Society news
Update on the Trinity Western University matter

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(August 15, 2016) – The Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society will not apply for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada in the case involving Trinity Western University. With the benefit of advice from legal counsel, the Executive Committee of Council accepted the Executive Director’s recommendation to take the matter no further.

“The Society remains deeply committed to equity and diversity in Nova Scotia’s legal profession,” said President R. Daren Baxter QC, TEP. “These issues are clearly important to members of the profession and the public across the province. The Society will continue making it a priority to advance equality and diversity issues in the practice of law.”

Council confirmed this commitment on July 22 by approving the 2016-2019 Strategic Framework, which guides all Society activities and articulates a new strategic priority “to promote equity, diversity and inclusion in the legal profession”. Among its specific initiatives:

  • promote substantive equality and freedom from discrimination in the delivery of legal services and the justice system;
  • engage with justice sector players and equity-seeking communities to enhance access to legal services and the justice system;
  • respond to the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission; and
  • advance cultural competence and inclusiveness in the legal profession and the justice system.

Also last month, the Society introduced a new Professional Standard in Equity and Diversity for lawyers and firms. During Pride Week, the Society joined CBA-NS in participating in the Halifax Pride Parade for the first time, and hosted a workshop for legal employers on best practices for inclusion of LGBTQ staff. 

Then on July 26, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal dismissed the Society’s appeal of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court ruling in favour of TWU. The Court found that the regulation relating to the Society’s conditional approval of TWU’s law school is ultra vires, or beyond its current authority under the Legal Profession Act. Council will now be asked to amend that regulation to comply with the Court’s decision.

Council’s original 2014 decision about the proposed law school followed extensive input from the public and the profession, and reflected the Society’s longstanding commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion. See the TWU matter page for more details.

Law societies in Ontario and British Columbia have also taken issue with the discriminatory aspects of TWU’s Community Covenant, which all students must agree to follow as an admission requirement of the university. In June, the Ontario Court of Appeal found in favour of the Law Society of Upper Canada and TWU has indicated its intent to appeal that ruling to the Supreme Court of Canada. The Law Society of British Columbia awaits a decision from the appeal court in that province.