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Trinity Western University & Braydon Volkenant v. The Law Society of Upper Canada

Acting on behalf of the Law Society of Upper Canada (the "Law Society"), BLG (lead by Guy Pratte, Nadia Effendi and Duncan Ault) was successful before the Ontario Court of Appeal in upholding the decision of the Law Society to deny accreditation to Trinity Western University's ("TWU") proposed law school.

In a unanimous decision, Justices MacPherson, Cronk and Pardu of the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld the Law Society decision.  TWU requires as a condition of admission that applicants sign a Community Covenant pledging, among other things, to abstain from sexual intimacy outside of heterosexual marriage. The key issue before the Court was whether the Law Society's decision to deny accreditation reasonably balanced TWU's freedom of religion with the Law Society's public interest mandate; in particular, the public interest in ensuring LGBTQ students have access to every accredited law school. Writing for the Court, Justice MacPherson held that the Law Society's balancing in the circumstances was reasonable, and upheld all aspects of the decision of the Ontario Divisional Court (2015 ONCA 4250), which had upheld the Law Society's decision on TWU's application for judicial review.

This is the first decision of an appellate court on this issue in Canada, but it will not be the last. The law societies in Nova Scotia and British Columbia also denied TWU accreditation, and judicial review proceedings of those decisions were brought by TWU. The lower courts in both those provinces struck down their respective law societies' decisions, and appeals were heard in Nova Scotia in April 2016 and in British Columbia in June 2016. Stay tuned.