From the Globe and Mail: Pressure mounts on law societies to reject faith-based school’s graduates

Friday, January 31, 2014

The Globe and Mail has published an article about resolutions passed by UBC and Dalhousie law faculty members about TWU's proposed law school. The article is available here.

Legal Opinion on the Accreditation of TWU by Professor Emeritus Dianne Pothier of the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

TO:                  J. René Gallant, President, Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society

 FROM:            Dianne Pothier, NSBS member #1982-0069 (non-practicing)

 RE:                  Trinity Western University’s proposed Law School

 DATE:            January 18, 2014

            I am writing in response to your invitation for comment on whether the proposed Law School at Trinity Western University should be recognized as conferring a common law Canadian law degree for the purposes of admission to the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society.  I am writing as a member of the NSBS continuously since 1982 (mostly with non-practicing status) and as a Professor Emeritus of the Schulich School of Law.  In most years during my time on the Dalhousie Law Faculty, from 1986-2012, I taught either Public Law (with a focus on human rights law and Charter equality) or Constitutional Law or both.  I have also published extensively in these areas.

 TWU’s Community Covenant

        Trinity Western University is a private, faith based university affiliated with the Evangelical Free Church of Canada.  Faculty and staff are required to sign an annual faith statement.  Faculty, staff and students are required to sign a “Community Covenant” that commits them, inter alia, to “treat all persons with respect and dignity” and to abstain from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman” (Community Covenant, s. 3). Students need not be adherents of the Evangelical Free Church faith, or any other Christian faith, but are nonetheless required to abide by the religiously-based code of conduct.  The Community Covenant not only commits signatories in respect of their own personal conduct, but also incorporates accountability for the conduct of others within the TWU community:

Ensuring that the integrity of the TWU community is upheld may at times involve taking steps to hold one another accountable to the mutual commitments outlined in this covenant.  As a covenant community, all members share this responsibility. Community Covenant, s. 5)

        Signatories of the Community Covenant further “understand that … I have also become an ambassador of this community and the ideals it represents.”  (Community Covenant, penultimate paragraph)  Even if done in a way that respects the “sinner,” this Community Covenant creates an unwelcoming environment for those involved in same-sex intimacy of any kind (whether within or outside marriage) and opposite-sex intimacy outside marriage.  This is blatant discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and marital status.  In terms of employment and admission policies, however, this discrimination is permitted under British Columbia human rights legislation because TWU is exempt as a religiously-based private institution.   Nonetheless, the implications of taking a TWU degree into the public realm raise very different questions.

        The Federation of Law Societies split the assessment of the proposed TWU Law School into two issues: (1) whether the proposed TWU Law School meets the “national requirements” for knowledge and skills requisite for admission to a bar in a Canadian common law jurisdiction – mandate of the Approval Committee; and (2) whether there are other public interest issues that should preclude approval of the TWU Law School as a basis for admission to a bar – mandate of the Special Advisory Committee, and the subject of John B. Laskin’s legal opinion.  In my assessment, such a splitting of issues is artificial.  In both contexts, the issue is the same.  Does the discriminatory context of TWU as a private institution taint reliance on a TWU degree in the the public realm.

       The TWU Community Covenant is more than a statement of religious beliefs.  It is a commitment to enforcing a religiously-based code of conduct, not just in respect of one’s own behaviour, but also in respect of other members of the TWU community, including non-adherents of the faith.  It is also a commitment to being an ambassador of TWU’s ideals.  The extent to which the TWU Community Covenant is actually enforced is not the point.   TWU cannot rely on non-enforcement when the issue is admission to the practice of law where compliance with legal undertakings is sacrosanct.  The TWU Community Covenant is a fundamental aspect of the culture of the institution, which pervades much more than course content.

           The Federation’s Approval Committee limited itself to course content.

51 Although the course outlines for TWU's proposed Ethics and Professionalism and Constitutional Law courses are consistent with what one would expect for such courses, the members of the Approval Committee see a tension between the proposed teaching of these required competencies and elements of the Community Covenant. In particular, the Approval Committee is concerned that some of the underlying beliefs reflected in the Community Covenant, which members of faculty are required to embrace as a condition of employment, may constrain the appropriate teaching and thus the required understanding of equality rights and the ethical obligation not to discriminate against any person.  This tension appears to be reflected in the description of the mandatory Ethics and Professionalism course (LAW 602), which states that the course “challenges students to reconcile their personal and professional beliefs within a framework of service to clients and community while respecting and performing professional obligations and responsibilities.”

