Trinity Western University vs. The British Columbia College of Teachers

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Trinity Western University vs. The British Columbia College of Teachers by Mind Map: Trinity Western University  vs.  The British Columbia  College of Teachers

1. Explanation of case

1.1. Trinity Western University, a private Christian institution in British Columbia, applied to the BC College of Teachers for permission to create an accredited teacher training program at their university. The BCCT rejected their application, citing TWU's student code of conduct as being the reason for their refusal. The code, which was written as a reflection of the university's Christian values, was found by them to be discriminatory because it expressly forbade sexual activity outside of the confines of heterosexual marriage, including homosexuality. Because of this, the BCCT asserted that teachers who graduated from TWU were likely to discriminate against homosexual students in the classroom (Trinity Western University vs. British Columbia College of Teachers, 2001). This finding was appealed and went to court, and in 2001 the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that TWU could not be denied accreditation for an education program based on their code of conduct.

1.2. This case brings to light some interesting questions about the ethical standards an principles by which teachers are expected to abide by. Can teachers who graduate from institutions such as TWU meet the ethical and professional standards necessary within the teaching profession?

1.3. Not only does this case impact notions of teacher ethics across Canada, but it has direct applications to Alberta education as well, because BC teachers are allowed to teach in Alberta without taking any additional training (ATA, 2008).

1.4. Within an ethical teaching framework, is there sufficient justification for allowing students who graduate from universities such as TWU to become teachers?

2. Yes

2.1. Legal consideration

2.1.1. "TWU is not for everybody; it is designed to address the needs of people who share a number of religious convictions. That said, the admissions policy of TWU alone is not in itself sufficient to establish discrimination as it is understood in our s. 15 jurisprudence....To state that the voluntary adoption of a code of conduct based on a person's own religious beliefs, in a private institution, is sufficient to engage s. 15 would be inconsistent with freedom of conscience and religion, which co-exist with the right to equality"(Trinity Western University vs. British Columbia College of Teachers, 2001). Students can voluntarily attend a private university like TWU if they want to study in an environment that aligns with their personal beliefs. In this way, students are allowed to act according to their conscience and their religious beliefs. Should education students be penalized for voluntarily belonging to a faith-based community that shares their personal worldview?

2.1.2. "TWU's Community Standards, which are limited to prescribing conduct of members while at TWU, are not sufficient to support the conclusion that the BCCT should anticipate intolerant behaviour in the public schools. Indeed, if TWU's Community Standards could be sufficient in themselves to justify denying accreditation, it is difficult to see how the same logic would not result in the denial of accreditation to members of a particular church. The diversity of Canadian society is partly reflected in the multiple religious organizations that mark the societal landscape and this diversity of views should be respected. The BCCT did not weigh the various rights involved in its assessment of the alleged discriminatory practices of TWU by not taking into account the impact of its decision on the right to freedom of religion of the members of TWU. Accordingly, this Court must" (Trinity Western University vs. British Columbia College of Teachers, 2001). If TWU students should not allowed to become teachers because of the belief system the school supports, when what about students who attend churches that share that belief system? Should those students be denied an education degree because they are part of a community that holds traditional beliefs about marriage and sexuality? If yes, then you would have to start excluding Catholic students, Evangelical students, Jewish students, Mormon students, Muslim students, etc. from obtaining education degrees, regardless of whether or not they actually practice discriminatory behavior. If no, then why should it matter if students who share this worldview want to come together as a like-minded community? They would merely be exercising their freedom of association, as outlined in s. 2 of the Charter (Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, 1982).

2.2. Ethical considerations

2.2.1. When reviewing the model for ethical decision-making as it is outlined in the textbook, step number three becomes very relevant to this conversation, as teachers who utilize an ethical decision-making process are told to take a step of "consideration of personal values, bias, stress, or self-interest" (Crook & Truscott, 2007). This passage does not say that teachers cannot have personal opinions or biases if they want to be ethical decision-makers. In fact, it suggests the opposite: ethical decision-makers do have biases that impact their perspectives, but they have learned how to recognize and acknowledge those biases so that they can understand the way those views might influence their decision-making process. The question, then, is not whether or not a teacher holds personal biases, but whether or not those biases will prevent them from making ethical decisions in the classroom. If a teacher espouses the same worldview promoted at TWU, but they exercise an ethical decision-making model so as to ensure they are treating their students fairly and equitably, then why should their personal perspectives prevent them from being ethical teachers?

