Supreme Court Decision affirms Law Society of Ontario’s role in ensuring equal access to legal profession

Toronto — On June 15, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the Law Society of Ontario’s  2014 decision to deny accreditation to Trinity Western University’s proposed law school — and affirmed the legal regulator’s role in preventing and removing discriminatory barriers to access to the legal profession.

The majority (7 – 2) found that the Law Society was entitled to consider the admission policy of a proposed law school in its role as the gatekeeper to the legal profession, and that it was entitled to conclude that equal access to the legal profession, diversity within the bar and preventing harm to LGBTQ law students, were all within the scope of its duty to uphold the public interest in the accreditation context.

“We welcome the Supreme Court’s confirmation of our jurisdiction regarding admission to the legal profession, including admission to the prerequisite legal education,” says Law Society Treasurer Paul Schabas. “We are particularly pleased that the Court recognized that our statutory mandate to uphold the public interest includes promoting a diverse bar and ensuring that there are no inequitable barriers to those seeking access to the legal profession.”

The Decision states, “The LSUC’s determination that it was entitled to promote equal access to and diversity within the bar is supported by the fact that it has consistently done so throughout its history. Since its formation in 1797, the LSUC has had exclusive control over who could join the profession in Ontario.”

The Supreme Court Decision also points out that the public interest of promoting a diverse bar furthers access to justice. “Access to justice is facilitated where clients seeking legal services are able to access a legal profession that is reflective of a diverse population and responsive to its diverse needs. Accordingly, ensuring a diverse legal profession, which is facilitated when there are no inequitable barriers to those seeking to access legal education, furthers access to justice and promotes the public interest.”

“Today’s Decision is an important one and it will help the Law Society continue to ensure fairness and equal access to those who meet the required competencies,” says the Treasurer. “It is an affirmation of the critical work we have done and continue to do to promote equality, diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.”

For more information, the Decision can be accessed here.

Media Contact: Susan Tonkin, Communications Advisor, stonkin@lso.ca, or 416-947-7605

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