REFOCUS BY GERARD VELDHOVEN
Kudos to the Nova Scotia Barrister’s Society and the Law Society of Upper Canada to recognize that fairness and respect must be afforded to all Canadians, regardless of sexual orientation, belief in religious matters to be able to practise one’s faith, the colour of our skin, or any other uniqueness we may possess and the expectation of each one of us to be protected under the laws of our country.
That means discriminatory action such as the practice of Western Trinity University in British Columbia to force staff and students to sign a covenant that prohibits same-sex sexual intimacy is indeed discriminatory. This school of learning expects acceptance nationally and their graduate law students to be able to practise law only to a certain section of the population.
Freedom of religion is a right under the Constitution as it should be; one is “guaranteed beliefs, and the right to practise them, and proclaim them,” but likewise sexual orientation also enjoys equal rights. WTU does not have the legal right to expect their religious beliefs to be incorporated within the public sector. Then it would infringe on the lawful existence of members of the LGBT community.
Regarding the actions of this Christian-based university, if the law school indeed opens in 2016 and is supported by law societies, such as in British Columbia and Alberta, then lawyers should be supporting equality under the law and protect our rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled against such attempts recently and successfully protected members of the LGBT community in Europe. In the past Canada has proclaimed itself as a “beacon” of human rights, promoting fairness and equality and so should abide by the Charter and protect us all from discrimination.
By birth we have the human right to exist in a country where we may live in peace, dignity and with respect. The colour of our skin, country of origin, religious background, sexual orientation (decided before birth), and who we love, must not be a deterrent to equal treatment. Justice must prevail and we all have the right to equal representation.
A recent article in the Chronicle Herald by the Nova Scotia Barrister’s Society has the headline, “Christian school should bow to the public realm.” That is in the interest of all Canadians. I suppose “love” has little meaning if not practised and WTU seems quite prepared to illuminate the right to love for members of the LGBT community. Perhaps this university will have a change of heart and accept the fact we fall in love, regardless of sexual orientation. “Hey world, I am what I am.” Comments and information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Gerard Veldhoven is a longtime activist for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. His column appears Wednesdays in The News.