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BLG Successfully Represents Law Society of Ontario In Trinity Western University SCC Case

Ottawa (June 15, 2018) — BLG (Guy PratteNadia Effendi and Duncan Ault) is proud to have been afforded the privilege to represent the Law Society of Ontario in Trinity Western University v. Law Society of Upper Canada.

In a decision released today, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the decision of the Law Society of Ontario to deny to accredit a law school proposed by Trinity Western University ("TWU") located in Langley, British Columbia. TWU is an evangelical Christian educational institution which requires its students to sign a code of conduct that precludes, among other things, expressions of sexual intimacy outside of heterosexual marriage. The Law Society of Ontario originally denied accreditation to TWU’s proposed law school on the basis that doing so would limit access to the legal profession based upon personal characteristics such as religious beliefs and sexual orientation that are irrelevant to merit. In upholding the Law Society’s decision, the Supreme Court affirmed the earlier decisions of the Divisional Court of Ontario and the Court of Appeal of Ontario.

The Supreme Court affirmed that the Law Society was entitled, by virtue of its statutory mandate, to consider the admissions policy of TWU in denying it accreditation. The Court held that the admissions policy, would “negatively affect equitable access to and diversity within the profession” — which would be contrary to the public interest. The Court proceeded to state:

“In our view, the LSUC was entitled to conclude that equal access to the legal profession, diversity within the bar, and preventing harm to LGBTQ students were all within the scope of its duty to uphold the public interest in the accreditation context, which necessarily includes upholding a positive public perception of the legal profession… it is inimical to the integrity of the legal profession to limit access on the basis of personal characteristics. This is especially so in light of the public trust enjoyed by the legal profession.”

The Supreme Court held that the Law Society’s decision only minimally interferes with the religious freedoms of the TWU community because the TWU admissions policy, although rooted in sincerely-held religious beliefs, is not absolutely required to study law in a Christian environment.

In the result, the Supreme Court held that the Law Society’s decision represented a proportionate balancing between (i) equality of access to and diversity within the legal profession in Ontario and (ii) the Charter‑protected freedoms of the TWU community.

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