52. Based on the proposed course outlines and TWU's commitments and undertakings noted above, the Approval Committee concluded that the issue of whether students will acquire the necessary competencies in both Ethics and Professionalism, and Public Law is, at this stage, a concern, rather than a deficiency. (Approval Committee Report)

              The Federation’s Approval Committee relied on assurances from TWU that it appreciated such tensions, and would reconcile them. But the assurances were simple assertions, without any explanation as to how this would be done.  TWU said only that key cases on sexual orientation equality would be taught, and standard texts relied upon. (May 13, 2013 letter from Kevin G. Sawatsky, p. 4, Appendix to Approval Committee Report)  That could be done by teaching simply that Canadian equality law is inconsistent with their particular perspective on Christianity.  The real question is not what will be taught, but how it will be taught, i.e. will it be taught in a way that accepts that constitutional and legal equality dictates prevail over religious judgment.  TWU has not confronted that issue.  TWU is presumably not in a position to address that question without yet knowing who will be teaching the courses.  In ordinary circumstances, it would not be appropriate for the Federation’s Approval Committee or any bar society to probe deeply into the pedagogy of a Law School course.  But where there is such a stark tension between an institutional culture of discrimination and legal obligations of equality and non-discrimination, more than a statement of concern is warranted.

   Most lawyers probably face some degree of tension between their personal beliefs and the legal order, and must find a way to reconcile them in a way that respects the law.  Depending on the nature of the tension, that may range from easy to difficult to do.   Given the depth of opposition to same-sex sexual intimacy, and opposite-sex sexual intimacy outside marriage, incorporated into the TWU Community Covenant, the challenge to reconcile such deeply felt beliefs, and the commitment to enforcing them, with public responsibilities respecting equality is especially acute.  That should place a particularly high onus on TWU to explain, which it has not even begun to meet.

The SCC decision in BCCT v. TWU  

            Much of the discussion of TWU’s proposed Law School has involved debate over the impact of the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in British Columbia College of Teachers v. Trinity Western University, [2001] S.C.R. 772.  I think a strong argument could be made that this case would be decided differently today by the Supreme Court of Canada.  That Court has not been averse to reversing itself, particularly in the area of constitutional and human rights law: e.g. Health Services and Support – Facilities Subsector Bargaining Association v. British Columbia, [2007] 2 S.C.R 391, incorporating a right to collective bargaining within constitutional protection of freedom of association, reversing the 1987 Labour Trilogy; British Columbia (Public Service Employee Relations Commission) v. British Columbia Government and Service Employees' Union, [1999] 3 S.C.R. 3 (Re Meiorin), adopting a unified approach to direct and adverse effects discrimination, reversing the earlier bifurcated approach; Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission v. Whatcott, 2013 SCC 11, modifying in part the definition of hatred in the context of human rights legislation prohibitions of hate speech.  However, it is quite speculative to contend that the SCC would be ready to reverse itself in BCCT v. TWU.  I am prepared to proceed on the basis that BCCT v. TWU remains good and binding law.  On that assumption, I respectfully disagree with the view of the Federation’s Special Advisory Committee, and the opinion of John Laskin on which it relied, that the BCCT v. TWU decision is determinative.  In my assessment, it can be distinguished.

            BCCT v. TWU involved an application by TWU for certification of its teacher training program.  The BCCT rejected the certification application, a decision that was held invalid by the majority of the Supreme Court of Canada.  The SCC recognized that the TWU Community Covenant raised serious concerns, but concluded it was improper to deny certification in the absence of specific evidence that TWU graduates as a group would actually discriminate against students.  To avoid a conflict between religious freedom and equality, the majority of the SCC drew a “line … between belief and conduct” (para. 36), leaving individual discriminatory teacher conduct liable to disciplinary proceedings (para. 37).  It is important to note the context of TWU’s application.  The status quo ante, which already had certification, was four years of education at TWU followed by a final year at Simon Fraser.  TWU’s new proposal was to replace the final year at Simon Fraser with one at TWU.  The majority of the SCC relied on the nature of that fifth year at Simon Fraser, where “[o]n the evidence, it is clear that the participation of Simon Fraser University never had anything to do with the apprehended intolerance from its inception to the present” (para. 38), questioning: “[a]fter finding that TWU students hold fundamental biases, based on their religious beliefs, how could the BCCT ever have believed that the last year's program being under the aegis of Simon Fraser University would ever correct the situation?” (para. 38).

