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Trinity Western Law School: Important Law Society Meeting June 10th at 12:30pm

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Thomas Jefferson, United States Declaration of Independence

Growing up in New Orleans, it was impossible not to notice a social class system divided along racial lines. This became a driving force in my decision to pursue a career in law, always striving for justice, whether for an individual denied that arbitrarily or for society to ensure equality for all.

While I grew up secure in the notion that I was born with certain "unalienable rights," not till I immigrated to Canada did I feel the full impact of what it means to be free. I don't say this to slight the United States in any way-I am still a proud and patriotic American-but I am also now a proud and patriotic Canadian, and I now live in a society that promotes multiculturalism alongside equality and freedom. To live in Canada is to celebrate our differences as much as our similarities.

I am particularly troubled by the B.C. Law Society's recent accreditation of a law school at Trinity Western University, a school which arguably discriminates against same-sex couples. TWU's covenant, which all students and faculty are required to sign, requires students to "reserve sexual expressions of intimacy for marriage" and defines marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman. Such a definition is contrary to Canada's laws. While I respect this private university's right to promote its own religious agenda, I cannot respect the Law Society's endorsement of that agenda by recognizing law degrees from such an institution. Would we tolerate a school that discriminated against non-whites to teach our lawyers and judges?

Our medical internship and residency programs did just that twenty years ago. Graduates of certain "Category 2" schools were offered a handful of opportunities to access these programs, which were the only route to medical practice in this province, while graduates of "Category 1" schools were able to compete alongside Canadian graduates for hundreds of positions. Of course, the rationale behind this two-tiered system was not overtly racist and had a noble purpose-to ensure the quality of education of our doctors. But it turns out that the defining characteristic of the two categories was race, systemically. (In other words, not overt racism, but the effect was the same, as it excluded most non-whites from competing for the preferred positions). Along with my esteemed colleague, David Lunny, I'm proud to have assisted in the human rights case which changed our medical accreditation system and provided some relief to our afflicted clients.

On June 10th, the Law Society will convene a special meeting to vote on a resolution put forward by two of our members, to rescind the Law Society's accreditation of TWU's law degree. Every member of the Law Society in good standing has the opportunity to vote on this resolution, but must do so in person, at one of the many places set up across the province. I urge all of my colleagues and friends to do so, and to vote in such numbers as will send a strong message across our land and throughout our entire world to proclaim: "We are a people who respect our diversity and who respect our laws".

When I took my oath of Canadian citizenship in 2003, the presiding judge explained to us 88 new citizens and our families that there were half a dozen different races represented, over a dozen different languages, many, many different nationalities, in the room as well as across the country; that neither the people in the room nor the country share a single race nor ethnicity nor national origin, nor sexual preference, nor gender, nor age, nor even language; but the one thing that we ALL share as Canadians is RESPECT FOR THE LAW. He even said that one among us was a US citizen, and that when we were all to take our oath to the Queen, we weren't saying that we would do anything that the queen told us to do, but rather that we were acknowledging that, as Canadians, we were all willing to respect the laws and institutions of Canada. This is what we have in common.

For a more thorough and thoughtful analysis of this decision, please consider the opinion of Jeremy Webber, Dean of the Law School at the University of Victoria, published in the Vancouver Sun on Sunday, April 8,

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