Letter: Earlier court ruling misused to support TWU law school

Dear Editor,

I realize that the Langley Advance, like all other businesses in Langley, has a vested interest in protecting the reputation of Trinity Western University, since the university serves as a significant economic boon to the local community.

Yet, I am hopeful that in the interest of protecting the free marketplace of ideas that is crucial for responsible journalism, you will consider publishing my letter to you, the editor, in response to Ms. Heather Colpitts’s article published in your paper [Langley university fighting Ontario and Nova Scotia, May 6, Langley Advance.

In her article, Ms. Colpitts cites TWU’s President, Mr. Bob Kuhn, extensively. President Kuhn’s narrow view of the legal issue involving TWU and the accreditation of its proposed law school is the only view presented in this article.

If what Ms. Colpitts reports about President Kuhn not “expecting this kind of backlash” is true, then President Kuhn has led TWU blindly down a very shaky path, and apparently the Langley Advance seems all too willing to follow him down it.

The Supreme Court’s decision of 2001 involving TWU and the BC College of Teachers does not stand for what President Kuhn suggests. He misappropriated the court’s decision when he invoked the authority of this dignified highest court in our land to support TWU’s position, namely, that the proposition that Canada’s various law societies should be forced to recognize and accredit an institution which openly condones discrimination towards anyone who engages in intimate sexual behaviour prior to becoming legally married in a heterosexual union.

That insinuation is wrong.

Trinity Western University v. British Columbia College of Teachers (2001) stands only for the distinction between the appropriate standards of review that should have been applied to that specific case regarding the BCCT’s refusal to accredit teachers going into public education from a private Christian institution with a blatantly discriminatory admissions policy.

TWU’s interpretation is an over-broad misreading and misapplication of the holding in that case. The case only clarifies that correctness was the standard of review applicable to a body that lacked specific expertise in the assessment of the applicable Human Rights legislation and constitutionally protected equality rights.

That is certainly not the case with the Law Society of Upper Canada or the Nova Scotia Barrister’s Society, or any of the other law societies across Canada that have considered or will be considering how to deal with TWU’s refusal to acknowledge constitutionally protected rights in its establishment of a law school.

Canada’s 14 provincial and territorial law societies are perhaps the most qualified institutions, besides the courts and human rights tribunals, to expertly interpret human rights legislation and jurisprudence.

The weight of Human Rights Law and Constitutional authority unequivocally refutes President Kuhn’s and TWU’s contention that the decision to refuse accreditation to TWU graduates on the basis of the school’s blatant discriminatory admissions policies is legally incorrect.  

Furthermore, this 13-year-old decision came long before same-sex marriage was legalized in Canada in 2005; before Canada’s largest and most influential metropolises raised rainbow-coloured Pride flags over their City Halls in support of non-heterosexual athletes at the Sochi Olympic games; and well before the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent June 2013 decision that deemed the U.S. Defence of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional.

Otherwise, the Court surely would have commented further to clarify the appropriate application of its decision, as it may eventually have to do if it TWU is successful in its efforts to litigate this issue.

Not only is the world becoming a more enlightened and accepting place since 2001, identifying and actively fighting real and actual threats to civilized society, such as terrorism and chemical warfare, but Canadian jurisprudence is also evolving towards a more inclusive and accepting society.

President Kuhn may have a law degree, but if there is any truth behind his purported conviction about believing that the decisions of the Law Society of Upper Canada and the Nova Scotia Barrister’s Society not to accredit TWU law graduates is legally incorrect, he appears woefully in breach of the professional obligations to stay up-to-date with the law.

Moreover, it is shamefully draconian for him to openly support such discrimination when the truly Christian course of action would be to lobby TWU’s Board of Directors and lead them to strike that ill-conceived, or at least out-dated language from TWU’s Community Covenant.

Sexual intimacy between consenting adults is not on par or even closely comparable to the use of obscene language, prejudice, harassment, stealing, or cheating.

I digress to the issue of TWU’s discriminatory policies and the law. These circumstances are not directly comparable to those at issue in Trinity Western University v. British Columbia College of Teachers, and if TWU chooses to continue wasting its financial resources and further sullying its reputation, this will be a sad disservice to its students, and will be a waste of precious and limited judicial resources.

Indeed, the availability of judicial resources, including strong legal education that comports with constitutionally protected Canadian values, is really what is at stake here. Law students depend on lawyers who are properly educated in the current state of the law, and who themselves comport with the law to provide a standard of correctness in their legal education.

It is incorrect for a law school to teach its students, even indirectly, that it is acceptable to disregard the constitutionally protected freedoms that the legal profession strives to uphold.

Finally, the jury is in on mainstream Canadian society’s acceptance of identities and inherently related lifestyles that do not comport to the supposedly Christian heterosexual norm.

For nearly a decade now, marriage in Canada has no longer been defined as an exclusively heterosexual institution.

Thank you for considering the alternative perspective to an issue that deserves much more than blind loyalty to TWU’s position on this issue.

Patrick Jang, Hamilton, Ontario

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