Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson ruled, “The evidence in this case and the relevant precedents conclusively establish that the decision does infringe the petitioners’ Charter right to freedom of religion.” Last January, the Nova Scotia Supreme Court nullified a vote by that province’s legal body to reject TWU graduates even before the law school opened.
TWU faced a campaign by law societies displeased that the university has a code of conduct for students which prohibits sex outside heterosexual marriage. In December 2014, British Columbia Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk rescinded approval for TWU to offer a law degree program after the membership of the B.C. Law Society voted to reject the school’s law graduates.
Following Hinkson’s decision, Guy Saffold, a senior advisor to the president of TWU, said, “TWU law graduates will only enrich the diversity that we celebrate as Canadians. People from many different faith communities have long been part of Canada’s professions and cultural identity. Our graduates are practicing law, teaching in the public school system, operating successful corporations and working as nurses – while treating clients, students and members of the public with the utmost compassion, respect and integrity.”
Lawyer John Carpay, president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, an intervenor in the case, said “this court ruling in favour of TWU’s freedom of association supports freedom of association of every other group in Canada as well.”
Carpay added, “the Court’s decision effectively recognizes that freedom of association includes the right to create unpopular and counter-cultural groups that advocate minority opinions. In a free society, that is how it should be.”
Intervenors on TWU’s behalf include the Association for Reformed Political Action Canada; the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and Christian Higher Education Canada; the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver, the Catholic Civil Rights League, and the Faith and Freedom Alliance; the Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Canada, the Canadian Council of Christian Charities; the Christian Legal Fellowship and the JCCF.
The case is likely to be appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.
In 2001, Trinity won a similar case in the Supreme Court when the justices overthrew a decision by B.C.’s teaching profession to reject graduates of TWU’s teacher’s college.