Alberta Human Rights Information Service October 16, 2018

In this issue:
Human rights case law: Court and tribunal decisions
Commission news
Other human rights and diversity news
Publications and resources

1. Important court decision related to human rights:
Law Society of British Columbia v. Trinity Western University 2018 SCC 32 (Supreme Court of Canada, June 15, 2018)

Law society entitled to assess university’s admission policy in approval process for proposed law school
Trinity Western University (Trinity) is an evangelical Christian-based private post-secondary institution located in British Columbia that required all students and faculty to adhere to a mandatory “Community Covenant” (Covenant) upon admission to the school. That Covenant prohibits “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman,” and applies to students both on and off campus.

Trinity planned to establish a law school and sought accreditation from law societies in Canada. Three provincial regulatory bodies: the Law Society of British Columbia, Law Society of Upper Canada, and the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society, stated they would refuse to grant accreditation to Trinity law school unless the requirement of adherence to the Covenant by law students were waived. They argued Trinity’s admission policy was discriminatory and against public policy because it created inequitable barriers and impeded equal access to the profession, particularly affecting LGBTQ applicants and students.

In response to Trinity’s application for accreditation of its law school to the Law Society of British Columbia (LSBC), the Benchers held a binding referendum among its law society members to determine whether accreditation would be granted. The referendum vote decided that Trinity would not be granted accreditation on the basis that their admission policy was conditional on mandatory adherence to the Covenant that was discriminatory and against public policy because the policy created inequitable barriers. Trinity successfully applied for judicial review of LSBC’s decision, arguing that the decision breached Trinity’s Charter of Rights to religious freedom. The British Columbia Court of Appeal upheld the lower court ruling.

The LSBC appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada arguing LSBC, in exercising its regulatory role over accreditation and the legal profession, could assess admission policies of law schools by looking at a candidate’s competence and ethical standards. The majority of the Court held that LSBC’s resolution and decision represented a proportional balance between the limitations to religious protections and the statutory objectives in the Law Society’s mandate.

The majority held LSBC was to be given deference regarding the manner in which it advances its statutory mandate and objectives and whether its decision reflects a proportionate balance. LSBC was entitled to consider and assess Trinity’s admissions policies, in addition to the academic qualifications and competence of individual graduates, in determining whether to approve Trinity’s proposed law school. LSBC had a duty to consider the “overarching objective of upholding and protecting the public interest in the administration of justice in determining the requirements for admission to the profession, including whether to approve a particular law school.”

In dissenting opinion, Coté and Brown JJ., held that the decision not to grant Trinity’s law school accreditation violated the Charter. Further, regarding the admission of Trinity students, LSBC should have been limited to assessing competence and ethical conduct of law school graduates, and should not have entered into analysis of Trinity’s admission policy. LSBC’s referendum vote violated legal principles in failing to properly consider the balancing of Charter rights with the statutory mandate of LSBC.

On the same day as the LSBC decision above, the Supreme Court of Canada released a related decision in Trinity Western v Law Society of Upper Canada 2018 SCC 33. Trinity appealed an Ontario Court of Appeal decision that held Trinity’s admission policy was “deeply discriminatory.” The Supreme Court dismissed Trinity’s appeal and held that LSUC was entitled to consider Trinity’s admissions policies of law schools when deciding whether to grant accreditation to law schools.

2. Recent tribunal decisions
The Commission recently released the following tribunal decisions:
  • Michael Facey v. Bantrel Management Services Co. (August 14, 2018; Cherie Langlois-Klassen, Tribunal Chair)
  • Bart Carswell v. Rocky View County (July 12, 2018; Sharon Lindgren, Tribunal Chair)
  • Dean Redhead v. Pillar Resource Services Inc. (June 12, 2018; Joanne Archibald, Tribunal Chair)
  • Ebon Smylie v. Sani-Tech Mechanical Ltd. (June 11, 2018; D. Jean Munn, Q.C., Tribunal Chair)
These tribunal decisions can be accessed free of charge through the Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII) website.


1. What’s new in E-learning?
Preventing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace webinar: A new webinar, Preventing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, provides an understanding of what constitutes sexual harassment, the responsibilities of employers in preventing sexual harassment, and the roles of managers in dealing with a sexual harassment complaint. This webinar is found on the Commission’s E-learning webpage. It is available for free viewing with registration.
2. Upcoming forums:
Human Rights in Employment Forum Series: Addressing Racial Discrimination in the Workplace
The Commission is offering a forum on Addressing Racial Discrimination in the Workplace. This forum will provide an understanding of racial discrimination, information on how employers should respond to complaints of racial discrimination, and strategies for creating a respectful workplace that is free of racial discrimination.
Edmonton: October 31, 2018
Calgary: November 7, 2018
You can read more about the upcoming forum and register online for the October 31, 2018 Edmonton forum and the November 7, 2018 Calgary forum.

3. Members of the Commission reappointed: Effective August 21, 2018, the Lieutenant Governor in Council reappointed the following members of the Commission, each for a term to expire on August 20, 2021:
  • Sharon Lindgren
  • Duncan Marsden
  • Jean Munn, Q.C.
  • Kathryn Oviatt
  • Karen Scott

You can read the Order in Council and the complete list of biographies of the members of the Commission. 

4. Projects funded in part by a grant from the Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund (HREMF)

Tree logo Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund 

Recently completed grant project: The Shiloh Centre for Multicultural Roots received a grant from the Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund to conduct research and engage with the community to document Alberta Black settlers’ historical and contemporary experiences of slavery, racism and discrimination. As a result of these community conversations, a one-hour documentary We are the Roots: Black Settlers and their Experiences of Discrimination on the Canadian Prairies was produced. It features 19 interviews with the descendants of Black African American immigrants who describe the discrimination the settlers encountered in rural communities surrounding Edmonton.

We are the Roots
received the 2018 Oral History Association’s Oral History in Nonprint Format Award and Elizabeth B. Mason Award for outstanding oral history projects. It has also been awarded the Heritage Awareness Award​ from the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation and the 2018 Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Community Programming.

The documentation process used to collect stories was evaluated and will serve as a tool for future work. These resources will assist future generations of Black Albertans to identify, acknowledge and address discrimination. For more information, visit the Shiloh Centre for Multicultural Roots on Facebook or contact Deborah Dobbins at

Award of Excellence: The CommunityWise Resource Centre received the Canadian Race Relations Foundation’s Award of Excellence (community category) for their “Anti-Racist Organizational Change (AROC)” initiative. A HREMF grant assisted this project to help organizations address structural racism and create greater equity, diversity and inclusion. For more information about this initiative or to access tools and resources, visit the CommunityWise Resource Centre’s website. You can also read the Canadian Race Relations Foundation new release.

5. Revised Code of Conduct: The Commission's revised Code of Conduct: Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Director of the Commission and Members of the Commission (forming the Tribunal) is now published out on the Commission website.


1. Taking action against racism: The Government of Alberta released a comprehensive action plan to fight racism. An Anti-Racism Advisory Council composed of Albertans of many backgrounds will shape the government’s approach, and a $2-million Anti-Racism Community Grant Program will begin to fund groups directly targeting racism and raising awareness of different cultures. The deadline for the second intake for grants is November 1, 2018. You can read more:

2. Accessible Canada Act: On June 20, 2018, the proposed Accessible Canada Act was introduced to Parliament. The goal of the legislation is to establish a model to eliminate accessibility barriers and lead to more consistent accessibility in areas under federal jurisdiction across Canada. You can read the Government of Canada news release


1. Guide for building coalitions: The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights published Coalition Building for Tolerance and Non-Discrimination: A Practical Guide. From the publication: “This publication offers civil society organizations in the OSCE region a practical basis for building successful coalitions aimed at addressing discrimination and building more peaceful and tolerant societies.”

2. Making letters and emails gender-inclusive: The Government of Canada offers techniques to use when writing letters and emails that are inclusive of all gender identities.
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Our vision is a vibrant and inclusive Alberta where the rich diversity of people is celebrated and respected, and where everyone has the opportunity to fully participate in society, free from discrimination.