News
3 min

Challenging the Trinity Western University ‘Law School’

Fundraiser hosted by lawyer and investor Meredith Cartwright raises $8,400

Clayton Ruby (second from right) flanked by supporters at the Feb 20 fundraiser. Credit: TWU Legal Challenge Fund

Clayton Ruby and Angela Chaisson are challenging the Trinity Western University Law School,” and it is going to take lots of money to help them do this.

They believe Trinity Western discriminates against gays and lesbians because it forces students to sign a covenant promising to uphold Christian values — and refrain from gay sex — upon enrolment.

On Feb 20, in the middle of a yet another winter storm, allies — gay, straight and otherwise —attended a fundraiser for the TWU legal challenge, hosted by lawyer and investor Meredith Cartwright at her Toronto office.

Cartwright, a lawyer who won same-sex pension benefits in Ontario, is also a former articling student of Ruby’s. She spoke passionately about the need to support Ruby and Chaisson in this legal challenge.

“Litigation of any kind is brutal, teeth-grinding, forehead-bleeding hard work, but it is especially brutal when you have to litigate something so obviously offensive and contrary to Charter principles as Trinity Western Law School. No matter what our past successes are, this is no time to be complacent.

“Even at this late hour there is work to be done, and Clay, like he has for the past 30 years, will do that hard work for our community,” Cartwright said.

“Clay has been doing our work for free on his own time and giving up paying work to take our cases on pro-bono,” she said. “He was there for us in the bathhouse raids and as lead counsel in the Michelle Douglas case overturning the prohibition against gays and lesbians in the Armed Forces. And now he is here again giving up paying work to take on the BC government, charitable tax dollars from the Christian right and even the Federation of Law Societies. The least we can do is help him and his firm pay for the out-of-pocket costs in this litigation for expert witnesses, photocopying, travel. He is doing us a favour and his legal work is excellent.”  

OCAD president Sara Diamond, WeirFoulds partner and leading Canadian barrister Frank Walwyn heartily agreed, attending the fundraiser along with NDP Toronto-Centre candidate Linda McQuaig and her provincial Conservative counterpart Martin Abell. Longtime Ruby allies and supporters Paul Copeland, Beth Symes and the indomitable Seymour Epstein also attended. Even the straight guys not normally seen at either a Ruby or LGBT fundraiser got into the spirit of the evening: money manager Michael Quinn, president of RP Investments, gave generously and won an excellent bottle of wine just for showing up. Canadian businessmen Mike Dimattero and Nick Paranese, of Sceptre Industries, also contributed generously, making time for the party despite a hectic February travel schedule working with Cecconi Simone. Pulling cheques and making nice was Mandy Machin, Ruby’s legal assistant of some 27 years who does not look like she has been in the engine room of a criminal law firm for that long.

Gay power couple strategist David Simmonds and entrepreneur Asher Mann “represented” in person for the other gay mafia types who got caught in horrible traffic or couldn’t make it. Everyone was grateful that those who could not make it went online to make generous donations: thank you Geoff Hogarth, Andrew Fleming and Steve Dembroski. Another online contributor was the extremely straight but highly supportive Brian Heller, whose son Daniel Heller is a big-time professor of Jewish studies at McGill and who is . . . gay!

Cartwright was flying solo as her partner, Vicky Bassett, was away that cold February week at someplace way better than Toronto, finishing off reading week with her daughter, OCAD student Hatley Walker. Sadly, Salah Bachir sent his regrets. But he is supporting Ruby. Young lawyer Deanah Shelly, of Fasken’s, came in person. Her partner, Olympian Marnie McBean, was still in Sochi supporting Canada. And no fundraiser would be complete, particularly for a cause as difficult to raise money for as this one, without St Bruce Lawson. 

The event raised $8,400 toward the constitutional challenge.

The real stars of the night were Marcus McCann, Padraigin Murphy and Jay Marin U of T students and administrators who manned the doors and quickly entered everything on gofundme.com/twulegalchallenge.

Read Daily Xtras coverage of the TWU legal challenge.