Course:Law3020/2014WT1/Group U/Summary Of Case
Trinity Western University (TWU) established a teaching program. The program required students to finish the last year of the program at Simon Fraser University. TWU applied to the British Columbia College of Teachers (BCCT) for permission to hold the full program at TWU and for the full program to reflect Christian World view. The BCCT refused TWU's request on the basis that the program is contrary to public interest. TWU required all students to sign a "Community Standards" document. This document requires signees to refrain from practices that are biblically condemned, including engagement in homosexual behaviour. The BCCT argued that the "Community Standards" is discriminatory and it is contrary to public interests to allow a school to engage in discriminatory practices.
1) Does s.4 of the Teaching Profession Act give the BCCT authority to restrict programs on the basis of discrimination?
2) Was the decision of the BCCT justified?
3) How can freedom of religion and the right to equality by reconciled in this situation?
Does s.4 of the Teaching Profession Act give the BCCT authority to restrict programs on the basis of discrimination?
S.4 of the Teaching Profession Act was created to ensure teachers are properly trained, competent, and of good character. TWU engaged in a narrow interpretation of the statute and argued that the restriction of programs on the basis of discrimination falls outside the scope of the BCCT's jurisdiction. TWU argued that the BCCT was not created to to render judgments on religious beliefs, the enforcement of human rights, nor the eradication of discrimination. The BCCT, on the other hand, argued that teaching programs must reflect human right values. One of the goals of s.4 of the Teaching Profession Act is to ensure teaching programs prepare future teachers for the public school environment, particularly for the diversity of public school students. Therefore, restriction of programs on the basis of discrimination falls within the scope of their jurisdiction.
The court decided that teachers are a medium for the transmission of values. Due to Canada being a diverse country, teachers must understand diversity, respect diversity, and protect minority rights. Teachers will be required to do this in a manner free of bias, prejudice, and intolerance. Therefore the court concluded that s.4 of the Teaching Profession Act is not limited to the determination of skill and knowledge. S.4 of the Teaching Profession Act does have jurisdiction to consider discriminatory practices, such as the dealings with the TWU's application.
Was the decision of the BCCT justified?
In determining whether the BCCT's decision was justified, the court assessed the standard of review and looked for evidence of discrimination. The court determined the appropriate standard of review was the Standard of Correctness. They concluded that the BCCT does not have the expertise to analyze human rights nor are they the only government actor entrusted with policy development. Therefore, the majority of the Supreme Court of Canada determined that the good character of teachers, which the BCCT has authority to review, cannot be expanded into an evaluation of religious belief, freedom of association, nor the right to equality.
In determining whether there was any evidence of discrimination by teachers trained by TWU, the court assessed the rationale behind TWU's application to have the full program reflect Christian World view. The court determined that TWU was designed to heed the needs of people who share a number of religious convictions. The court found that the "Community Standard" document was not sufficient to establish discrimination.
How can freedom of religion and the right to equality by reconciled in this situation?
This case deals with a clash between the freedom of religion of students and staff of TWU and the equality rights of the general society. To reconcile these rights, a common ground ought to be found. Neither the freedom of religion nor equality rights are absolute. Both of these rights are enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and both rights are equal under the Charter. The court argued that although the freedom of religion may be broad, the freedom to act upon those religious beliefs is considerably narrow. Having certain beliefs is not the same as acting upon them. Students and staff of TWU should have the right to hold certain beliefs. Their religious beliefs ought not to be interfered with unless they lead to teachers to act in discriminatory ways. Therefore, the court decides that TWU's application ought to be approved as there is no evidence that teachers from the program act in discriminatory ways. The court concluded that the BCCT retains the authority to discipline any teacher who acts in discriminatory ways. In conclusion, the court effectively reconciled the freedom of religion and equality rights by approving TWU's application while allowing the BCCT to regulate discriminatory conduct that may affect equality rights.
The majority of the Supreme Court of Canada concluded that the BCCT was not justified in rejecting TWU's application.