Tag Archives: Canadian universities

BOOK REVIEW: “Metis and the Medicine Line: Creating a Border and Dividing a People” by Michel Hogue

I came to this book with an academic background not in history but, rather, in issues associated with philosophical change in Canadian postsecondary education. One of my interests is implications for humanities research, including historical research, of postmodernism. I’ve also had a longstanding interest in Canada’s First Nations people, but mainly in the present context. (I worked for a few years for CESO on a Native youth employment program that gave me the opportunity to visit several reserves in northern Quebec and BC. The experience left a very strong impression.)

Frankly, I’m generally wary of the work of academic historians. So much of such work buys into, if not explicitly then implicitly, the binary logic that has held sway in Western universities since their inception. This system of logic no longer generally prevails in modern democracies like Canada so, at best, such work is merely outdated. Often, such work is not only outdated but also conceivably could do harm. (I could say more about how such harm may occur, but this isn’t the place for another one of my screeds about academic humanities research.)

Although Michel Hogue is a professor in the History Department at Carleton University and “Metis and the Medicine Line” is published, in Canada, by the University of Regina Press (it originally was published in the US by the University of North Carolina Press), I would strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in Canadian Metis history and culture and/or the history of the Canada-US border–even to those skeptical of academe. I also would recommend it to any culturally responsible Canadian whose knowledge of plains history is, like mine was before I read this book, basically confined to compulsory high-school history classes and watching “Dancing With Wolves,” who should know more–even if they don’t yet know it. (I saw “Dancing With Wolves” a second time, on APTN, after reading this book, and the movie was more interesting the second time around.) I also would recommend it to academic historians, regardless of their areas of specialization, as a model of how academic historical work can remain relevant, and be beneficial, in the current era.

Because of its rich detail, “Metis and the Medicine Line” sometimes can be tough reading, even for academically trained readers. But getting through the book’s densely packed pages is worth the effort. (To be fair, there are several interesting historical photographs interspersed throughout the book.) These details are included not merely to illustrate particular points but also themselves effectively comprise two central points of the book.

The first is that Metis history is much more rich and complex than has traditionally been portrayed. As Hogue recounts, when the North American plains were first being colonized, the Metis people crossed many of the conceptual ‘borders’ that the White colonists, who themselves thought in binary terms, tried to impose on them: these include ‘borders’ relating to race, culture and nationality. The second is that the development of the physical border between Canada and the United States in western North America was a more complex, and more conflict-ridden, process than is usually understood, owing in large measure to the cross-border travel in pursuit of buffalo, and cross-border shenanigans, of migratory plains people, most notably the Metis. (The meaning of “the medicine line” in the title of the book is related to some of these shenanigans. If you want to know more, you’ll have to read the book.)

A stylistic device that Hogue employs throughout this book that helps to organize, and to bring resonance to, details he provides about Metis life and culture and Canada-US border creation issues is to follow a single Metis family, the family of the peripatetic trader Antoine Ouellette and his wife Angelique Bottineau, through the period covered in the book. It’s a very clever, very elegant, device that draws readers back in when the details may be starting to wear them down. It worked that way for me, anyway.

Because I’m not a historian specializing in Metis culture and/or Canada-US border development, I don’t know if and, if so, to what extent, Michel Hogue’s book, and his related academic work, is precedent setting. I’m curious to know. I would suggest that with “Metis and the Medicine Line”, Hogue not only has written an important book about a people that crossed racial, cultural and national borders, but also has done some significant border-crossing himself, bringing a fresh, non-traditional, non-binary, perspective to this subject. He is to be commended–as are his publishers.

A relatively minor shortcoming of this book, in my view, is that I wish that Hogue had said a little more about himself in his book, and what led him to write it. The combination of his first and last names suggests his family backgound is culturally mixed, including some French or French-Canadian. In a book like this, I think he owes it to his readers to let them know at least if he is, or isn’t, Metis. . . . Actual Metis, that is, and not just any old border-crossing, contemporary, Canadian who identifies with these border-crossing people.


