A controversy has developed in the case of Trinity Western University’s hearing regarding its anti-gay policies in Canada’s Supreme Court the end of November. The law societies of British Columbia and Ontario will be challenged in our highest court by the university in a protest that this educational facility has the right to refuse entry to gay students.
This Christian-based organization has a policy that prospective students must sign a covenant that forbids sexual activity outside a “heterosexual marriage,” in fact denouncing same-sex activity. Challenges have been very public in several provinces, but no clear decisions have been established to satisfy the university’s administration. The next step is the Supreme Court.
The concern of many is the fact that one of the justices has volunteered with anti-gay organizations and as a result should recuse himself from the hearing. Justice Russell Brown, an appointee to the court by former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a well-known enemy of LGBTQ rights, has the obligation to step down from this particular hearing as he will have a preconceived judgment. A fair hearing is not possible if a judge has already decided to side with TWU and against the LGBTQ community.
The problem with this case is that graduates from TWU’s law school will likely discriminate against cases involving gay issues. The worries are real and will no doubt be contested hotly in Ottawa. The remaining justices are not known to be anti-LGBTQ and therefore should be fair in judgment.
Canada may be proud of the fact that LGBTQ support is one of the highest in the world and stands at around 80 per cent. That number may be challenged, but is conceivably close to being quite factual. Be assured discrimination is continuing and Justice Brown has been vocal in support of the religious right.
Members of the LGBTQ community in Canada are protected under the Canadian Constitution and Human Rights laws, but nevertheless are usually trumped by religious beliefs. We are in a bit of turmoil in the case of TWU, fearing that the likes of Justice Russell Brown will continue to speak out against LGBTQ rights and support those who also, because of right-wing religious thoughts, will not budge.
So, how do we counteract such conflict? Above all, those who take a stand against unfair and discriminatory actions, through word or indeed, need to sit down with LGBTQ community citizens and discuss the differences, and in so doing may understand the fact that we do not choose our sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. Education is of paramount importance and we owe it to all of us now and future generations to eradicate the hostility towards the LGBTQ population.
Influential leaders such as Justice Brown have the ability and the position to bolster discrimination. As a judge on Canada’s Supreme Court he has the obligation to rule according to Canadian law and that includes support of the LGBTQ community. After all, our Constitution tells us that we are entitled to equal rights and equal treatment. If judges do not and will not support this they should not be appointed to this high office.
Stephen Harper appointed Justice Brown because of his own right-wing religious beliefs. Should Brown recuse himself in this matter? Yes indeed! It all boils down to human rights. Trinity Western University must be stopped.
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Gerard Veldhoven is a longtime activist for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. His column appears Wednesdays in The News.