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New challenge of TWU law school

A Victoria lawyer is confident he will soon have the necessary number of signatures to force a special meeting of the B.C. Law Society to reconsider approval of the Trinity Western University law school.

Michael Mulligan told The Times his email request to the society’s 11,000 members to convene a special general meeting went out Wednesday and has already generated hundreds of "overwhelmingly positive" responses.

"The fax machine, email and phone went bananas," Mulligan said.

He expects by next week he will have the minimum five per cent of society members in good standing required to force the meeting at a future date.

On April 11, Law Society of B.C. directors voted 20-6 to recognize Trinity Western University's planned faith-based law school.

Opponents argued the university's community covenant prohibiting "sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman" discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation against gay and lesbian law students and faculty.

The law school already has approval from the provincial government to open but the law society controls who can practice as a lawyer in B.C.

Society directors, known as benchers, said they could not justify rejecting TWU's grads, citing a 2001 Supreme Court of Canada ruling in favour of Trinity on religious freedom.

"I thought, just as a matter of principle, that the decision that was made was wrong," Mulligan said.

The school’s covenant is discriminatory and contrary to a lawyer's oath, Mulligan said.

"The granting of approval to an institution founded on an offensive and discriminatory policy will not serve to promote or improve the standard of practice of lawyers in the province," the Mulligan message reads.

"The discriminatory principles reflected in the Trinity Western University covenant would appear to be inconsistent with one of the core principles reflected in the Barristers’ and Solicitors’ oath: that barristers and solicitors uphold the rights and freedoms of all persons according to the laws of Canada and British Columbia."

Mulligan goes on to say the approval of the TWU law school " firmly places us on the wrong side of an important issue of principle."

 

- with files from Jeff Nagel

 

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