Back to My Blog & Back to Trinity Western University: My ‘Vote’

My most recent post for this blog was almost two months ago–and that was basically a repost of something I’d written about two years ago. It was a busy summer for me. (We’re still in the house, and my mother is okay.) Also, I was devoting more of any free time I had for social media to Twitter. Twitter is a good medium for sharing basic information and opinions–and, often, having a good laugh. But what I have to say now is more complex, and sober, so I’m returning to my blog.

On Friday, the Benchers of the Law Society of British Columbia essentially implemented a stalling tactic that will allow the Supreme Court of Canada to decide whether or not Trinity Western University should be allowed to operate its own law school. They voted in favour of the general membership of the BC Law Society voting on the issue, and the vote being binding, but with the vote being taken several months from now, when court proceedings initiated in Ontario and Nova Scotia will already be underway. The decision of the general membership will be contingent on what is decided by the courts.

I sincerely hope the Supreme Court of Canada will be able to look at the big picture on this issue, considering not just this single case but, rather, how the case fits into the present state of Canadian universities in general. Looking at the big picture, the Supreme Court should be asking not simply if Trinity Western University should be allowed to operate its own law school but whether Canadian law schools any longer belong in ANY of our universities, as these institutions are presently conceived. There are certain biases within our secular Canadian universities that make these institutions just as unpalatable for many Canadians today, including by no means only members of the religious right, as Trinity Western is for others. (I’ve discussed such biases elsewhere in this blog, including in my most recent post.)

Barring a complete revamp of our secular universities, I think the answer lies in legally and administratively severing the relationship of all Canadian law schools and all of our universities, but, for practical reasons, allowing Canadian law schools to operate on the grounds of our universities, including Trinity Western University, and to draw an appropriate amount of income from them. (As I’ve suggested elsewhere, income seems to be a key reason Trinity Western now wants its own law school.) Being associated with a university should not be seen as a requirement for a law school. Thus, we could see law schools sprouting up across Canada that are completely independent of any university, and that may, eventually, train more Canadian lawyers than any university-affiliated law school.

But whether any lawyers, including even members of the Canadian Supreme Court, who all received their legal educations in universities, and who may still be beholding to these institutions, are able to think in these broad terms, and to vote accordingly, remains to be seen.

HMMPH: The Humanities Without the ‘U’, on CBC TV . . . if There is Still Any CBC TV


Originally, this post was going to be simply another in my series of “Hmm . . . ” posts, or the “Humanities Without the ‘U'” posts (get it?), concerning Canadian organizations that could play a greater role in humanities education to make up for the declining enrollment in the humanities programs of Canadian universities and colleges.  This one was going to be about the increased role that could be played by Canadian public television–including the television division of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, or CBC.  Especially after it was announced in early June that, in response to the recent large loss of revenue for the CBC, CBC-TV’s new general manager of programming, Sally Catto, was going to put more Arts programming in CBC’s television schedule, I was optimistic CBC-TV could play an important role in this area. (This loss of revenue comes from a combination of a reduction in federal government funding and projected TV advertising losses now that a private network will be airing NHL hockey games instead of the CBC, that long held the Canadian TV broadcasting rights.)

That was my original plan. However, a more recent announcement about how the CBC is going to address its shrunken budget has me very worried about CBC television–including its earlier announced greater emphasis on Arts programming.  My “HMM . . .” post turned into a grumpy “HMMPH” post, partly about the increased role Canadian public television could play in humanities education (I’ve already said most of what I’ll be saying in that regard) and a good measure of HMPHing.

Now they’re telling us that much of the money and other resources formerly allocated to television will be allocated to the Internet.  On June 26, CBC president and CEO, Hubert T. Lacroix, announced the CBC is shifting its priorities from television and radio to digital and mobile services.  To quote Lacroix, “We used to lead with television and radio. Web came and then mobility came. We are reversing, we are inverting the priorities that we have. We’re going to lead now with mobility, we’re going to lead with whatever widget you use.”  I can understand now putting more resources into mobility and less into television and radio; but to lead with mobility is taking things too far.

