Checking in on the TWU law school case

02 March 2018

It has been several months since the Trinity Western University (TWU) legal team and interveners in the case, including The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, stood in the Supreme Court, presenting arguments in support of accreditation for TWU’s proposed law school. We checked in with Albertos Polizogopoulos, the lawyer who argued on behalf of the EFC in the Supreme Court on Dec. 2, 2017.

Albertos, do we have any idea yet when the decision will be reached and released?

AP: It could be imminent. But it could also be months from now. We can’t know for sure. I would expect it to be in 2018, and I think probably by the summer. The Chief Justice [Beverley McLachlin] is retired, but the rules permit her to take six months to complete any of the reasons or hearings in which she has participated. Some people say that means we will have it by June, but that might not be the case. Just because she’s produced reasons doesn’t mean it will be released right away. The decision, once made, must be edited, translated and then released. [EDITOR'S UPDATE: The court has scheduled its decision for June 15, 2018.]

A glimpse into how the Supreme Court of Canada decision process works:

“In some cases, the Court will render its decision orally at the conclusion of the hearing, but most of the time it reserves judgment to enable the judges to write considered reasons. Decisions of the Court need not be unanimous: a majority may decide, in which case the minority will give dissenting reasons. Each judge may write reasons in any case if he or she chooses to do so.

When a judgment is delivered in a case reserved for decision, the parties are given notice of it and the formal judgment is deposited with the Registrar together with all the written reasons and a headnote. Judgments are published simultaneously in both official languages in the Canada Supreme Court Reports.”


Looking back now, three months later, how are you feeling about the time in Court?

AP: I don’t want to appear overeager, but I think it went well. I think the Court heard us and understood the issues. I think they walked away from the hearing knowing what was at stake, and that is more than the law school for TWU. The case has implications for all faith-based charities, institutions and any organizations that depend on government licensing. I think they appreciated what is at stake.

Can you give us an idea about what happens behind those closed doors after the time in Court?

AP: Generally, what happens after the hearing is they all get together and discuss where they think they might land, and what issues might arise. The Chief Justice then appoints someone to make a decision. That decision gets circulated and the other judges weigh in and support it, or write their own decision.

Do we know who was appointed?

AP: We don’t. The Chief Justice was there in the first TWU case [about TWU opening a teachers college]. The timing is interesting. That decision was released in 2001 but heard in 2000, and Beverley McLachlin was the Chief Justice at the time, but hadn’t been for long. These two cases in some ways bookend her term as Chief Justice. This is one of the first cases she had heard as Chief Justice, and it was the last case she heard as Chief Justice. In the first case, she was on our side, so, that doesn’t mean she will be on our side here, but for that reason, people are expecting her to take an active role in the decision. Either that means she writes the majority, or concurring. She was clearly engaged at the hearing.

[See a related videoclip of Albertos Polizogopoulos' actual presentation in the Supreme Court on Dec. 2, 2017.]