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Law Society ArmsFirst of all, let me state for the record that I did not watch Convocation’s webcast on April 10, 2014.  Having briefly considered submissions by TWU, the LSUC Treasurer’s statement, and random samplings of submissions before the Benchers, I am left with the impression that everyone has overlooked one single question.  I ask this question, not as a shill for one side or the other, but to focus the debate and free it from the passions.  I am hoping that I am proven wrong in that the unasked question will remain so after deliberations.

Here is the question in boldface:

Would a graduate from TWU’s law program be prima facie ‘ungovernable’?

The question posed by the Law Society is framed as an administrative one; however, when there is no criteria within the entirety of By-Law 4 that states how a law program is accredited, the answer to the Bencher’s Question becomes political.  A position that I do not envy.

The Law Society cannot avoid the political debate, free from gender and sexual orientation politics; it must consider my question.  L1 licensees swear or affirm an oath that binds them to be governed by the Law Society.  That’s the trade-off.  TWU law students, in exchange for a law degree with a Christian perspective, accept the Community Covenant.  TWU grants the law degree, not the LSUC (even though it has the power to grant degrees by statutory right, [Law Society Act, s. 60(2), as amended]).

The point that I am driving at is the Law Society can only act against applicants, applying the good character requirement, not against law schools in or outside of Ontario.

We have a hard enough time applying the accreditation rules within Ontario, as evidenced in the Lakehead University law program.  The John Andrews Foundation at Lakehead University recognized this back in 2008.  In Page 6, the Foundation included an article from Lawyers Weekly describing how the Law Society has not updated its accreditation process since 1968 (Windsor University) and has left the accreditation process largely to the Canadian Federation of Law Societies.  The reason given by then Treasurer Gavin MacKenzie was that the Federation should determine accreditation in order to ensure portability of the law degree within Canada.

What would the purpose, then, of a two-day debate on the accreditation of a religious law school, when that accreditation process has been uploaded to the Canadian Federation of Law Societies who have already agreed in principal to recognize their law degrees? To me, it is largely moot.  The Benchers would be better off to devote their time and energy to something more productive.  As a paralegal, I think that I can come up with a few suggestions.

The conclusion, in my view, is that Convocation is either without jurisdiction or res judicata.

The unasked question remains.  In my opinion, Convocation has to swallow a jagged and bitter pill.  However, that pill is not caustic or poisonous because, at the end of the day, L1 Licensees must covenant with the Law Society in order to practice law in our province.  They can and will be governable.

To my friends in the LGBT community:  there has been a lot of concern over what kind of lawyer will be produced  in the teaching of the law from a Christian perspective.  From my point of view, it is a projection of fear.  I do not mean to be dismissive here, as people in the LGBT community have had valid reasons to justify that fear in the past; in some places they are openly persecuted and/or the targets of violence in the present.  But, in this particular instance and context, these are unsubstantiated fears.  In the absence of hard evidence that someone actually was denied a degree because of their failure to follow the Community Covenant, there is no juristic reason to deny accreditation of TWU’s law school.

To the Paralegal Caucus at Convocation:  perhaps this is a vote that deserves an abstention.  This issue is really one that belongs to the lawyers and is best left to them to squabble about.  There will be other issues that serve the public better than this one and the Paralegal Benchers can weigh in as they see fit for another time.  I also fail to see the gain in potentially drawing the ire of Benchers that may be on the fence about the expansion of the Paralegal practice.

As always, your comments are welcome here.