Editorial — Trinity Western's law school fight will likely end in Supreme Court of Canada

The fight over Trinity Western University’s plans to open a law school in 2016 seems almost certainly destined to end up in the Supreme Court of Canada, just as was the case with the Christian university’s plans to begin teacher training.

In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that Trinity could indeed train teachers for the public school system (and other schools), despite its controversial community covenant that prospective students are asked to sign.

At that time, the B.C. College of Teachers, which oversaw the teaching profession but was indirectly controlled by the B.C. Teachers Federation, set its sights on denying TWU the ability to train teachers.  It even raised members’ dues to help finance the court case. It lost.

In  the case of the law school, the ministry of advanced education and federation of law societies of Canada has approved TWU’s plans to set up a faculty of law.  It would be the first private university in Canada to offer such a program. This would seem to be a useful adjunct to the current system of law faculties at large public universities. In B.C., potential lawyers can now train at the University of B.C. or the University of Victoria.

The Law Society of B.C.’s board approved TWU’s plans, agreeing that graduates could practice in B.C. That decision was challenged by a petition circulated by a Victoria lawyer, and a special general meeting will be held to reconsider that decision.

The Law Society of Upper Canada (Ontario) decided Thursday it would not allow TWU grads to practice in Ontario. Nova Scotia’s law society followed suit Friday. Meanwhile, a Vancouver civic politician is challenging the TWU law school’s certification by the B.C. government in court.

The law society decisions, no matter which way they go, are almost certain to also end up being challenged in court.

All of this will keep a good number of lawyers employed, billing various clients at hefty hourly rates. It will also tie up a number of courts. And in the end, the matter will eventually be settled by the Supreme Court of Canada, as in 2001. It will be deja vu all over again.

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