B.C. Supreme Court rules in favour of Christian law school

VANCOUVER -- British Columbia's Supreme Court has ruled in favour of Trinity Western University, reversing a B.C. Law Society decision not to accredit graduates of the school's law school.

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Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson chided the law society for breaching its duty of procedural fairness.

The society's board of directors initially granted the school accreditation in April 2014 before changing that decision last October after a vote by its members.

Hinkson ruled that the society's directors were inappropriately blinded by the views of its members, allowing a non-binding vote to "wrongfully fetter" their discretion and "supplant" their judgment.

"The evidence is clear ... that the benchers allowed the members to dictate the outcome of the matter," Hinkson said in his written decision.

"I accept the assertion of the petitioners that they were entitled to, and find that they were deprived of, a meaningful opportunity to present their case fully and fairly to (the law society)," he said.

The university has come under fire because its requires students to sign a so-called covenant pledging to abstain from sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman.

B.C. Law Society president Ken Walker says the ruling is important to the public and legal profession and that the society will consult legal counsel before its next steps.

Law societies in Ontario and Nova Scotia also opposed granting accreditation to Trinity law school graduates, prompting the university to launch legal challenges in both cases.

In January, the Nova Scotia law society's action was struck down, while an Ontario court upheld its society's decision in July. Both rulings are being appealed.

The Federation of Law Societies of Canada, along with Alberta and Saskatchewan's bar associations, have approved accreditation, while societies in Manitoba and Saskatchewan have put decisions on hold.

Trinity's law school was originally slated to open in the fall of 2016 but executive director Earl Phillips has said that classes would be delayed by at least two years.

The university in the Fraser Valley community of Langley and enrols about 4,000 students annually.


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