Chief justice's rare order in Trinity Western case ensures 'all voices could be heard'

Posted
August 9, 2017
Article Source
The Lawyer's Daily

Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin's unusual decision to vary an order from one of her colleagues that denied intervenor status to LGBTQ groups in a major case involving equality rights and religious freedom is a largely procedural matter that stemmed from a desire to hear more points of view, say several observers of the Supreme Court of Canada.

"I think this is a very important case, with potential ramifications not just for the parties but for administrative law and equality law in general,” Elin Sigurdson, a lawyer with Vancouver's Mandell Pinder LLP who represents a coalition of LGBTQ groups in B.C., told The Lawyer's Daily.

"Given the issues at stake, the chief justice was likely motivated to ensure all voices could be heard [so that] the court can make the best informed decision in the circumstances. … Courts understand that justice must not only be done, it must be seen to be done."

The chief justice's order, made on July 31, came four days after Justice Richard Wagner granted the applications of nine intervenors in two appeals being heard jointly later this year involving law societies in Ontario and British Columbia, and Trinity Western University, a Christian school in B.C. that forbids students from having sex outside heterosexual marriage.

Both the Law Society of Upper Canada and the Law Society of British Columbia, along with the Nova Scotia Barristers' Society, decided in 2014 not to accredit the university's proposed law school, preventing its graduates from practising in the provinces. Appeals by TWU failed at Ontario's Divisional Court and Court of Appeal, while the university won its case before B.C.'s Supreme Court and Appeal Court. Both the Ontario and B.C. rulings — Trinity Western University v. Law Society of Upper Canada 2016 ONCA 518 and Trinity Western University v. Law Society of British Columbia 2016 BCCA 423 — are being appealed, and the cases are scheduled for Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 before the Supreme Court of Canada.

Read more: Chief justice's rare order in Trinity Western case ensures 'all voices could be heard'