Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 05/5/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
The Law Society of Manitoba should take a stand in support of equality and refuse to recognize degrees granted by B.C.'s Trinity Western University for the purposes of admission to the practice of law in Manitoba.
Some have criticized this position as being discriminatory against religious beliefs, but that is not the case. The real concern is that if law societies do not distance themselves from the practices of Trinity Western, then they are aiding in the creation of a discriminatory barrier to prevent access to a particular realm of work for a specific segment of our society -- the LGBT community.
The legal profession only accepts a finite number of new members each year, and without assurances that these coveted law-school spots are available to all Canadians, this is incompatible with human rights, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Canadian values more broadly.
As a lawyer who also happens to be part of the LGBT community, I find it repugnant that TWU requires its faculty, staff and students to sign a Community Covenant Agreement promising not to engage in same-sex sexual intimacy under any circumstances. What we do or don't do in the privacy of our own bedrooms should be of no concern to administrators making decisions about who gets to attend law school and become a lawyer and who doesn't.
This covenant cites biblical passages condemning homosexuality. The prospect of a regulator of the legal profession offering approval/accreditation to a law school with such an explicitly discriminatory policy is disturbing to say the least. If any of Canada's public universities adopted the kind of covenant TWU requires, they would be in violation of the human rights legislation in their respective provinces.
In 2014, a reasonable balance between freedom of religion and equality for gays and lesbians requires law societies to reject law-degree programs that explicitly discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. Nova Scotia's law society took a balanced approach recently when they voted to approve accreditation of TWU's law school, but only if they eliminated the discriminatory part of the covenant prohibiting same-sex sexual intimacy.
In the context of scarce law-school positions for access to the profession, TWU's proposed law school would create a discriminatory quota for access to the profession in Manitoba. It is the reduction in the relative, as opposed to the absolute, number of opportunities for gay and lesbian persons that makes approval of TWU's law school objectionable. In my view, it cannot be in the public interest for the law society to contribute to this kind of labour-market discrimination.
At its most basic, the issue facing the law society is very simple: Is it in the public interest for the legal profession to express approval of an educational institution that explicitly employs policies that discriminate against gays and lesbians? The law society would surely not see fit to approve a law school with a policy that prohibits students from forming intimate relationships with a member of a different racial or ethnic group, or one that proposed to restrict legal education to men because of religious rules.
Discrimination that further vilifies marginalized groups cannot be in the public interest members of the legal profession have committed to serve.
Kristine Barr is a local lawyer with CUPE, a Winnipeg school board trustee and co-chairwoman of the sexual-orientation and gender-identity conference of the Manitoba Bar Association.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 5, 2014 A9
Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories? Please use the form below and let us know.
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
Sexual-assault myths persist
The issues are black and white in America
Courts not the best option for improving relations
The perils of being black in the U.S.
The cosmic context of humanity
Obama turns a deaf ear
Bowman faces long learning curve
The star system and the CBC
White roses mean we never forget
Onus on University admin in UVA rape
Cosby denial and the allure of celebrity
Ferguson could learn Seattle’s lessons
Strong downtown, strong economy
Teamwork needed on climate change
Sex ed in the Internet age
Issues of race and Missouri
Obama’s immigration rhetoric touches
Deterrence principal changed post-Cold War
Bowman must win support of workers
The endless tragedy over Jerusalem
Labour laws are hampering youth
The benefits of energy security
Poor may see rent go up as subsidies expire
The downside of Canada’s energy
Go bold or go home
Labour has a lot at stake in NDP schism
Case shows the perils of being a woman
Obama needs authority to fight ISIS
U.S. arms won’t help Ukraine
China’s economy troubled
The war on cars
Women's issues are just, well, issues
Indigenous children awaiting justice
Low oil prices a war on Russia, Iran?
Big money pouring tar on Keystone
Attack on Jews was a pogrom