In March of 2013, I published a post for this blog about the application of a local, private, Christian university, Trinity Western University, for its own law school. The issue has come to the fore once again because Trinity Western recently received approval from the government of British Columbia to proceed. (In Canada, postsecondary education is handled, for the most part, on a provincial level.) In the popular press, as well as on various websites and blogs, there has been a great deal of opposition to this approval, the only reason I’ve come across being that, because of restrictions on homosexual sex in the Community Covenant that students and faculty at Trinity Western must sign, a law school at this institution would, presumably, be violating the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
As I discussed in the previous blog post, but it seems to bear repeating now, I also oppose the approval of the application, but for a different reason. In essence, I believe that Canadian law schools no longer belong in our universities on the whole. Although our secular universities may now be, in general, more accepting than is Trinity Western of homosexuality, there are other areas in which these institutions are out of step with contemporary Canadian society.
A key core value of our secular universities, as well as Christianity-based institutions like Trinity Western, is the belief in absolute Truth. Various policies and practices of our universities flow from that single key value. (I’ve discussed this in some detail in previous posts in this blog, so I’m not going to get into this here.) A big problem now for our universities is that most Canadians–with the notable exceptions of strongly religious people and certain sanctimonious leftists–don’t buy that anymore. Yet many of these same Canadian citizens who don’t believe in absolute Truth–whose right to not believing is upheld by Canadian law–may wish to become lawyers, and may actually be excellent candidates for the profession. Unfortunately for them (or maybe I should say ‘us’, since I applied to and was accepted into law school, but instead pursued graduate studies in Education), the only route presently available to them to enter the profession is through one of our universities.
If we are thinking of adherence to Canadian law, although I’m not a lawyer, I would suggest that Trinity Western may be in an even stronger position legally than are our secular Canadian universities. At Trinity, students and faculty members are at least asked to sign an agreement indicating their acceptance of certain core values of the institution, including a willingness to abstain from homosexual sex. At our secular universities, there is no clear statement of core values let alone a requirement that students and faculty sign an agreement indicating their acceptance of these core values.
The option that recently was introduced in Britain to enter the legal profession through an ‘apprenticeship’, bypassing university altogether, is something that Canada should be seriously considering now. Less drastically, law school programs could still be physically situated within university grounds, yet become autonomous entities. Debating whether another university-based law school should receive accreditation is a distraction, when we need to step back and think in broader, contemporary, Canadian, terms about the future of Canadian legal education–and of Canadian post-secondary education in general.