In a 19-page report issued by the CBC that accompanied Lacroix’ announcement, ironically titled “A Space for Us All,” to justify the CBC’s reverse of priorities, statistics are provided indicating changes from 2000 to now in how Canadian consume media.  Some of these statistics seem to me misleading.  For example 77% of Canadians are said to now watch internet video (including Netflix) for 6.5 hours/week.  What percentage of that 77% watch work-related video at work, or education-related video at school, for at least much of that 6.5 hours and, in their personal lives, watch only snippets of video on their smartphones and tablets and, perhaps, an occasional episode they’ve missed of a favourite show, and only when they have access to free Wi-Fi–as do I? Also, what percentage of that 77% has over-reported their internet video viewership to researchers to appear ‘cool’?  Another statistic I question is that 24% of Canadians now watch Netflix for 7.4 hours per week. I’d be very interested in seeing a breakdown of Netflix usage for different  regions of Canada.  For example, I think the figure is probably far higher in Toronto than it is in Vancouver, largely because, in Toronto, you can get many more channels on TV without subscribing to cable than is possible in Vancouver.  Most Vancouverites have cable and, thus, Netflix may be an unnecessary frill, and too expensive in combination with the cost of cable.  24% might be right for populous Toronto, but I suspect it’s much too high for Vancouver, and for other regions in Canada.

I thought the CBC was supposed to be for all Canadians. Until the day we all get internet service for free–which is not going to happen–it seems this newly conceived CBC will be mainly for a relatively wealthy elite, who can afford large internet bills and all the paraphernalia associated with watching ‘television’ on line, and the rest of us will be left with only scraps for our cultural nourishment. I wish they would prove me wrong, but I am worried.

Incidentally,  I’m liking CBC Vancouver’s “Musical Nooners”–a noon-hour outdoor concert series held through the summer on the plaza of the CBC Vancouver building–a lot less now that we know how strapped for funds the CBC is. Is this really a priority for the CBC?  I like the idea of a few free concerts, but this is a six-week, daily series (if you don’t believe me, here’s the schedule), and each of the concerts is attended by a couple of hundred people at most.  (Vancouver’s CBC building is very near where I work, so I can see what goes on there every day.) Even if the concerts are taped to be incorporated in some of the CBC’s radio shows, I can’t see how the cost is justified.  (If taping is a key reason for this concert series, couldn’t these acts be taped when they are playing at other venues, including Canada Day celebrations, where many of these acts also performed?) If the CBC was financially healthy, yes. But it’s not.


And, yet another HMPH . . . What about streaming music for free, that puts the CBC in direct competition with companies that provide the same service? I would think that television, just regular TV, that is accessible to all Canadians, preferable with a good amount of Canadian Arts and other humanities-related programming, is a far higher priority.


Pls Retwt if Ur Intrsd in #TWULaw (#TrinityWesternUniversity Law) &/or Philosophicl Change in #CanadianUniversities in Genrl

20140511-132943.jpgIn the past week, I sent out several Tweets exploring if there were other Twitter users who believed, like I do, that the training of Canadian lawyers not only doesn’t belong at Trinity Western University but also no longer belongs at ANY Canadian universities. I was hoping for a massive positive response, but I didn’t get it: all those Tweets received a couple of ‘Favorites’, in total, and that was it. (Thank you to those who provided me with that bit of encouragement.)

The poor response may have been simply because not enough people, especially the kinds of people who might be interested in this kind of thing, received and read the Tweets. (I have roughly 70 followers now, a figure of which I was quite proud until I received that paltry response. I also sent out some targeted Tweets to organizations that don’t follow me but whose members were likely to be interested, but those Tweets weren’t passed on to members–or to anyone else.) Or it may have been because a fair number of people did receive and read the Tweets, but most disagreed with me. (I lost a couple of followers in the past week, which may have been due to the nature of my Tweets–and/or their sheer volume.) A third possibility is that a fair number of people did receive and read the Tweets, but just didn’t understand what I was getting at in those necessarily very short messages. The whimsical identifying information about myself I provide on Twitter probably didn’t help in that regard. (I’m thinking of changing it.)

Going with the least disheartening possibility, I will assume that some elaboration could be helpful–about both what I meant in those Tweets and who I am. I will be providing this in the remainder of this blog post. (To those who follow me on Twitter, no more Tweets on this subject, I promise–except a Tweet, or two, or three, tops, to publicize this post.)

