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Friday, February 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Canadian Law School Bars Fooling Around

VANCOUVER, B.C. (CN) - A British Columbia law school unconstitutionally discriminates against gays and lesbians and requires students to "abstain from 'sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman,'" an "openly gay" and "openly Christian" aspiring lawyer claims in court.

Trevor Loke sued the Minister of Advanced Education of British Columbia, Trinity Western University, and the province's attorney general, in B.C. Supreme Court.

Loke claims the government's approval of Trinity Western University's plan to operate a law school is unconstitutional because the school's admission policy effectively excludes people on the basis of sexual orientation.

Loke claims that Trinity Western requires students to sign a "Community Covenant," in which they promise to "abstain from 'sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.'"

Students who breach the covenant can be expelled from Trinity Western, which is associated with the Evangelical Free Church of Canada.

Loke wants to attend law school in B.C., he says, but the decision to allow Trinity Western to operate a law school could curtail his entry into the legal profession by denying him access to one of four law schools in the province.

"A law degree provides the opportunity for significant social and economic benefits, as well as status and recognition," the petition states. "The legal profession holds a unique place in Canadian society. Only lawyers can become judges, who should, in their central role in our legal system, be representative of Canadians. Everyone should have equal access to the legal profession."

Loke claims the school's policy is "coercive ... to mandate compliance with a particular religious worldview."

"The states should not consent to discrimination and religious coercion, particularly in the context of access to legal education, and in turn the legal profession and the judiciary," he says in the complaint.

"Systemic inequality has compromised access to education and employment equity within law schools, the bar, and on the bench for historically disadvantaged groups in Canada, including women, racial or religious minorities, aboriginal people, and sexual minorities. Members of the legal system have recognized a special concern for ending all forms of discrimination in the law, the legal profession, and legal education."

The Law Society of British Columbia approved the school and other law societies across the country have approved Trinity Western's accreditation for offering law degrees, according to the petition. The Minister of Advanced Education, in approving the university's application, claimed that "any issues outside of the academic quality of the degree program do no fall within his mandate," the petition states.

Loke seeks a declaration that the decision consenting to Trinity Western operating a law school is unconstitutional.

"The decision approves a legal education program that denies the legitimacy of same-sex intimacy as well as same-sex marriage. In doing so, the Minister has approved a legal education program that perpetuates the prejudicial view of gay and lesbian persons that their sexual intimacy is sinful, immoral, deviant and against God's will," the petition states. "It perpetuates the antiquated and discriminatory view that marriage between persons of the same sex is illegitimate and immoral."

Loke is represented by Karey Brooks and Elin Sigurdson with James Freedman Kyle Law Corp. in Vancouver, and Clayton Ruby, Gerald Chan and Angela Chaisson of Ruby Shiller Chan Hasan in Toronto.

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