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Lawyer seeks to challenge approval of faith-based law school

Trinity Western University won approvals in December to open a law school over objections from lawyers, students and LGBT groups that it discriminates against homosexuals and should not train lawyers.


A B.C. lawyer is trying to drum up support to challenge the Law Society of B.C.'s recent decision to approve a faith-based law school at B.C.'s Trinity Western University.

A criminal lawyer based in Victoria, Michael Mulligan said he launched the initiative because he was frustrated by the society's recent approval of the school, which would require students to sign a community covenant that, among other things, prohibits "sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman."

Mr. Mulligan believes that policy is discriminatory.

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"It just sits wrong with me," Mr. Mulligan said on Thursday. "It strikes me as a matter of principle that this is wrong and not in the interests of our profession. … Is approving an institution that has discrimination as a core value, is that likely to be of value to the profession? I think the answer to that question is no."

The Law Society of B.C. on April 12 voted to approve TWU's proposed law school, despite controversy over the school's policy toward gays and lesbians.

Mr. Mulligan is collecting signatures from law society members in the hopes of forcing a special general meeting to have that decision reconsidered. Under society rules, a special general meeting is required when 5 per cent or more of members request a meeting.

Mr. Mulligan says he has been receiving many faxes and e-mails and believes he could have that many collected by next week.

"We just started sending out notices yesterday afternoon and the fax machine and e-mail is going off the hook," Mr. Mulligan said.

The society has between 11,000 and 12,000 members in good standing, so Mr. Mulligan is hoping to collect roughly 600 signatures. "We want to make sure we have an adequate number," he said.

A spokesperson for the Law Society said it was aware of Mr. Mulligan's letter. He said the Benchers "arrived at their decision on April 11 through a process that was open, thorough and fair – from the beginning, right through to the decision. The Benchers considered legal advice from a number of advisers, existing case law, the Federation of Law Societies of Canada reports, the public submissions and the submissions of TWU."

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The society received nearly 300 submissions leading up to the meeting to discuss the proposed school, which has generated heated discussion within and outside the profession.

"Many Benchers [law society directors] spoke meaningfully about their personal struggle with the decision," Law Society president Jan Lindsay said in a statement following the vote. "The necessity of balancing two Charter Rights; the right to equality and the right to freedom of religion, was discussed by many of the Benchers."

The proposed law school has already cleared two major hurdles in receiving preliminary approval by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada (FLSC) and B.C.'s Ministry of Advanced Education. Provincial law societies now have final say, by way of individual decisions on whether to recognize the law school as an approved faculty of law.

A group of B.C. lawyers also filed a lawsuit against the B.C. government this month, seeking to quash provincial approval for the school.

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About the Author
National correspondent

Based in Vancouver, Wendy Stueck has covered technology and business and now reports on British Columbia issues including natural resources, aboriginal issues and urban affairs. More


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