To those of you who know me only as someone used to run a colouring contest racket, and who now lives in Vancouver, and who likes kites–or who don’t know me at all–I’ll first provide some relevant background information about myself. I have a PhD in Higher Education from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (or OISE), and the focus of my work at the graduate level was identifying, and trying to help sort out, philosophical confusion associated with the ongoing philosophical change in Canadian postsecondary education. My undergraduate degree is in Communications, from McGill. I also have had a longstanding interest in Trinity Western University, (or as it used to be known, Trinity Western College)–in part because I attended elementary school with the children of the founder of Trinity Western in White Rock (a small town near the main Trinity Western campus). In this blog, that has been up for only about two years, I’ve already written three pieces about Trinity Western’s efforts to establish its own law school, the most recent about five months ago when the BC government awarded Trinity basic approval for the project. Also somewhat relevant here, at one point I did consider becoming a lawyer, and applied to, and was accepted into, law school–but graduate work in Education won out. I did get some exposure to legal education, however, through a course I took at OISE called “Law & Education” taught by a practicing judge–and found that course one of the most interesting and satisfying courses I took through all my years of formal education. As a final point here, I don’t currently work in the field of education, other than sometimes addressing educational issues in this blog–as well as on Twitter. (If, after, reading this post, someone who is associated with an educational organization would like me aboard, I’d be pleased to consider your offer. Better yet, if anyone reading this sees a need now for a Canadian non-profit organization that addresses the kinds of educational issues in which I’m interested, and knows where I can get some start-up money, contact me.)

Now, let’s move on to what I meant by those Tweets.

If you are a Canadian who has attended one of our public, supposedly secular, universities within the past twenty years or so, you are likely to have observed that the overall value system seems oddly outdated, never having managed to move beyond the late-1970s, as well as foreign, in a very literal sense. (In several of the courses I took as a graduate student, supposedly about Canadian education, most of the reading material was written by American scholars. In others, it was virtually all British.) This is especially likely if you are a mid-career, or just mature, student who already has acquired substantial experience of Canadian society outside of our universities–which was my situation when I returned to university in my thirties to do graduate work in Education. There is a discontinuity now between our universities and Canadian society in general–including, I would venture to say, Canadian law–that suggests that Canadian law schools should no longer be part of any Canadian universities, in the conventional sense. (To avoid moving expenses, and for other practical reasons, law schools could still be situated on the grounds of our universities, but operate as independent entities.)

These ‘problems’ with our universities at present (that don’t exist if you are still philosophically situated such that you can’t see them) all stem from the Christian origins of Western universities in general–which I won’t be discussing in detail here. The key point to keep in mind is that secular universities have much more in common with an outwardly Christian university like Trinity Western University than many of its opponents would like to think.

Thirteen years ago, the Supreme Court of Canada decided in a very similar case also involving Trinity Western University, concerning Trinity’s application for its own Faculty of Education, that religious rights trumped the civil right to practice homosexuality without discrimination, and Trinity got its Faculty of Education. This time, it seems to me our lawmakers need to be thinking in broader terms, in acknowledgement of the fact that Canada in general by now has moved significantly beyond the rigid ‘left’ versus ‘right’, dualistic and absolutist, thinking associated with both our secular universities and Trinity Western. In the present Canadian context, this case isn’t so much about religion versus civil rights as it is about religion versus ‘religion’, and the place of religion in Canadian legal education.


UWHO? Who Replaced All Those ‘Retired’ University Professors?


This was supposed to be a time of major renewal in Canadian universities.  In the 1990s, when I was doing graduate work in Education, it was widely anticipated that a large number of university professors, across the academic disciplines, would be retiring in the upcoming years and that they would have to be replaced.  If a large number of professors were to be replaced, it seemed to follow, at least to me when I beginning my graduate studies, that this would open the door for some much-needed, significant, reform in our universities.  Get some new people in there like me, who recognized a need for change, and change would come.  It hasn’t happened that way.  None of it.

