BY BOB ZIMMER
Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies MP
One of the most important tenets in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms is our freedom of belief. That freedom is the right of all Canadians, regardless of profession.
That is why I am so extremely disappointed with the Supreme Court of Canada’s recent 7-2 ruling against Trinity Western University’s proposed law school.
For those who are unfamiliar, the university had submitted a proposal for accreditation of a School of Law in 2012. The Law Societies of British Columbia and Upper Canada both denied accreditation to the university not based on the quality of the education or the suitability of graduates to practice law in Canada, but because of the university’s Community Covenant.
The Community Covenant, which has already been ruled lawful by the Supreme Court of Canada, does not forbid graduates from fulfilling the obligations and oaths of their chosen professions. It is merely an affirmation of the Christian beliefs that the institution was founded upon.
The case went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada and on June 15 the Supreme Court handed down its decision against Trinity Western University.
Like so many others, I have been following this case closely, not only because Trinity Western University is my alma mater, but also because of what this decision means for religious freedoms in Canada.
I strongly agree with Justices Brown and Côté, the two Supreme Court Judges who ruled in favour of the university, when they stated in the Supreme Court’s decision: “I note in passing, however, that I found a Charter infringement, I do not see how it would be possible for the LSBC [Law Society of British Columbia] to proceed by way of a majority vote while upholding its responsibilities under the Charter. Is not one of the purposes of the Charter to protect against the tyranny of the majority?”
It’s a sad day when our top court doesn’t follow section two, the ‘Fundamental Freedoms’ section, of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms which clearly states:
“2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
- (a) freedom of conscience and religion;
- (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
- (c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
- (d) freedom of association.”
Now, this ruling by the Supreme Court has expanded the power of administrative bodies at the expense of religious freedom.
Once again quoting the dissenting opinions of Judges Brown and Côté: “The LSBC has purported to act in the cause of the ensuring equal access to the profession, it has effectively denied that access to a segment of Canadian society…”
As an alum I am of course disappointed for the school and for those who have worked so hard to try to establish a law school at Trinity Western University. However, more importantly, I am concerned about what this ruling means for the future of religious freedom in Canada.