 The Simon Fraser teacher training curriculum did not have any anti-discrimination component.  In contrast, Law Schools are mandated to teach legal principles of equality, in the constitutional and statutory context.  Furthermore, while public school teachers carry only the obligation of all members of the community not to discriminate in the provision of public services, lawyers have an extra level of responsibility.  Lawyers are potentially involved in the administration of constitutional and statutory equality and anti-discrimination provisions.  Thus there is good reason to impose a higher bar than in BCCT v. TWU, i.e. good reason for going beyond looking for specific evidence that TWU Law School graduates will, as a group, engage in discriminatory conduct.  

The extra step of a year at Simon Fraser was neither designed for, nor effective in,  addressing the discrimination issues raised by the TWU Community Covenant.  In contrast, Law Societies are in a position to address those issues by adding an extra step to the bar admission process.  If a law degree from TWU were treated as in the same category as those from foreign law schools, the National Committee on Accreditation requirements, or some provincial counterpart, could be used to fill the gap in requirements for admission to a Canadian bar. 

TWU argues that such an extra step would run contrary to the freedom of religion of its graduates.  In addressing the justified limits on freedom of religion in order to promote equality, it must be remembered that there is more latitude in limiting freedom of religion outside a penal context, where instead what is involved is access to benefits or privileges; Alberta v. Hutterian Brethren of Wilson County, [22009] 2 S.C.R. 567, paras. 37, 95.  Admission to a bar clearly falls into the latter category. The Hutterite case recognized inevitable “conflicts with individual beliefs” (para. 90), setting the essence of a Charter s. 1 inquiry as: “whether the limit leaves the adherent with a meaningful choice to follow his or her religious beliefs and practices.” (para. 88) 

A decision by a provincial bar society to deny recognition to a TWU law degree would not preclude anyone from conducting themselves in their own sexual activities in accordance with their religious beliefs.  It would ultimately only address the inability to impose, in the public sphere, such a code of conduct on others.  It would add an extra step, through the National Committee on Accreditation or a comparable provincial process, but would not preclude admission to the practice of law. Moreover, there is much that can be done with a legal education apart from entering the legal profession.  Although Carleton’s law program is a world apart from TWU, it is an example of an academic study of law with utility not connected to admission to a bar.  The limits on freedom of religion involved in a bar society decision not to recognize a TWU law degree are quite minimal.


            TWU caters primarily to British Columbia residents.  Thus there may be very few graduates of a TWU Law School interested in admission to the NSBS.  But that does not make the matters of principle any less important.  Beyond the numbers, what matters is the anti-equality message that would be conveyed by a decision by the NSBS to recognize the TWU Law School as qualifying for bar admission.  Such a decision would undermine the message conveyed by the annual pride reception held by the NSBS.  Such a decision would undermine the message conveyed by the fact that the Society has an Equity Officer.  Such a decision would undermine the message conveyed by the ad hoc committee, chaired by Emma Halpern as Equity Officer, on Employment Equity in the Legal Profession.  I strongly urge the NSBS not to undermine those equality messages.  Instead the NSBS should show leadership in denying approval to the proposed TWU Law School.

Sincerely yours,

Dianne Pothier

c.c.       Tilly Pillay, QC
            Darrel Pink
            Naiomi Metallic
Kim Brooks
Emma Halpern

Student Internship at uOttawa Law

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre needs a student with interest or experience in the non-profit/charity sector to revamp the Centre’s Policy Manual.  This would entail reviewing legislation, doing some targeted research, and drafting policy, and requires the student to have a background in feminist theory (or committed beliefs) so as to infuse the Policy Manual with feminist principles, where applicable, and to actively engage with the ORCC on coherences and conflicts between legal requirements and feminist values.

Eligible students in the JD program at the Faculty of Law can see details here.

Bias in Law Firm Recruiting

Interesting new Slaw blog by Amy Salyzyn, Sessional Professor at University of Ottawa, about recent attempts to overcome bias in law firm recruitment processes. Here is the blog, re-posted with permission:

Looking for the Gems: Overcoming Bias in Law Firm Recruitment
Amy Salyzyn

In early January, London-based global mega-firm Clifford Chance LLP made headlines when The Independent reported that the firm had “quietly introduced a ‘CV blind policy’ for final interviews with all would-be recruits.” According to the report, “staff conducting the interviews are no longer given any information about which university candidates attended, or whether they come from state or independent schools.” The reported aim of the change in practice was to “neutralize” bias towards candidates from elite English universities like Oxford and Cambridge. An anonymous senior employee was quoted in The Independent’s story, saying, “We’re looking for the gems and they’re not all in the jeweller’s shop.”

The article in The Independent suggests that the policy change has been remarkably successful in its first year of operation: the firm saw a 30% increase in the number of educational institutions from which its recruits hailed. An editorial in The Independent lauded the policy as a move “in the right direction” for “greater social mobility.” The website Lawyer2B has credited the “CV blind policy”, along with other changes to Clifford Chance’s recruitment process, with tripling the firm’s intake of black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi candidates in two years.

At first blush, this story might seem to bear little relevance to entry-level hiring among Canadian law firms. The controversial history of elitism with “Oxbridge” admissions doesn’t find an easy comparator among Canadian universities. As a general matter, large Canadian law firms appear to draw from a diversity of Canadian law schools when it comes to staffing their (often multi-provincial) offices.

The broader issue of hiring bias and what to do about it is, however, something that the Canadian legal profession ought to take seriously. The October 2012 Final Report of the LSUC Articling Taskforce received “numerous submissions” from equality-seeking groups who, among other things, expressed concerns that their members may be disproportionately represented among those unable to find articling positions and proportionately less represented among those who obtain articling positions in large firms. The same year, the Law Society of British Columbia’s report, Towards a More Representative Legal Profession: Better practices, better workplaces, better results, highlighted the chronic underrepresentation of Aboriginal and visible minority lawyers in that province’s legal profession.

Although many Canadian law firms have begun to tackle issues of workplace diversity and hiring bias, one wonders if enough is being done to tackle this problem. Indeed, it is difficult to know exactly what is being done. Beyond largely promotional materials on firm websites, there doesn’t seem to be much detailed or candid information about what concrete steps Canadian law firms are taking to address the potential role of bias (both conscious and unconscious) in hiring decisions.

Engaging in fair and equitable hiring practices is an essential part of a law firm’s ethical infrastructure, just like conflict check systems and appropriate accounting policies. The types of measures that might be effective in tackling bias in hiring, however, are much less obvious to most lawyers than the tools to ensure meaningful conflicts or accounting systems. This makes it important for firms that have taken steps to reform hiring practices to share information about what they are doing and to report on what has and has not worked in combating bias in hiring. One might imagine a clearinghouse of best practices that could be developed. Small to medium size firms, who are unlikely to have the same resources as larger law firms to conduct research or hire consultants to assist with recruitment, especially stand to benefit from such a resource.

The “quiet introduction” of Clifford Chance’s new policy suggests that law firms are shy to share information about innovations in recruitment processes. The reports from Ontario and British Columbia mentioned above, however, suggest that timidity is no longer a defensible option. We appear to have significant problem. We need all hands on deck working to fix it.


Supreme Court of Canada grants leave to appeal in Carter v Canada

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Supreme Court of Canada has granted leave to appeal in the assisted suicide case of Carter v Canada. Information about the appeal can be found on the Supreme Court's website.

Researching and Writing for Equality*

* The Latest & Greatest from SSRN

The latest from our colleague, Professor Suzanne Bouclin:

"YouTube and Muslim Women's Legal Subjectivities"
Oñati Socio-Legal Series, Vol. 3, No. 7, 2013

This paper is located within the discursive and spatio-temporal landscape of post 9/11 Canada in which national identity and beliefs about belonging are embedded in pervasive Islamophobia. Its starting point is that social media are key sites for expression of discrimination and intolerance vis-à-vis people of the Muslim faith, and especially the constitution of Muslim face and head scarves as a metonym for Islamic terrorism and a quintessential symbol of uniquely fundamentalist manifestation of patriarchy. I ask, however, whether new modes of visibility might be captured when we examine representational sites of Muslim femininity through the lens of ‘new’ or ‘critical’ legal pluralism. I highlight how women have used Social Networking Sites (SNSs) to respond and reconfigure more entrenched discourses around Muslim femininity circulated elsewhere, such as in formal institutionalized state-based law, mainstream/Western feminist discourses, and in popular cultural productions. I have found that Muslim women deploy social media to constitute or express alternative subjectivities and to represent and evaluate their own understandings of feminism, normative femininity, religious practices, including the multiple meanings that attach to the donning of Islamic headscarves.

Full article available here.  

Hon. Justice Harry Laforme to speak at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law, Feb. 6, 2014

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

On February 6, Justice Harry Laforme of the Ontario Court of Appeal will deliver a special lecture in Aboriginal law entitled "Aboriginal Rights Doctrine in Canada: The Fruit of the Poisoned Tree?" The lecture will take place in FTX 147 from 5-6pm.

All of the details are available here.

The lecture will also celebrate the launch the historic 5th edition of Canadian Charter
of Rights and Freedoms,
edited by Professors Errol P. Mendes and Stephane Beaulac.

Please RSVP to by February 3, 2014.

Call for Papers: 2014 Conference on Emerging Issues in Canadian Public Law

Friday, January 10, 2014


Conférence 2014 sur les Enjeux émergents en droit public canadien 
(Université d'Ottawa, le 22 mai 2014)

2014 Conference on Emerging Issues in Canadian Public Law
 (University of Ottawa, 22 May 2014)



Conférence 2014 sur les Enjeux émergents en droit public canadien

Le 22 mai 2014, de 8 h à 13 h
12102, pavillon Desmarais, 50, avenue Laurier Est, Ottawa
Organisée par le Groupe de droit public, Université d’Ottawa
Co-parrainée par la Chaire Shirley E. Greenberg pour les femmes et la profession juridique

 À la suite du succès remporté par nos Conférences sur les Enjeux émergents en droit public canadien depuis 2011, nous commençons dès à présent à préparer la quatrième conférence annuelle. Comme pour les années passées, notre intention consiste à mettre en valeur l’importance des questions de droit public au Canada, et la force et la profondeur de l’intérêt et de l’expertise en droit public à Ottawa. Nous aimerions bénéficier de la présence de conférenciers et conférencières de l’extérieur d’Ottawa, aussi bien de common law, de droit civil que du ministère de la Justice.

Nous avons déterminé que la conférence sur les enjeux émergents de 2014 serait axée sur deux thèmes en particulier :

1.      Le stare decisis en droit public

Dans des causes récentes, on a soulevé la question du fonctionnement du stare decisis sur les plans théorique et pratique dans les causes de droit public (et tout particulièrement en droit constitutionnel). Dans quelles circonstances la Cour suprême du Canada devrait-elle infirmer sa propre jurisprudence ? Peut-il être acceptable que des tribunaux inférieurs refusent d’appliquer un arrêt de la Cour suprême du Canada en raison d’une évolution des conditions sociales ou d’autres facteurs ? De quelle manière les tribunaux inférieurs devraient-ils gérer les causes qui demandent que l’on infirme une jurisprudence existante ? Quelles seraient les exigences à respecter au plan de la preuve dans de telles causes ? Nous sommes intéressés à recevoir des textes sur ces questions et d’autres concernant l’application du stare decisis dans le contexte du droit public.

 2.      Les libertés fondamentales

Au cours des dernières années, nous avons assisté à une redéfinition du débat entourant la portée et la signification de nos libertés civiles fondamentales, telles qu’énoncées dans notre Charte à titre de libertés fondamentales (article 2). Qu’il s’agisse de la réglementation d’Internet, de l’interdiction de l’État relative aux vêtements religieux ou du droit de grève, il n’est pas un énoncé de l’article 2 qui ait échappé à la controverse. Nous sollicitons donc des textes qui traiteraient d’un aspect ou d’un autre des libertés fondamentales. Nous sommes particulièrement intéressés à des causes à venir et/ou à des enjeux qui seraient d’intérêt public. Les textes qui examinent les rapports de l’article 2 avec d’autres dispositions de la Charte sont également les bienvenus.

Pour chacun de ces deux thèmes, il existe des enjeux de droit public aussi importants que distincts. Nous sommes toutefois ouverts à toute proposition de sujets transversaux qui y sont reliés.

Nous vous invitons également à soumettre des exposés sur des enjeux émergents qui ne cadrent pas forcément avec les thèmes choisis. Il est d’ailleurs possible que nous ajustions les thèmes en conséquence ; quant aux propositions qui n’auraient pas été prises en compte cette année, elles pourraient être explorées et discutées pas leurs auteurs au cours des années suivantes.

Si vous êtes intéressé à présenter un texte sur un nouvel enjeu que vous estimez important en droit public canadien, veuillez nous faire parvenir une description d’une demi-page de votre proposition et la faire parvenir à ou d’ici le vendredi 31janvier, au plus tard. Prière de noter que ces exposés sont d’une durée approximative de 10 à 15 minutes.

Nous souhaitons recevoir les textes des présentations avant la tenue de la Conférence, à la mi-mai au plus tard. Ces textes seront publiés sur le site Web du Groupe de droit public dans le cadre d’une série de documents de travail susceptibles d’être publiés, soit dans la Revue nationale de droit constitutionnel, soit, s’il y a lieu, sous forme de livre. N’hésitez pas à nous aviser de votre intention de collaborer à cette série de documents de travail, même si vous ne souhaitez pas présenter un texte lors de la Conférence. Veuillez consulter notre site Web de temps à autre pour en savoir davantage au sujet des idées de documents de travail.

Si vous avez quelque question que ce soit, au sujet de la Conférence ou du Groupe de droit public, n’hésitez pas à communiquer avec un membre du Comité organisateur.

Nous sommes impatients de recevoir de vos nouvelles.


Le Comité organisateur

Angela Cameron
Vanessa MacDonnell
Carissima Mathen
Peter Oliver


2014 Conference on Emerging Issues in Canadian Public Law

May 22, 2014, 8h00 – 13h00
12102 Desmarais Hall, 50 Laurier Avenue East, Ottawa

Organized by the Public Law Group, University of Ottawa
Co-sponsored by the Shirley E. Greenberg Chair for Women and the Legal Profession

Following on successful Emerging Issues in Canadian Public Law Conferences since 2011, planning is now underway to put on the Fourth Annual conference.  As before, our intention is to highlight the importance of public law issues in Canada, and the strength and depth of public law interest and expertise in Ottawa. We also hope to include speakers from outside Ottawa, as well as from Common Law, Civil Law and the Department of Justice. 

For the 2014 Emerging Issues conference, we have decided to focus on two themes

1.      Stare decisis in public law

Recent cases have raised the question of how stare decisis operates at a theoretical and a practical level in public law (and especially constitutional law) cases. Under what circumstances should the Supreme Court of Canada reverse its own precedents? Is it ever acceptable for lower courts to decline to apply a Supreme Court of Canada precedent in light of changing social conditions or other factors? How should lower courts manage cases that seek to reverse existing precedent? What are the evidentiary demands of such cases? We welcome papers on these and other questions about stare decisis in the public law context.

2.      Fundamental freedoms

In recent years, we have witnessed a sharpening of the debate concerning the scope and meaning of our basic civil liberties, as reflected in the Charter’s fundamental freedoms (section 2).  From regulating the internet, to state bans on religious dress, to the right to strike, scarcely a portion of section 2 has remained free of controversy.  We welcome papers addressing any aspect of the fundamental freedoms.  We are particularly interested in forthcoming cases, and/or issues likely to be of public interest.  Papers considering section 2’s relationship to the Charter’s other sections are welcome.

There are distinct, important public law issues regarding each of these topics. But we are also very open to cross-cutting takes on these themes.

Please also feel free to suggest papers on Emerging Issues that do not necessarily fall within our suggested themes.  It is possible that we will adjust the themes, and in any event, suggestions that are not taken up this year may be explored and taken up with proposers in subsequent years.

Please set out a half-page description of your proposal and send it to  or by Friday, January 31, 2014 at the latest.  Please keep in mind that presentations will be limited to approximately 10-15 minutes.  Written papers will be expected in advance of the Conference, by the middle of May at the latest. They will be published on the Public Law Group website as part of a Working Paper series that may lead to publication, either in the National Journal of Constitutional Law or, if appropriate, in book form.  We would welcome hearing from you if you are interested in the Working Paper series, even if you are not interested in giving a paper at the Conference. Please consult our website from time to time for more information regarding Working Paper ideas.

If you have any questions, about the Conference or about the Public Law Group, please feel free to speak to any of the members of the Organizing Committee.  We look forward to hearing from you.

The Organizing Committee

Angela Cameron
Vanessa MacDonnell
Carissima Mathen
Peter Oliver

More lawyers speak out against TWU's approval

Thursday, January 9, 2014

FACL Speaks Out Against the Approval of the Trinity Western University Law School in British Columbia

As an organization aimed at promoting equity, justice and opportunity, FACL strongly opposes the Federation of Law Societies of Canada's (FLSC’s) recommendation that provincial law societies approve Trinity Western University's (TWU's) proposed law school program.  FACL is also disturbed by the B.C. Minister of Advanced Education's hasty approval of TWU's law degree program the day after the FLSC concluded its protracted and closed-door process.

Specifically, FACL is of the view that the TWU Community Covenant Agreement, that is required to be signed by all TWU faculty, staff and students, is discriminatory.  The Community Covenant Agreement includes a requirement to abstain from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and woman” and provides TWU with the reserved rights to question, challenge or discipline its members in response to actions that impact personal or social welfare.  Past iterations of the Community Covenant included a requirement to refrain from practices that are biblically condemned, including homosexual behaviour.

The mandatory requirement to enter into the Community Covenant Agreement as a condition to school admission and employment at TWU has the effect of excluding applicants from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and transgender communities and negatively impacts upon the human dignity of persons in these communities.

FACL believes that all law schools across Canada must create a forum for free exchange of ideas, premised upon inclusion, tolerance, respect and opportunity for equal participation.  FACL further believes that law schools and the institutions that authorize the creation of these schools must act in the public interest and ensure that their policies and practices adhere to the principles of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and provincial and territorial human rights legislation.

FACL agrees with the Council of Canadian Law Deans that, “Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is unlawful in Canada and fundamentally at odds with the core values of all Canadian law schools.”

FACL calls upon the provincial law societies and government decision makers across Canada, to act in the public interest and to reject TWU’s application for accreditation of its law school program and to withdraw all approvals and consents on the basis that its policies and practices are discriminatory and contrary to the principles of human rights law in Canada.  In addition, FACL advocates for the inclusion of a non-discrimination policy as a condition that all law schools must adhere to in order to maintain its accreditation.
FACL thanks National Law Firm Partner McCarthy Tétrault LLP and National Preferred Suppliers The Counsel Network and Newmark Knight Frank Devencore for their generous support.

FACL thanks the Law Foundation of Ontario, Advocacy and Policy Project Sponsor, for their generous support of the FACL Advocacy and Policy Committee.

Your FACL Executive
President - Lai-King Hum.  Treasurer - Reshma Kishnani.  Secretary - Qian Mou.  Vice President (Communications) - Chris Hope.  Vice President (Membership) - Alwin Kong.  Vice President (External Affairs, Public) - Sandra Nishikawa.  Vice President (External Affairs, Private) - Brendan Wong.  Vice President (Internal Affairs and Governance) - Rebecca Huang.  Vice President Fundraising - Fidelia Hung.

Your FACL Board of Directors
Cynthia Aoki.  Bindu Cudjoe.  Jeffrey Fung.  Chris Hope.  Lai-King Hum.  Rebecca Huang.  Fidelia Hung.  Vanessa Ibe.  Shikha Kasal.  Reshma Kishnani.  Alwin Kong.  Jean Lee.  David Ma.  Jun Chao Meng.  Qian Mou.  Sandra Nishikawa.  Brendan Wong.  Andrea Yau.


Victoria Au.  Jeanette Lee.

Your FACL Student Directors
Lin Cong.  Sam Ip.
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