First, many of the university professors who were expected to retire simply didn’t retire.  In 2006, several Canadian provinces that formerly required that university professors retire at the age of 65 banned mandatory retirement.  I haven’t been able to find any recent figures (I admit I haven’t looked very hard), but some information about how many professors had opted to extend their careers a few years after the ban is available in the 2009 article in the Canadian academic magazine, University Affairs: “Faculty postpone retirement across Canada.”  It is noted in this article that, although country-wide figures were unavailable, “every university contacted for this article is experiencing the phenomenon of delayed retirements.”  One of the universities that was contacted and for which some data is provided in the article is the University of British Columbia–in Vancouver, where I now live.  According to the article, at that time at UBC, 80 percent of the professors who were still working at age 65 had elected to stay on.  The article goes on to explain that the 80 percent was offset to some extent by early retirements; but, still, that’s a huge percentage.  

It would be extremely interesting to know how long those who had opted to stay on had indeed stayed on, or planned to do so; but, in my rudimentary on-line search, I could find no such information.  Due to the various benefits, including health and dental benefits, in addition to the relatively high pay included in faculty compensation packages at Canadian universities, and due to the relatively undemanding physical nature of academic work (intellectual demands, or lack of demands, are a whole other ball of wax, that I won’t get into here), I suspect that, in a great many cases, these professors have stayed on more than just a couple of years–and may stay on for several more.

The delayed retirements have stalled new hiring in two ways.  First, there is the obvious: assuming the number of Canadian university students has remained relatively constant, which seems to have been the case, fewer new professors are required if more professors are extending their careers.  Also, as is discussed at some length in the above-mentioned article, the older professors who have extended their careers have tended to already be at, or near, the top of the academic pay scale when they chose to stay on, which has increased expenses for universities.  Thus, there is now less money than before to hire new recruits, even when the relatively few retirements create a need for replacement faculty–or if and when a need is recognized for new people to fill new faculty roles that previously didn’t exist.

That’s a big IF: IF there is a recognition of a need for new people to fill new faculty roles that previously didn’t exist.  In the natural and applied sciences, universities seem to be relatively diligent and adept at recruiting new people who are experts in new areas of knowledge.  Funding in these areas, and the recruitment of top students, is largely dependent on keeping up-to-date.  In the humanities and social sciences, including, broadly speaking, faculties of Education, the pressures aren’t as great to keep up.

What I discovered in my experience as a graduate student in Education was how, and to what degree, a future career as a professor in this area is dependent upon alliances one forms with existing university professors.  I didn’t fully appreciate the importance of this factor until the final phase of my PhD program, after all my coursework was completed. This factor has become especially important in these times of minimal new hiring.

Graduate students can get all A’s in their courses, and even have a few interesting papers published as a sole author, but finding a strong mentor among existing professors, who can help them get their names on a lot of publications and meet the right people, also is essential.  Unless they are exceptionally lucky with the professors they encounter as students (I don’t discount the possibility of some professors being unusually forward-thinking), the people with the new ideas stand a very good chance of coming up short in this area.  Others, who are especially conservative themselves, or especially wily, or both, are likely to have the greatest success. 

Based on the views of most Canadians today about our universities and where they should be heading, I would suggest it is often the wrong people, whose views most closely resemble those of the professors who came before them, and/or who just know how to play the game, who are getting those few academic teaching jobs that have become available in recent years.

If major reform is to come to our universities, it seems extremely unlikely that it will come from within the professorial ranks.


U v. u (Part 2): Universities, in the Big ‘U’ Sense, versus universities, in the Small ‘u’ Sense

As I suggested in my previous post, Trinity Western University’s argument that religiously-minded students are likely to face discrimination in the law schools of secular Universities due to their religious beliefs seems to have been greatly overstated–while the probable main reason for TWU now wanting its own law school, the income-generating potential of a law school, hasn’t been publicly stated at all.  Although religiously-minded students may indeed encounter discrimination due to their religious beliefs in many programs in Canada’s secular Universities, especially in the humanities and social sciences, the chances of this occurring in law schools seem to be relatively small due to the close ties between law schools and the Canadian legal profession: Canadian law schools teach (primarily) Canadian law and, in Canadian law, there is a protection of religious freedom.

