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Trinity Western University mulls lawsuits against two law societies

Bob Kuhn is president of Trinity Western University. - Contributed photo
Bob Kuhn is president of Trinity Western University.
— image credit: Contributed photo

Trinity Western University is considering taking the Ontario and Nova Scotia law societies to court after both bodies refused to recognize law degrees from the Langley university last week.

The Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) and the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society (NSBS) voted against the Federation of Law Societies of Canada (FLSC) approval of Trinity Western University’s planned law school.

The votes were 28 to 21 in Ontario, and 10 to 9 in Nova Scotia.

The university is reviewing its options, including “legal recourse,”  TWU president Bob Kuhn said.

“We feel the Ontario and Nova Scotia decisions are legally incorrect and it may now be necessary to re-litigate an issue that has already been decided in our favour by an 8 to 1 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in 2001,” Kuhn said, referring to a ruling that upheld the university community charter, which contains a controversial clause that opposes homosexuality.

“We are very disappointed,” Kuhn said.

“These decisions impact all Canadians and people of faith everywhere. They send the chilling message that you cannot hold religious values and also participate fully in public society.”

Denying TWU accreditation in Ontario and Nova Scotia will create a patchwork system in which TWU graduates can practice law in some provinces but not others, Kuhn added.

Five provinces and one territory have already agreed to recognize law degrees from TWU.

The approval by the directors of the Law Society of B.C. is under attack, however, with Victoria lawyer Michael Mulligan collecting more than 1,300 written requests  in just over a week, double the number required, to force a special general meeting to reconsider the decision.

The B.C. law society announced the meeting will be held within 60 days, but noted a resolution passed at a general meeting is not binding on law society directors unless one-third of the more than 10,000 lawyers in B.C. have voted and have approved the resolution by a two-thirds majority.

The privately-funded Trinity Western University describes itself as a “Christian university of the arts, sciences, and professions.”

It currently offers 42 bachelor’s degrees, 17 graduate degrees, and adult degree-completion programs.

The 2001 case Kuhn referred to was against the B.C. College of Teachers, which denied TWU the right to set up a teacher training program. That lawsuit wound its way through several appeals before ending up at the Supreme Court of Canada.

Kuhn,  an Abbotsford lawyer who is also a TWU grad, argued Trinity’s case at the time.

He was named president of the university earlier this year, after serving in an interim capacity since last summer.

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