals to have sex (though only with their spouses), but not married homosexuals (indeed, there too, it would appear to impose a restriction on married homosexuals who engage in sex for a purpose other than “marital intimacy and procreation”).

    I’m happy to concede that, on that last point, the restriction is discriminatory in effect (though query – are they many conservative Christian gay or lesbian couples who might want to attend TWU? I have to imagine that that population is small, if it exists at all, but I digress), but given both the narrowness and breadth of that restriction, it’s really quite unfair to characterize it as an “anti-gay” restriction as it’s clear that the restriction is not targeted at homosexuals, since unmarried heterosexuals are subject to the same restriction – rather it’s clearly targeted at what TWU identifies as un-Christian behavior of which homosexual sex (but not homosexuality, per se) is but one form.

    Certainly, my first impression on reading the TWU covenant was that it was a bona fide attempt to require its students to live in accordance with what TWU considers to be a biblical lifestyle. That it is potentially discriminatory against homosexuals is not the purpose of the covenant, but merely incidental to that conservative Christian interpretation of the bible. No doubt many Canadians (whether gay or straight) don’t share that conception of the good life (certainly I don’t), but it is profoundly wrong to exclude those who do from the public sphere on that basis.

  22. “…But, the law society is not make a judgment in this manner – they are NOT refusing accreditation on a graduate per graduate decision…”

    Actually they are. Basically, TWU graduates will not be allowed to practice law in Ontario, regardless of whether or not they discriminate against homosexuals. The proper course of action (and the course of action mandated by the SCC) would be for the LSUC to accredit TWU (since its program has been determined to provide an adequate legal training) and then refuse to call (or to disbar) those graduates who are incapable of complying with their ethical obligations to serve all Ontarians regardless of sexual orientation.

    Ironically, the fact pattern is even worse (for the LSUC) than in the original 2001 TWU decision, since in that case, the BC College of Teachers was trying to require TWU graduates to spend another year at SFU (I presume to beat the presumed homophobia out of them) – which position the SCC rejected. In this case, before any TWU grad is called in Ontario, he or she must either article for 10 months or go through the LSUC’s licensing program. In either case, the LSUC gets an opportunity to ensure that any particular TWU grad is fully capable of complying with their ethical obligations under the Code of Professional Conduct. In short, had TWU been accredited, the situation in Ontario would have been analogous to that favoured by the OPPONENTS of TWU in the 2001 TWU decision.

  23. Anonymous Lawyer

    For those who are interested, including Bob Smith, I highly recommend reading the latest article on this subject matter by Douglas Judson:

    I think this article fairly well summarizes the positions of those who view the decision to accredit TWU wrong. This article also discusses how the discussion has been characterized in somewhat in a misleading manner.

    I recommend those interested to actually read the submissions made by the benchers themselves, when discuss this question of accreditation:

    Submissions of B.C. Bencher Cameron Ward, (to the point):

    Submissions of B.C. Bencher Joseph Arvay, QC (for truly inspiring words):

  24. The National Magazine article cites Whatcott but I’m not sure if this case is within the same context as the current situation being debated. I would certainly be interested in reading other views on this matter with regard to Whatcott.

  25. Anonymous Lawyer

    I read the Judson article. It’s actually quite rich for him to accuse Trinity Western’s defenders of promoting falsehoods given that a number of the arguments he makes are either strawmen, wrong or misleading.

    I give you one example. In the article Judson states:

    “While the BCCT parable is a stretch, it cannot be ignored. However, Supreme Court jurisprudence has significantly progressed over the past 14 years. In the 2013 case of Whatcott, the Court unanimously departed from the “hate the sin, love the sinner” rationale adopted by TWU in 2001. It embraced Justice L’Heureux-Dubé’s dissent in BCCT: an institution cannot condemn a practice central to the identity of a protected and vulnerable minority without discriminating against its members.”

    First, to suggest that the application of the BCCT decision to the LSUC’s decision “is a stretch” can only be characterized as disingenuous in the extreme – that decision addresses the question of whether a professional regulatory body can refuse to accredit the graduates of a private university based on that university’s otherwise legal internal policies. That’s directly on point both on the legal analysis and (helpfully, since its the same university) the facts. It’s one thing to suggest that the law has changed, but if it hasn’t the TWU decision is determinative.

