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CAUT Bulletin Archives

January 2000

Bigotry Battle in B.C. Heads to Supreme Court

Trinity Western University is embroiled in a Supreme Court battle with the British Columbia College of Teachers (BCCT) over the college's denial of Trinity Western's application to have its teacher education program certified. The BCCT maintains Trinity's program philosophy is based on values that contradict human rights legislation and the public interest.

Trinity Western, a private religious university in Langley, B.C., insists students sign its "community standards" document. In signing it, students agree to refrain from practices that are "biblically condemned," including "use of profane language ... abortion ... and sexual sins including the viewing of pornography, premarital sex, adultery and homosexual behaviour."

In denying Trinity's application for teacher certification, BCCT argues it has the responsibility to ensure the values enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and other human rights legislation are upheld by teachers entering the public school system. The BCCT believes education graduates of Trinity Western University might discriminate against gay and lesbian students in the classroom.

The university maintains BCCT's mandate is to determine whether or not the university's education program meets the criteria for certification, and not whether or not the institution complies with existing human rights legislation.

The British Columbia Court of Appeal in late 1998 upheld an earlier decision of the Supreme Court of British Columbia which held that the college's decision to deny Trinity's application for accreditation was outside of its jurisdiction. The argument that the B.C. courts appeared to have followed is that the College of Teachers had no authority to apply its own interpretation of constitutional or human rights law to its decision-making process on accreditation.

In December 1999 the Supreme Court of Canada agreed to grant the BCCT's application for leave to appeal the decision of the British Columbia Court of Appeal.

The issues to be decided will have implications for academic freedom, human rights principles and their application in administrative decision-making, and the correct standard of review for those types of decisions by the courts.

At issue also is whether, if the court finds BCCT acted improperly in considering human rights principles and the possible risk of discrimination, it can order it to grant Trinity's application.