Skip to main content

British Columbia Legal challenges to Trinity Western’s proposed law school gave B.C. minister second thoughts

Minister of Advanced Education Amrik Virk says the abililty of TWU graduates to practise law in B.C. is a big consideration.

CHAD HIPOLITO/The Globe and Mail

British Columbia's Minister of Advanced Education began having second thoughts about granting consent to Trinity Western University's proposed law school when he saw legal challenges against the program pop up across the country.

Amrik Virk first approved the program on Dec. 18, just two days after the Federation of Law Societies of Canada gave its stamp of approval.

At the time, he said his only consideration was the quality of the degree program and whether it met assessment criteria for private and out-of-province institutions.

Story continues below advertisement

But there was opposition from the get-go: Even prior to the law school receiving consent, law students and members of the LGBTQ community across Canada had decried the program.

A line in the university's community covenant, which requires students to abstain from "sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman" is inherently discriminatory, they said.

In the following months, law societies across Canada began voting on whether the law school is an approved faculty of law – the final hurdles in the approval process.

To date, the law societies of British Columbia, Ontario and Nova Scotia have rejected it, meaning graduates of the proposed law school would not be able to work as lawyers in those provinces.

"It's a very complex issue with so many different considerations," Mr. Virk said in an interview. "My original decision was based on, indeed, the quality of the program.

"Obviously, the ability of graduates to practise in B.C. is a relevant consideration in whether you grant consent for a program."

After one of the Law Society of B.C.'s votes in June, Mr. Virk penned a letter to university president Bob Kuhn, warning him that "if TWU law school graduates are not eligible to practice law in British Columbia, that would constitute a substantive change to the program that may require further consideration of the consent granted under the Degree Authorization Act."

Story continues below advertisement

He followed up last week, telling Mr. Kuhn he is considering revoking his consent. He gave the university until Nov. 28 to make submissions.

A lawsuit against the B.C. government, filed by five lawyers, was scheduled to be argued on Dec. 1 but has since been adjourned to Jan. 5 at the Attorney-General's request. The minister is expected to make his decision before then.

Clayton Ruby, one of the lawyers leading the challenge, as well as university president Mr. Kuhn, have both said they feel Mr. Virk is responding to the pressure of the coming court date.

Leonard Krog, NDP opposition critic for the attorney-general, said it's surprising it took the ministry so long to step forward.

"Clearly, the end result of all of this is that the Supreme Court of Canada – I believe – will end up ruling on this issue," he said. "It would be inappropriate and unfair to students to try and operate a law school when its graduates may well never be able to practise law.

"It is ultimately common sense."

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter