Council votes for Option C in Trinity Western University law school decision

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The Council of the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society has made its decision in the matter of accreditation of Trinity Western University’s proposed law school in Langley, British Columbia. Following an extensive debate on Friday, April 25, 2014 at which every member of the 21-member Council spoke, the 10-9 vote resulted in adoption of the following motion, in favour of Option C:

Council accepts the Report of the Federation Approval Committee that, subject to the concerns and comments noted, the TWU program will meet the national requirement;

Council resolves that the Community Covenant is discriminatory and therefore Council does not approve the proposed law school at Trinity Western University unless TWU either:

i) exempts law students from signing the Community Covenant; or
ii) amends the Community Covenant for law students in a way that ceases to discriminate.

Council directs the Executive Director to consider any regulatory amendments that may be required to give effect to this resolution and to bring them to Council for consideration at a future meeting.

Council remains seized of this matter to consider any information TWU wishes to present regarding compliance with the condition.

President J. René Gallant thanked all members of Council for the care they took in their deliberations, and the effort they made in arriving at their decision. As Chair of the Council meeting, he did not vote on the motion, but ended the meeting with the following observation: “All I wish to say is the sign on the door at the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society says ‘All are welcome’.”

Following the meeting, he stressed that the Society’s process has been open, transparent and fair in arriving at this outcome.

“The kind of debate we’ve had, regardless of anyone’s own perspective, should be reassuring to all Nova Scotians. Reassuring that we are having respectful, insightful, passionate debates on fundamental questions in modern society. It’s healthy for a democracy, and for a profession that values rights and freedoms, to have these kinds of robust debates.”

Discussion at the meeting showed that all Council members “wrestled mightily” in their analysis of the applicable laws, he said, as well as the Society’s regulatory mandate to protect the public interest in Nova Scotia. In their remarks, many members of Council also referenced the Society’s core values and Strategic Framework, which prioritize diversity and equality.

“It was critical for us in Nova Scotia to make our own decision on our own terms. We have a unique legal, cultural and societal history that informs everything we do and how we operate,” said Mr. Gallant.

“We understand the damage that discrimination can do, and how it can corrode faith in our justice system. The Council has remembered Nova Scotia’s past, considered our present, and looked to our future with this decision.”

Mr. Gallant thanked members of Nova Scotia’s legal profession, the public, academics, clergy and representatives from Trinity Western University for their “respectful, thoughtful and thorough” submissions. The Society’s Executive Committee undertook a comprehensive, four-month public input process that generated 170 written submissions and 25 presentations at two public meetings.

Visit the TWU submissions page to see all written submissions received by the Society, and transcripts of both public meetings.

For more background on the three options considered by Council, see the following documents prepared by the Executive Committee:

The Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society will continue to work with the Federation of Law Societies of Canada and the other provincial law societies to maintain national standards of competence, professionalism and ethics for the legal profession.