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Queen's University
 

Trinity Western University

Facts

In 1995, the British Columbia College of Teachers ("BCCT") refused accreditation to Trinity Western University ("TWU"), a private institution associated with the Evangelical Free Church of Canada, for the fifth year of its Teacher Training Program. The rejection was based on the mandatory discriminatory act committed by TWU students when they signed a Community Standards Contract signalling their condemnation of the biblically condemned sins of homosexual behavior.  Acting under the aegis of s. 4 of the Teaching Profession Act, BCCT determined that graduates of this private institution would not be adequately prepared to provide educational services without discrimination in B.C.'s diverse public school classrooms. TWU complained that BCCT did not have the jurisdiction to refusing accreditation on this grounds, as it was an infringement of their right to freedom of religion and association. The B.C. Supreme Court determined that BCCT had acted wrongfully, and issued an order of mandamus obliging BCCT to accredit TWU. The B.C. Court of appeal upheld this decision. The majority of the Supreme Court of Canada upheld these rulings based on the principles of Administrative law, while choosing not to deal with the Charter issue. One dissenting voice, however, did address the issue of freedom of religion. See Dissenting Voice. (Trinity Western University v. British Columbia College of Teachers (2001), 39 C.H.R.R. D/357.2001 SCC 31).

Questions

  1. Was consideration of discriminatory practices within the jurisdiction of the B.C. College of Teachers?
  2. Was correctness the appropriate standard of review of the B.C. College of Teachers' decision not to accredit Trinity Western University?
  3. Was the decision of the B.C. College of Teachers justified?
  4. Was the order to accredit Trinity Western University justified?

Ruling

  1. Yes
  2. Yes
  3. No
  4. Yes

Reasoning

  1. The School system, through its teaching staff, models civic virtue and responsible citizenship. It is obliged by law to provide a discrimination-free educational environment. Therefore it was within the jurisdiction of the College to consider the discriminatory practices while assessing the suitability of Trinity Western University.
  2. The College had acted inappropriately as a human rights tribunal. It did not have sufficient expertise to interpret and to balance human rights (the right to receive educational services without discrimination) and Charter values (the freedom of religious beliefs). Therefore, a standard of correctness (as opposed to deference) was the appropriate standard of review.
  3. The existence of the Community Standards contract, signed by Trinity students, was not sufficient to support the college's conclusion that Trinity graduates would behave in a discriminatory manner towards future homosexual students. The College made an error when it confounded confirmed religious beliefs (homosexual behavior is a sin) and future homophobic conduct (discrimination against homosexual students).
  4. The order to accredit Trinity Western University was justified because it was unfair for the College to refuse accreditation to Trinity based solely on irrelevant considerations (hypothesized discriminatory conduct).

Further information: the Oakes test

Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.2000