    Second, he misrepresents the conclusion of the SCC in Whatcott (and, it should be said, in the original TWU case). The Court did NOT embrace L’Hereux Dube’s dissent, rather it embraced her summary of the law on a point on which she agreed with the majority. From Whatcott:

    “L’Heureux-Dubé J. in Trinity Western University v. British Columbia College of Teachers, 2001 SCC 31, [2001] 1 S.C.R. 772, in dissent (THOUGH NOT ON THIS POINT), emphasized this linkage…” [emphasis added}.

    I’m not sure how someone can read that sentence and conclude, in good faith, that the SCC embraced L’Heureux-Dube’s dissent. In TWU, the majority of the SCC clearly accepted that the TWU covenant was discriminatory – no one seriously suggests otherwise – but observed that it was discrimination that was LEGAL under the BC Human Rights Code (and, I note, would be legal under the Ontario Human Rights Code) – since TWU is a private institution it is not subject to the Charter. Moreover, while the majority of the court recognized that it engaged the section 15 protection afforded to homosexuals under the Charter (which, as a public body, the BCCT had to consider), they also noted that those values had to be balanced with the sections 2(a) and 15 rights also afforded to religion under the Charter and concluded that it was improper for the BCCT of teachers in fail to balance the religious freedoms of TWU graduates against those rights.

    So, in Whatcott, far from departing from the reasoning of the majority in TWU, the SCC affirmed the reasoning of the entire Court on TWU ON THAT POINT (which is, admittedly, irrelevant).

    So, not only is Judson arguing against a strawman (i.e., the claim that TWU’s covenant isn’t discriminatory – the SCC clearly found that it is, but that it was permissible), but he’s misrepresenting the substance of the subsequent SCC decisions (I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he just didn’t read them carefully) by suggesting they came to a conclusion that is, on its face, literally the exact opposite of what they did.

    What’s troubling about the arguments made by Judson – and it seems to have originated in the submission of Joseph Arvay (which you find inspiring. Given the manifest errors in it, I find it depressing that a Bencher, a leading member of the legal profession, would make such an argument) – and other opponents of TWU is that with a modicum of critical analysis they fall apart (see, for an examination of other, similar, arguments). That otherwise intelligent arguments are making such self-evidently stupid or misleading arguments make me wonder about whether they actually believing them or whether they’re letting their personal dislike of TWU override the obligation to the rule of law by grasping at straws (or strawmen).

  26. Anonymous Lawyer

    Yes, I do find the words of J. Arvay inspiring and I recommend everyone to read it: I also recommend everyone to read the submissions before the law societies and the SCC decisions so that they have all relevant information, before making up their minds.

  27. You find them inspiring even though they misrepresent (pretty flagrantly) the subsequent supreme court commentary on the TWU decision? I note you don’t even bother to deny that point.

    I find it hard to be inspired by claims based on falsehoods.

  28. Anonymous Lawyer

    Bob: I’m not sure what is to be gained by denying or disagreeing with you point by point. I think it’s quite clear (to me and probably anyone reading these comments) that we disagree on this issue fundamentally. I assume you don’t believe and understand that silence means consent.

    If I had the time and if I thought it would lead to something constructive, I may provide a more substantive reply at some point in the future. But at this point, I’d rather refer people to my blog, which outlines my position clearly:

    I’m sorry you will not get a rise out of me. We just disagree.

    A B.C. Lawyer

  29. Anonymous Lawyer


    I assume you don’t believe that silence means consent. Or, I hope you understand that.

    … Is what I was trying to say.
    Long day.

  30. “Bob: I’m not sure what is to be gained by denying or disagreeing with you point by point. I think it’s quite clear (to me and probably anyone reading these comments) that we disagree on this issue fundamentally. I assume you don’t believe and understand that silence means consent.”

    I agree that there is nothing is to be gained by denying or disagreeing with each of my points, but then, I think I’m right on all of them. I would have hoped, however, that someone who has devoted sufficient time to set up his own blog to argue the anti-TWU case would have better arguments in favour of their case than the facially ridiculous ones you’ve cited.

    I have no particular love for TWU, and am quite content to be persuaded that there is a better interpretation of the law than the one I’ve put forward. But no one from the anti-TWU side is putting that case forward. Worse, the arguments that are being put forward, including arguments put forward by Benchers and other leading members of the legal profession, are so clearly wrong, if not intentionally misleading, that they reflect poorly upon both the people making them and the legal profession as a whole.

    We’re lawyers. We’re committed to upholding the rule of law, even when we don’t personally like the results. That is the essence of being a lawyer. Unless the anti-TWU forces can make a compelling case that the SCC decision in TWU is no longer good law (and citing cases that follow that the decision isn’t a great way to start), that’s the law of the land, and the provincial law societies, of all people, should be following it.