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B.C. revokes consent for controversial law school

Trinity Western University is seen in this file photo.

B.C.'s Minister of Advanced Education has revoked his consent for the proposed law school at Trinity Western University.

Amrik Virk had sent a letter to TWU president Bob Kuhn last month indicating that he was reconsidering his consent. The university had launched legal challenges against several Canadian law societies that chose not to grant accreditation to the school's graduates, Mr. Virk noted in his letter, and it was unlikely those court actions would be completed before the three-year expiration date of the conditional consent he granted on Dec. 18.

"Obviously, the ability of graduates to practise in B.C. is a relevant consideration in whether you grant consent for a program," Mr. Virk told the Globe and Mail in a November interview.

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The school, which would be built at the university's Langley campus, had become a lightning rod for controversy because of a line in the university's covenant that requires all students, administrators and faculty to abstain from "sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman."

A legal challenge launched against Mr. Virk and TWU by two Canadian law firms said the minister had "created a two-tiered system of legal education" when he granted consent. After some deliberation, the law societies in B.C., Ontario and Nova Scotia all decided not to recognize the school as an approved faculty of law, meaning graduates would not be able to practice in those provinces.

Mr. Kuhn said he was disappointed with the minister's decision and that the university will explore its legal options.

"We remain committed to having a school of law," Mr. Kuhn said in a news release issued Thursday, "and now have to carefully consider all our options. There are such important rights and freedoms at stake that we may have no choice but to seek protection of them in court."

A B.C. court will decide in January whether to commence with the legal challenge.

Clayton Ruby, the lawyer leading the challenge, was pleased that Mr. Virk was "driven to withdraw a consent that would have endorsed unconstitutional discrimination against sexual minorities in the name of religion.

"Almost the entire legal profession in Canada and in B.C. has repudiated the fanciful assertion that fundamentalist Christianity requires and justifies such behaviour," he said Friday.

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The university, which had been hoping to launch the law school in September 2016, can reapply for consent after the legal challenges are resolved.

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