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Universities Canada Adopts Non-Discrimination Bylaws

NOVEMBER 7, 2016

Universities Canada members have voted to adopt a new non-discrimination bylaw that commits all members to adopt policies and practices that ensure the equal treatment of all persons at those universities.  The criterion specifically states that member institutions will not discriminate on the basis of "race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, physical or mental disability, age, ancestry, place or origin, marital status, family status, sex, and sexual orientation, or other grounds identified in applicable human rights laws."  Universities Canada President Paul Davidson welcomed the decision, which he said "sends a signal to Canadians that higher education in this country will treat all students, faculty, and staff fairly."  Current members of Universities Canada reportedly have until 2020 to make any required changes to meet the criterion, while new members need to meet it immediately.  While most of the current members of Universities Canada will doubtless meet the new bylaw without difficulty, there are several Christian institutions that may not be able to accept the changes in non-discrimination language as it relates to sexual orientation and gender identity.  These particular institutions, out of an evangelical tradition, do not allow students or employees to have sexual relations outside of heterosexual marriage.  

One of faith-based members of Universities Canada that will find this new non-discrimination language objectionable is Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia.  TWU has been challenged by provincial agencies on a number of occasions over the past two decades because of their position on traditional heterosexual marriage.  The most recent challenge coming from the BC Law Society that denied accreditation to TWU's proposed law school.  The Law Society argued that the University's covenant discriminates against LGBTQ students.  However, the Appeals Court of British Columbia recently ruled against an attempt by the BC Law Society to deny accreditation to graduates of Trinity Western University's proposed law school, which bans students and employees from engaging in sexual relations outside of traditional  marriage.  The Appeals Court denied the decision to deny accreditation as "unreasonable,"  adding that "while we accept that approval of Trinity Western University's law school has, in principle , a detrimental impact on LGBTQ equality rights, because the number of law school places would not be equally open to all students, the impact on applications made. . . . by LGBTQ students would be insignificant in real teams."

While this decision from the  Appeals Court of British Columbia is a victory for Trinity Western University and other faith-based institution in Canada that have a similar community covenant, matters of political correctness, sexual orientation, and gender identity are not going away.  This will continue to be a challenge for hundreds of Christ-centered colleges and universities in Canada and the United States.  May God give their leaders grace and wisdom as they respond to this ongoing challenge.

Larry J. McKinney
Higher Education Consultant
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