CLF Granted Intervener Status Before the SCC in Joint TWU Appeals

The joint appeals of Law Society of British Columbia v Trinity Western University and Brayden Volkenant and Trinity Western University and Brayden Volkenant v Law Society of Upper Canada will be heard Nov 30-Dec 1

LONDON, ON - Thirty organizations applied to the Supreme Court of Canada for leave to intervene in the Trinity Western University appeals. Of those applications, Justice Wagner granted leave to Christian Legal Fellowship (CLF) and eight other organizations on Thursday, July 27. On Monday, July 31, Chief Justice McLachlin varied Justice Wagner's order. Under the variation - which does not overturn Justice Wagner's previous order - the Chief Justice granted all thirty organizations (representing various religious, secular, LGBTQ, academic and legal groups) leave to intervene in what will now be a rare two-day Supreme Court hearing. 

The outcome of these appeals has the potential to be a watershed moment in the interpretation, application, and nature of religious freedom in Canada. 

To date, CLF has intervened in support of Trinity Westerns' proposed law school in all six cases at every level of court, including the matter of Trinity Western University v Nova Society Barristers' Society, which is not being appealed to the Supreme Court. CLF has urged each of these courts to adopt a robust and purposive reading of the fundamental freedoms guaranteed by section 2 of the Charter, specifically highlighting the chilling effect that the law societies' narrow understanding of religious freedom will have on the legal profession throughout Canada. Both the Nova Scotia Supreme Court and the British Columbia Court of Appeal adopted many of CLF's arguments and submissions in their respective rulings.

CLF will continue to advocate in support of a robust understanding of religious freedom for all Canadians, and that public interests in equality, diversity and pluralism include welcoming religious minorities as active participants in society. 

To read the various court decisions and to see CLF’s intervention work in the TWU matters, please refer to the interventions page on CLF's website. 

Anticipated Arguments: 

CLF laid out its anticipated arguments in the application for leave to intervene, filed on June 19. CLF anticipates making the following submissions, among others: 

a. The Law Societies' directive to act in the "public interest" is not a freewheeling deus ex machina to subvert Charter rights, nor is it a tool to enforce moral conformity with the Law Societies' approved values. 

b. Law Societies must not be permitted to create a system of religious testing whereby licenses are granted on the condition that licensees demonstrate their religious views and affiliations align with the Law Societies' "values". 

c. It is not contrary to the public interest to approve TWU and its graduates. Rather, it is contrary to the public interest to violate their Charter rights by rejecting them.  
d. The "public interest" must not be interpreted to require associations of law students and/or lawyers who belong to minority religious communities - such as those at TWU and CLF - to be open to those who do not affirm their mission.  
e. The Law Societies' decisions imperil the ability of legal professionals to hold and manifest religious and conscientious beliefs that do not conform to the majoritarian viewpoint. 

The two-day hearing for the appeal is currently scheduled to take place at the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa on November 30 and December 1. As an intervenor, CLF is permitted to submit a written argument (referred to as a factum) of no more than ten pages and to present oral arguments for up to five minutes.