To accommodate all potential Canadian law school students, including religiously-minded students, our secular law schools don’t seem to need fixing to nearly the extent suggested by TWU; however, undergraduate programs in secular Universities that now serve as prerequisites for law schools do need fixing, and  not only for the sake of religiously-minded students who can’t afford the high fees charged by private Christian Universities.   Perhaps we should now consider modelling these programs more after professional programs like law . . . or maybe we should just allow students who want to do so to bypass University, in the big “U” sense, altogether, and enter these professional programs (with certain modifications) directly from high school, as is now being tried, on a limited basis, in Great Britain.  The institutions that such students attend might still be called ‘universities’–but we can drop the capital ‘U’.

I’m very curious to know how many current law school students and recent law school graduates–and maybe even not-so-recent law school graduates, who were undergraduates when, or after, I was an undergraduate in the mid- to late-70s–generally have been satisfied with their law school experiences yet have felt that the program of studies they had to complete at the undergraduate level in order to be accepted into law school was generally unsatisfying–and possibly even questionable in legal terms.  I’m most interested in Canadian cases, since I’m Canadian and since, due to our current national ethos, I suspect there is a relatively high prevalence of such cases in this country.  But I also suspect there are many such cases in other Western countries know well, especially the United States and Great Britain.  I’m also, of course, interested to know the nature of the discrimination, or perceived discrimination.  I doubt very much that it’s only Christian lawyers and law students who have felt there were some significant problems with their undergraduate educations.

Indeed, religiously-minded Christians seem to have it relatively easy in our secular Universities, compared with other groups.  As pointed out by the Vancouver Sun’s religion writer, Douglas Todd, in a piece about TWU’s quest for a law school that appeared in the Sun’s Saturday edition on February 16, “A spat over spirituality in higher education,” Western Universities in general have been strongly associated with Christianity since their inception.  Todd suggests in that piece that, in recent decades, our secular Universities have lost that longtime connection with Christianity–but I would argue that, in many respects, including some very profound respects, this is not actually the case.  (For consistency’s sake, I’m continuing to use the big ‘U’ when I see fit, even though Todd doesn’t capitalize in this manner.)

Among the policies and practices of our secular Universities that can be traced back to Western academia’s Christian roots include the notion that there is such a thing as pure, unadulterated, Universal, Truth (definitely deserving of a capital ‘U’ and ‘T’), from which it follows that academics in pursuit of this highly valuable Commodity deserve to be free of any outside interference.  In this context, University professors also deserve to be accorded a very high status, much like that of respected clergy.  (Watching a procession of all of the Cardinals congregated in Rome to elect a new Pope on TV last week, I was strong reminded of the entrance of professors in their full academic regalia at a University Convocation.)  Today’s religiously-minded Christian students studying in secular Universities are likely to find the fundamental belief system of our Universities consistent with their own fundamental belief system–even if they have trouble with certain left-leaning professors or fellow students.  But, if they are careful in selecting their courses and professors, they can get through University relatively unscathed.  (Particularly when I was studying education, several of my professors were openly, devoutly, Christian.  One was even retiring early to become a priest.)  Those who believe in Absolutes, whether they are on the right or the left of the religious and political spectrums, get off relatively easy.

It’s the rest of us, including, I suspect, the majority of Canadians today, who don’t–and who shouldn’t be prevented from entering law school, or other professions that now require University education, due to our religious and political beliefs.

***I POSTED AN UPDATE TO THIS PIECE IN DECEMBER OF 2013, SHORTLY AFTER TRINITY HAD RECEIVED BASIC APPROVAL IN BC FOR ITS PROPOSED LAW SCHOOL. THE LINK FOR THE UPDATE IS: https://pamelathird.wordpress.com/2013/12/26/update-on-the-trinity-western-university-law-school-controversy-the-third-option/.



