The Supreme Court of Canada has taken the unusual step of backtracking on a decision about who gets to be involved in the Trinity Western University appeal over law school accreditation. The Law Society of Upper Canada (Ontario) voted not to allow TWU grads to practice law in that province. The B.C. Law Society first approved then rescinded its accreditation which was overturned by the B.C. Court of Appeal. The law society is appealing that decision before the Supreme Court which is hearing the Ontario and B.C. cases at the same time.
The court issued a statement on Wednesday after Justice Wagner announced on July 27 that LGBTQ+ groups and others would not be given intervenor status.
“The Court does not give reasons for decision in motions for intervention,” said the court’s news release. “To do so would disproportionately burden the Court’s workload. In this instance, however, the concerns raised by some LGBTQ+ groups and others call for a response.”
Normally groups given intervenor status in a case get five minutes to summarize their positions.
Appellants and respondents are usually given one hour each.
This would have kept the proceedings to one day of court time and hearing the appeals.
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has intervened and allotted two days for the appeal so more groups could have a say. The appeal is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.
The court had previously decided to allow nine groups such as the Christian Legal Fellowship and National Coalition of Catholic School Trustees to intervene but also excluded some other religious groups. The Attorney General of Ontario was also granted leave to intervene.
More than 30 other groups, including the BC Humanist Association, were rejected. The chief justice’s announcement means the association will now take part.
“This reversal is a surprising but welcome development. This is clearly an important case with potentially wide-reaching implications for secularism and equality in Canad,” said Ian Bushfield, BC Humanist Association executive director.
According to the association, the courts initially approved:
• Association for Reformed Political Action (ARPA) Canada
• Advocates’ Society
• Canadian Bar Association
• Christian Legal Fellowship
• International Coalition of Professors of Law
• National Coalition of Catholic School Trustees
• Lawyers’ Right Watch Canada
• Criminal Lawyers’ Association (Ontario)
• Canadian Civil Liberties Association
Now the amended decision allows more groups to participate, including:
• Canadian Council of Christian Charities
• Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops
• Canadian Association of University Teachers
• Law Students’ Society of Ontario
• Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada
• Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and the Christian Higher Education Canada (jointly)
• British Columbia Humanist Association
• Canadian Secular Alliance
• Egale Canada Human Rights Trust
• Faith, Fealty & Creed Society
• Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver, the Catholic Civil Rights League and the Faith and Freedom Alliance (jointly)
• World Sikh Organization of Canada
• Lesbians Gays Bisexuals and Trans People of the University of Toronto (LGBTOUT)
• United Church of Canada
• Start Proud and OUTlaws (jointly)
• West Coast Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund
• BC LGBTQ Coalition