Ontario Court of Appeal sides with LGBTQ Students and Denies Accreditation to Discriminatory Law School
June 29, 2016, Toronto, ON – In a decision released this morning by the Ontario Court of Appeal, a unanimous 3-judge panel upheld the decision of the Law Society of Upper Canada to deny accreditation to the proposed law school at Trinity Western University (TWU).
TWU’s ‘Community Covenant Agreement’ requires students to abstain from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.” The policy discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation. Its breach carries disciplinary sanctions, up to expulsion.
Out On Bay Street and the OUTlaws are groups that represent lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) students within the legal community. The groups intervened together in an appeal brought by TWU from a Divisional Court decision that reached the same outcome in July 2015.
In its reasons last year, the Divisional Court had observed that TWU’s mandatory pledge forces LGBTQ people to “disavow not only their beliefs but … their very identity.” Similarly, the Ontario Court of Appeal adopted passages from the written argument of the LGBTQ groups, concluding that “the part of TWU’s Community Covenant in issue in this appeal is deeply discriminatory to the LGBTQ community, and it hurts.”
“We are very pleased with the outcome, and the timing of the decision, as Canada celebrates Pride Month. Our submissions on behalf of the LGBTQ community, particularly students and young professionals, were thoroughly vindicated by the Court of Appeal. The decision also clarifies a lot of misconceptions about the case, particularly on the relevance of the 2001 Supreme Court decision relied on by TWU and its supporters as ‘binding’, and on the appropriate balance between religious freedom and right to equal treatment and access, particularly to public benefits such as legal education and the justice system.” said Paul Jonathan Saguil, pro bono counsel to Out On Bay Street and OUTlaws, and a director on the board of Out On Bay Street.
Similar TWU judicial reviews are moving through appellate courts in Nova Scotia and B.C., where law societies also declined to accredit TWU’s program. “With cases still pending in the Nova Scotia and B.C. courts, we are delighted to see a respected appellate court adopt our position on the issues of discrimination and equality raised by the TWU Covenant,” stated Saguil.
In the event of an appeal by TWU, Out On Bay Street and the OUTlaws are fully committed to ensuring that LGBTQ voices and student perspectives are heard at the Supreme Court of Canada. In addition to Saguil, the coalition is represented by Marlys Edwardh, Vanessa Payne, and Frances Mahon of Goldblatt Partners LLP.
For more information, please contact:
Paul Jonathan Saguil
About Out On Bay Street and the OUTlaws:
Out On Bay Street is a registered non-profit organization that facilitates the professional development of LGBTQ students as they transition through school to career. The organization promotes inclusive, queer-friendly workplaces and professional communities, with a particular focus on law and business. The OUTlaws are a network of LGBTQ and Ally affinity groups at law schools across Canada. Out On Bay Street is joined in this intervention by the OUTlaws groups from Osgoode Hall Law School, Queen’s University, the University of Windsor, and the University of Toronto.