2.3. Professional considerations

2.3.1. " teachers who have ever graduated from TWU’s teaching program have been cited or disciplined for [discriminating against gays and lesbians]." (Wilson, 2014) If someone holds a personal religious belief that is neither illegal nor negatively affects their ability to respect diversity in the classroom (BCTF, 2015) and they strive to respect the dignity and rights of students and to act without prejudice (ATA, 2014), then why is it problematic for that teacher to attend a school that exists for people who share that religious belief?

2.3.2. Is it possible for a teacher to hold a different worldview from a student and yet still respect them and treat them fairly as a person? If yes, then why should we automatically assume that students who graduate from TWU are incapable of abiding by professional codes of conduct? If no, then should anybody who is part of a religious community that officially condemns homosexuality (such as the Catholic church) be considered in incapable of abiding by professional codes of conduct?

3. Justification

3.1. No

3.1.1. Legal considerations Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms Equality rights (15) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability. British Columbia’s Human Rights Code indicates that “no one can discriminate against you because of your: … sexual orientation”

3.1.2. Ethical considerations “The judges did not ask how a homosexual teacher or student would likely feel if they knew that the colleague or teacher had voluntarily signed [anti-gay pledges].” (MacDougall, 2004) Ethics and Law for Teachers (Crook & Truscott, 2007) Nonmaleficence Autonomy Justice

3.1.3. Professional considerations BC Teacher's Federation - Code of Ethics Section 1 - “educators respect the diversity in their classrooms, schools, and communities.” (BCTF, 2015) Section 2 - "Educators are role models who act ethically and honestly." “Educators have an understanding of the diversity within the education system.” (BCTF, 2015) Alberta Teachers' Association - Code of Professional Conduct 1. The teacher teaches in a manner that respects the dignity and rights of all persons without prejudice as to race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical characteristics, disability, marital status, family status, age, ancestry, place of origin, place of residence, socioeconomic background or linguistic background. (ATA, 2014) Alberta Teachers' Association - Declaration of Rights and Responsibilities for Teachers 9. Teachers have the right to be protected against discrimination on the basis of prejudice as to race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical characteristics, disability, marital status, family status, age, ancestry, place of origin, place of residence, socioeconomic background or linguistic background and have the responsibility to refrain from practising these forms of discrimination in their professional duties. (ATA, 2014)

4. Works Cited

4.1. Alberta Teachers' Association. (2015). Teacher Mobility Agreement. Retrieved from

4.2. Alberta Teachers' Association. (2014). Teaching in Alberta - A teacher education learning resource. Edmonton, Alberta.

4.3. British Columbia Ministry of Education. (2015). Standards for the education, competence and professional conduct of educators in BC. Retrieved from

4.4. Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Part I of the Constitution Act, 1982, being Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (UK), 1982, c 11.

4.5. Child Death Review Unit & BC Coroners Service. (n.d.). Child and youth suicide in B.C. Retrieved from

4.6. Crook, K., & Truscott, D. (2007). Ethics and law for teachers. Toronto: Thomson Nelson.

4.7. EmbraceBC and WelcomeBC. (2015). Know your human rights [Brochure]. Retrieved from

4.8. MacDougall, B. (2004). The legally queer child. McGill Law Journal, 49(4), 1057-1091.

4.9. Trinity Western University vs British Columbia College of Teachers (2001). SCC 31, 1 SCR 772.

4.10. Trinity Western University. (2015). General university policies. Retrieved from

4.11. Wilson, Tony. (2014, April 29.) I voted for Trinity Western U because of the rule of law. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from

5. By Amberlee Nicol and Evelyn Yang