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Vancouver heroes: Newsmakers 2014

The people who shaped our year for the better

The lawyers and law students who challenged TWU

With its contentious law school and even more contentious covenant banning gay and premarital sex, Trinity Western University (TWU) moved thousands of lawyers and law students across Canada to stand up for their convictions and wade into the battle between gay rights and religious freedom.

The heroes: The lawyers and law students who objected to the Christian university’s plan to open a law school whose admission policies they consider discriminatory (and whose future instruction they consider suspect).

Not only did the lawyers and law students vigorously oppose TWU’s plan, they also held their own professional associations to account. When the Law Society of British Columbia agreed to admit TWU’s future graduates, many of its members demanded a new vote. When the directors refused, more than 4,000 lawyers held a historic special general meeting in June to force a new decision. The law society rescinded its approval on Oct 31.

Like BC, New Brunswick’s law society initially approved the school, but is now reconsidering under pressure from its members. Manitoba and Newfoundland are waiting to see what the rest of the country decides, Nunavut is still thinking about it, Alberta is awaiting judicial review, Canada’s umbrella Federation of Law Societies approved the school and Ontario and Nova Scotia rejected it, though the latter offered to reconsider if TWU amends its covenant.

TWU is now suing the law societies of Ontario and Nova Scotia (whose hearing begins as Xtra goes to press), while a gay plaintiff’s lawsuit against the BC government likely contributed to the ministry’s decision to revoke its approval for the school on Dec 11.

Not to be forgotten: the Christian University that arguably just wants to train its own corps of lawyers steeped in the morals that it holds dear. Does that make Trinity Western the villain in this story?

Trish Kelly’s sex-positive politics