Toronto lawyer Clayton Ruby says he'll be seeing the BC government in court after it approved, on Dec 18, a law school for Trinity Western University (TWU).
"It's immoral and unconscionable and we think unconstitutional," Ruby says of the law school that, like the rest of TWU, will force students to sign a covenant promising to uphold Christian values — and refrain from gay sex — upon enrolment.
"We will be taking them to court,” he says. Ruby wants the approval struck down.
In approving TWU’s law school, Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk said BC's Degree Quality Assessment Board reviewed the proposed law degree and found it met the degree program quality assessment criteria for private and out-of-province public institutions.
"Trinity Western University is a faith-based, private university that does not receive operating or capital funding from government," he points out.
The law school received preliminary approval from the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, an umbrella group for territorial and provincial regulators of the legal profession, on Dec 16. In granting approval, the federation said it examined only whether the proposed law school’s graduates would meet professional requirements for knowledge and competencies needed for entry to the bar admission programs in the Canadian common-law jurisdictions.
Ruby said earlier he was waiting to see what the BC government did before making any announcements about a lawsuit. Now, he says, he will seek a court order striking down the provincial approval.
He says that crafting the suit could take weeks or months. "It takes time to do it right," he says.
He believes TWU’s law school will make gay students second-class citizens. "The door has moved a little more tightly closed against gays and lesbians becoming lawyers and judges," he said. "A crucial part of democratic life is the openness of this profession."
Ruby says TWU’s law school would impose a “queer quota” on incoming law students by limiting the number of law-school seats they can apply for. He estimates that there are approximately 1,600 places in law schools across Canada and that the 60 new places proposed by TWU would be off-limits to openly gay students.
David Eby, provincial NDP opposition critic for advanced education, tells Xtra he will be writing a letter to both Virk and Premier Christy Clark to protest the TWU approval.
"The covenant is clearly discriminatory, and in this day and age to approve a law school at an institution that doesn't treat gays and lesbian students the same as everyone else that goes to the school is bizarre," Eby says.
Eby, former executive director of the BC Civil Liberties Association, says the decision indicates that discrimination against queer people is still acceptable in some quarters.
"I'm trying to circle the square of a government that says it's against bullying but approves a school that discriminates," he says. "It's completely bizarre and indefensible."
Eby was also dismayed by the federation’s preliminary approval. "I think it's something we're all going to look back on . . . as an embarrassment for everyone," he says.
"The government should be saying to Trinity Western, 'Please fix the covenant to treat everyone the same,’" he says.