JCCF President John Carpay at the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia.
Freedom of association makes civil society possible, by allowing people with diverse backgrounds, interests, and beliefs to live in proximity to each other, tolerating each other’s differences even amid disagreement. The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF), an Atlas Network partner based in Canada, is currently working to defend the freedom of association for Trinity Western University (TWU), which is pursuing recognition of its law school by the law societies of British Columbia, Ontario, and Nova Scotia.
The Federation of Law Societies of Canada has approved TWU’s law program as meeting academic and professional standards, JCCF reports. Despite this, three provincial law societies have ruled against recognizing TWU’s program. Although they have acknowledged the academic and professional credibility of the program, they argue that TWU’s religious Community Covenant is discriminatory.
On June 2, JCCF Board member Daniel Santoro argued before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on behalf of TWU in Trinity Western University v. Law Society of Upper Canada. The Supreme Court of British Columbia has also granted JCCF leave to intervene in another case, Trinity Western University v. Law Society of British Columbia, on August 25.
In January, JCCF was successful in its intervention in an earlier case, Trinity Western University v. Nova Scotia Barrister’s Society, where the Court ruled in favor of freedom of association. That ruling is now being appealed by the Barristers society, however, and JCCF has applied to intervene once again.
JCCF argues that Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects “the right to freedom of association, including the right of every charity, temple, church, ethnic and cultural association, sports club, and political group to establish its own rules and membership requirements.”
Success in these cases will mark an important win for freedom of association in education and law, but a ruling against TWU would “undermine the freedom of association of every other group in Canada as well,” argues JCCF president John Carpay.