Trinity Western University’s law school isn’t the only thing on the agenda for the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC). It is a vital point that demonstrates whether Ontario’s governors of legal practice are committed to diversity as defined by the Supreme Court of Canada or diversity as defined by political correctness and strong-armed conformism.
In 2014, the LSUC benchers voted against fundamental constitutional principles by a margin of 28 to 21 (with 1 abstention). TWU’s school of law graduates would not be permitted to practice law in Ontario, unless the benchers’ decision was overturned in the courts… or by a future decision of the benchers.
Well, the time has come to elect the next slate of benchers. And, below, you will find the link to a record of how benchers voted in 2014 (in red) and how new candidates intend to vote if the matter is returned for their consideration (in green). The sources are reputable and the supporting documentation for this list has been provided to me.
I won’t tell you how to vote. However, this list will inform how I vote.
First, a brief summary of the law and the facts.
In its decision on same-sex marriage in 2004, the Supreme Court of Canada stated Canada is a nation that constitutionally provides for a diversity of individual and institutional opinions on marriage. The justices then noted that Parliament, not the Court, had the constitutional authority to decide the civil definition of marriage; and, Parliament would have to accept the diversity of opinions, particularly those which are constitutionally protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms provision concerning the right to freedom of religion.
In 2005’s Civil Marriage Act, Parliament included respect for this diversity of opinions, with particular protection for religious individuals and institutions in the ”expression of their beliefs in respect of marriage as the union of a man and woman to the exclusion of all others.” The Civil Marriage Act changed the definition of civil (non-religious) marriage to “the lawful marriage of two persons.”
In an earlier decision, the Supreme Court of Canada recognized in 2001 that TWU’s community covenant – the covenant that upset 28 Ontario benchers – was appropriate for the private religious institution; and, the professional body that had denied accreditation to TWU graduates could only regulate the behaviour of TWU’s academically qualified graduates who chose to enter the profession they had trained for AFTER they entered the profession. Because graduates of TWU’s school of education met academic requirements, the British Columbia College of Teachers (BCCT) was required to admit them as members. As members of the BCCT, however, TWU grads would then be regulated under the same provisions applicable to other teachers in the province.
In late 2013, The Federation of Law Societies of Canada (the accrediting group approved by ALL of Canada’s law societies) and the B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education approved the submission of Trinity Western University as being in full compliance with nationally established educational standards for a law school. In the process, The Fed sought and received a legal opinion from one of Canada’s leading constitutional law lawyers. John B. Laskin concluded:
In my view, both of these asserted grounds for refusing approval would be highly questionable. As for the first, as also already mentioned the Supreme Court concluded that graduates of TWU would “treat homosexuals fairly and respectfully.” It was implicit in its decision that their education at TWU did not detract from their ability to comply with “principles of equality, nondiscrimination, and the duty not to discriminate.” Professor Craig provides no evidence to support the contention that the position would somehow be otherwise for law students.
As for the second, it proceeds from a view of academic freedom that is by no means universally shared. Following its logic would lead to the conclusion that no individual lawyer who adheres to a set of religious principles could engage in critical thinking about ethical issues. This conclusion cannot be tenable. The second argument, like the first one, also fails to give any recognition to the positive value of religious diversity that the Supreme Court embraced in BCCT.
The Law Society of Upper Canada is ready to elect its next slate of benchers (board of directors). LSUC members get to vote for 40 benchers; 20 from Toronto and 20 from the rest of Ontario.
Under the LSUC system, the benchers who receive the highest number of votes in each of 8 regions (1 from Toronto and 7 from outside Toronto) will become the regional benchers. The remaining 32 benchers will be the 19 who get the most votes in Toronto and 13 who get the most votes from outside Toronto.
It is my, I think quite reasonable, expectation that the governors of the legal profession will respect the law.
Here’s the list: