Trinity Western University ruling foreshadows where Supreme Court of Canada may go, post-McLachlin
There's been a great deal of news coverage of today's Supreme Court of Canada ruling concerning a B.C. Christian university.
Seven of the nine justices agreed that two law societies' could choose not to license law-school graduates from Trinity Western.
Between these seven justices, there were three sets of written reasons. Two other justices, Russell Brown and Suzanne Côté, disagreed with the majority.
Perhaps not coincidentally, Brown and Côté were the final two Supreme Court of Canada justices appointed by former prime minister Stephen Harper, whose government recruited many parliamentary interns from Trinity Western.
In the wake of this ruling, I received a thoughtful note from DJ Lam, a former practicum student at the Georgia Straight.
Lam noted that this was one of the final batch of decisions under the recently retired Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin—and it was not characterized by the normal collegiality of her court. She's been replaced by Richard Wagner as chief justice.
You can read Lam's comments below, which suggest we may see more U.S. Supreme Court–style divisions on our highest court in the future:
"I watched the case very closely and thought it would go the other way until I watched the oral arguments on the court's website.
"It was very apparent in the justices' questions where they leaned.
"Moreover, and possibly more interestingly, the questions asked of counsel reflected onto the justices' separate reasons.
"I wasn't surprised to see Russell Brown or Suzanne Côté dissent, but it occurred to me it was one of the last blockbuster set of cases under Beverley McLachlin.
"The McLachlin Court reflected a collegiality, according to several pundits and simple observation. But I think Côté, and especially Brown, are going to become more divisive more aggressive in dissent, unless Wagner can keep things together.
"Just imagine Brown being more free to espouse originalism and other tripe. Will his personality at the very least start to make the court feel or look more like what we see in the United States?
"The bench will also lose its liberal lion after the next federal election as well. Rosalie Abella could be replaced by Andrew Scheer if he beats Justin Trudeau. Michael Moldaver also retires in 2022 (or sooner).
"All together, these things could drastically change the court and all of our lives for the worse. I can worry about a pipeline, but I'm shaking over the future guardians of the country's soul."