Does Canada need more law schools? Does Canada need more lawyers or more socially conscious lawyers without an ideological bent?
Trinity Western University wants a law school and wants to turn out ‘Christian’ lawyers.
Last September, Thompson Rivers University welcomed 75 first-year students to its new law faculty in Kamloops, B.C., and in the fall of 2013, Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont., will be home to the first law school in northern Ontario.
The latest proposal comes from Trinity Western University, a private Christian university in Langley, B.C., which hopes to offer a three-year JD program to 60 students starting in September 2015. If it receives approval from the B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education and the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, it would be the fourth law school in British Columbia.
Janet Epp Buckingham, an associate professor at Trinity Western, has been involved in developing the proposal for the past five years. She says establishing a law school has been in the university’s long-term plans for 20 years.
“[TWU’s] real focus is on developing leadership, and lawyers are leaders in their communities,” she says. “This is a step we want to take because it fits within our mission and mandate as a university.”
Established as a junior college in 1962, Trinity Western is now a full university that offers several professional programs, including business, nursing, and education. It is privately funded and would require a substantial amount of funding for a new law building.
If approved, it would be the first Christian law school in Canada, which Buckingham says would bring a unique perspective to the law.
Trinity Western argues their law school grads would be trained for certain fields, and would encourage grads to practise in small Canadian communities.
“We have a lot of students who are interested in social justice, human trafficking, and care for the poor and there are biblical principles on justice and just society that will form part of that curriculum,” she tells 4Students.
Along with weaving Christian values into certain courses, students would also be able to specialize in charities and social justice or entrepreneurial law.
Trinity Western University was involved in one of the largest charity scams in Canada and fought their case all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, where it was dismissed with cost. Any university wanting a law school has to operate at the highest ethical standards.
Canadian taxpayers had to foot the bill for the federal government to prosecute this case.
Parents and grandparents of Trinity Western students were led by their lawyer to believe they would win their case. The Vancouver Sun:
The creative tax scheme had the students solicit money for the foundation with the possibility of earning bursaries that could cover up to 80 per cent of the cost of their education. If they met certain fundraising targets, they could qualify for bursaries that would effectively cover the entire tuition.
The students solicited cash from their parents.
The parents donated not only through their own children, but their friends’ children as well, according to court records.
The parents gave between $50 and $14,000 to the foundation, which in turn provided scholarships and bursaries to their children.
The National Foundation for Christian Leadership foundation sent out tax receipts totalling $11.3 million between 2000 and 2003.
Apart from the ethics of Trinity Westerns participation in this scam, I wonder if an evangelical university with a law school will go the route of evangelical law schools in the US such as Liberty U and Regent U. Chicago Tribune 2007: Falwell saw law school as tool to alter society
While the goal of placing law grads in small communities is commendable, it’s wishful thinking. Trinity Western U never apologized in this borderline tax evasion case, and if this is the schools ethical standard, do we want a private evangelical university churning out more lawyers, many who don’t or won’t have that ethical compass.
Canadian Christianity: Trinity Western Univerity proposes Law School