Supreme Court rules against TWU, placing public perception over rule of law



June 15, 2018

For immediate release from the Association for Reformed Political Action (ARPA) Canada

June 15, 2018

Supreme Court rules against TWU, placing public perception over rule of law

OTTAWA – This morning, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled against Trinity Western University and their proposed Christian law school. Justices Brown and Côté dissented.

The Association for Reformed Political Action (ARPA) Canada, was an intervener in the case. André Schutten, ARPA’s Director of Law and Policy, and John Sikkema, ARPA’s Legal Counsel, acted as counsel for ARPA in the intervention.

ARPA sees several major problems with the majority judgement.

First, it justifies the law societies’ rejection of Trinity Western University not based on an intelligible legal rule or standard, but based on the undefined, amorphous concepts of “Charter values” and “public interest”. The majority says the law societies were entitled to choose to give the meaning they wanted to their statutory objective to protect the “public interest”.

By relying on Charter values, says Schutten, “The majority fails to appreciate that the Charter limits the power of state actors – including the law societies – and shields non-state actors, including religious communities and institutions like TWU.”

Second, having relied on “public interest” informed by “Charter values” to justify the rejection of TWU, the majority errs in its analysis of what is in the public interest, even on a broad interpretation of it.

“The majority says the law societies’ fear of negative public perception was a legitimate reason to reject TWU,” says Schutten. “But there are also negative public perceptions resulting from the rejection of TWU. In any case, neither the law societies nor the courts are in the business of public opinion polling, nor should they make decisions based on prevailing public opinion on sensitive issues.”

“The majority also fails to recognize the public interest benefits of a diversity of educational institutions and a diversity of moral and philosophical perspectives in the legal profession,” says John Sikkema, legal counsel with ARPA Canada. “It is not against the public interest for individuals or civic institutions to hold to different views on sexual morality and marriage.”

“Perhaps most disappointing from our perspective, the majority failed to account for or even address the equality rights of prospective TWU students or TWU’s freedom of association. These were issues we raised in our oral and written arguments to the court,” says Schutten. “The majority says it need not address those rights claims, because it is sufficient to ask whether the violation of freedom of religion is justified.” ARPA Canada believes that these other rights should play an important part in the “proportionality” analysis of the law societies’ decisions.

Ultimately, ARPA agrees with the dissent that the majority “betrays the promise of our Constitution that rights limitations must be demonstrably justified.”

“We are as yet unsure of the implications of this decision on communities of faith across the country,” says Sikkema. “We will be analyzing this further in the coming days, for sure.”

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Interview requests:

André Schutten is available for comment via phone/email or in person in Ottawa. To arrange an interview contact Hannah Sikkema, Media Facilitator at 1-866-691-2772, ext. 1 or [email protected].

ARPA Canada, 130 Albert Street, Suite 1705, Ottawa, ON  K1P 5G4

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