The province has terminated its authorization for what would have become B.C.’s first faith-based law school at a Langley Christian university.
Trinity Western University president Bob Kuhn said he’s disappointed with the decision of Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk to revoke the government’s consent granted a year ago.
The move follows a referendum decision by the Law Society of B.C. earlier this fall to revoke its accreditation for the law school.
Opponents in the legal community say TWU discriminates against gays and lesbians because of its controversial community covenant that bans sex outside of traditional marriage between a man and a woman.
Kuhn said TWU remains committed to launching the law school and must now carefully consider its options.
“It is difficult to conceive of a justifiable basis for the minister to have revoked his approval of the school of law program,” he said. “We believe in diversity and the rights of all Canadians to their beliefs and values.”
Virk said in an emailed statement his decision to revoke approval means TWU can’t enrol any students in the proposed law school.
“The current uncertainty over the status of the regulatory body approval means prospective graduates may not be able to be called to the bar, or practise law, in British Columbia,” Virk said. “This is a significant change to the context in which I made my original decision.”
The Law Society of B.C. voted 74 per cent against recognizing the new law school in the referendum, which was confirmed in a 25-1 vote of the society’s board of governors.
The referendum was ordered after thousands of lawyers demanded the law profession’s regulatory body reconsider its earlier decision.
The law school was approved by the provincial government in December 2013 but the law society controls who can practise as a lawyer in B.C.
Virk had indicated he was reconsidering the province’s earlier consent, which followed the recommendation of the Degree Quality Assessment Board and the preliminary approval of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada.
The law school was to open in the fall of 2016.
TWU’s law school is also being blocked by law societies in Ontario and Nova Scotia and the university has mounted court challenges that could end up before the Supreme Court of Canada.
TWU previously won a Supreme Court of Canada victory in 2001 on grounds of religious freedom over its faith-based teacher training program, which the B.C. College of Teachers had refused to recognize.
Virk indicated TWU may be able to renew its request for consent if it wins in court.