Fads come and go. But should the “freedom to associate” be treated as a passing fad? Or made obsolete? Surprisingly, some people at the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society (NSBS) have behaved as if “freedom to associate” shouldn’t apply to groups they disagree with. And they’ve spent a losing $105,000 to prove it.
The NSBS had a problem with BC’s Trinity Western University (TWU) and its so-called Community Covenant which 4,000 students (including LGBTQ) voluntarily sign. The NSBS said the Covenant was “unlawful discrimination.” So it passed “a resolution and regulation to restrict the ability of Trinity Western’s law graduates to article in Nova Scotia” even though the Federation of Canadian Law Societies had approved TWU’s proposed law degree.
I like the court’s straightforward reply to NSBS: “It is not unlawful. It may be offensive to many but it is not unlawful. TWU is not the government. Like churches and other private institutions, it does not have to comply with the equality provisions of the Charter.” John Carpay, president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, noted: “The court’s decision is a victory for freedom of association, freedom of conscience and religion, and freedom of expression. All Canadians must be free to peacefully associate with one another under common beliefs and values, without punishment, and this court today upheld those freedoms.” It’s nice to know that some justices still regard the “right to associate” as a human right to be defended and not just a passing fad.