U v. u (Part 1): Trinity Western University’s Push for the First Canadian Christian Law School

20130319-070540.jpgI’ve been following with great interest the current controversy surrounding the desire of a local Christian university, Trinity Western University (or TWU), to establish Canada’s first private Christian law school. TWU wants to establish its own law school because, it claims, Christian students are treated unfairly in secular universities due to their religious beliefs, presumably such that these students may be prevented from pursuing careers in law. The head of the Council of Canadian Law Deans, Bill Flanagan, is strongly opposed, because, as he has stated, TWU’s “community covenant,” which forbids homosexual sex, and possibly also limits academic freedom, is “fundamentally at odds with the core values of all Canadian law schools.” Flanagan has insisted that he has nothing against Christian universities as such, but only with TWU’s “community covenant.” (The religious basis of TWU is Evangelical protestant. Other Christian denominations and, it follows, other private universities and colleges associated with these denominations, are more open-minded about the issue of homosexuality.) In January, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association became involved, supporting TWU and denouncing Flanagan. The BCCLA accused the deans of Canada’s secular law schools of wanting to monopolize legal education and keep religiously-minded people from becoming law students and lawyers.

Although I’ve generally been supportive of Trinity over the years (I went to elementary school with the children of the first President of Trinity, so Trinity has been on my radar almost since its inception), I don’t support Trinity on this issue. My sense is that Trinity isn’t being entirely honest about its reasons for wanting to start its own law school. I suspect the main reason that Trinity now wants its own law school is to generate more income. Trinity is now seriously in debt, and the tuition fees paid by law students could help to alleviate some of this debt. (I don’t know what the fees are that Trinity proposes charging its law students, but I suspect they are well in excess of the fees charged law students at public, secular, Canadian universities. Trinity currently charges its undergraduate general arts students over $20,000, four times as much as such students are charged at Canada’s public universities.)

It seems to me to be disingenuous to argue that religiously-minded people are likely to have greater difficulty in law school than other students due to their religious beliefs. I’ve never attended law school myself (although I did apply, and was accepted); however, when I was doing graduate work in education (for which I opted instead of law school), I did take a course called Law and Higher Education, taught by a practicing judge, who taught the course using the law school model. The course basically consisted of reviewing existing case law pertaining to various educational issues, and I found the course extremely satisfying–indeed more satisfying than the majority of university courses I took over the years, at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. What set this course apart was its close connection with the current standards of a profession existing outside of universities, namely the Canadian legal profession, and with the current mores of Canada as a whole. Canadian law enshrines religious tolerance, and not only the content of this one law course I took but also the manner in which it was taught reflected this. I’m not a practicing Christian myself (I was brought up in the United Church, but stopped attending when I was a teenager), but I find it hard to see how any religiously-minded person would have difficulty with courses like this.

It would be interesting to have a conversation now about this subject with ‘K’, the son of Trinity’s first President, who sat directly behind me through Grade 7 at White Rock Elementary, and who became a good buddy. (If you’re reading this, ‘K’, remember “Very funny little bunny . . . ?”) I lost touch with ‘K’ after my family moved to Vancouver when I was in Grade 8, but I Googled him recently, after I’d heard about the current controversy at Trinity, and learned that, ironically, he became a lawyer, and now has a successful practice in the United States. I also learned that he went to law school at the University of British Columbia. I don’t assume that ‘K’ still subscribed to the religion in which he was brought up by the time he reached law school; however, if he did, I doubt that he would have had problems in law school because of his religion. He didn’t seem to have such problems at our secular elementary school.

Of course, to say that the justification that TWU has publicly presented for wanting its own law school is invalid is not to say that this institution should not be entitled to have its own law school, on other grounds. I believe that, if it were at any other time in history, TWU would be entitled to have its own law school to the same extent that our secular universities have been entitled to have their own law schools: TWU would be entitled to subsidize its undergraduate programs with law-school tuitions, just as our secular universities have done, and do. The problem is that we are now at a point in history at which Canadian universities in general are being seriously reevaluated, and the question has become not whether TWU should have its own law school but, rather, whether professional education, including legal education, any longer really belongs within Universities (in the capital ‘U’ sense), of any kind. In my opinion, the answer is no. Under the current circumstances, I believe it would be folly to expand legal education in universities, whether secular or Christian.

I’ll have more to say about Universities (in the capital ‘U’ sense) versus universities (in the small ‘u’ sense), especially in relation to the study of law, in my next post.