Accreditation is the process to certify programs and ensure they are being held to a standard. Accrediting programs is an important process, as it ensures graduates of these programs meet certain criteria. One example is accountants, who must be part of an accredited body who sets the standards of what classifies an accountant. Accounting graduates enroll in the CPA body, who sets the standards of what exams must be passed and how many hours of professional development they must maintain. This process ensures that accounts are held to a set of standards and have the required knowledge to perform the role.
Canada has the Association of Accrediting Agencies of Canada (AAAC). Their purpose is:
- Provide a forum for networking and information exchange for accrediting agencies and those organizations with an interest in accreditation;
- To identify and promote good practices for accreditation standards and processes;
- To advance the expertise of Canadian professional education accrediting agencies
- Provide a mechanism for continuing education for individuals and organizations with accreditation responsibility.
In 2015 the Ontario Law Society refused to accredit Trinity Western Law School, based on the policies of the school. The denial was upheld by an Ontario caught, however in BC the court ruled against the denial.
The issue at the centre of the debate is religious freedom versus the rights of LGBTQ people, as the the universities religious based policies are in conflict with the rights of LGBTQ people. The law society argued that the policies of the university denied access to LGBTQ people and affected their ability to attend law school.
Ian Bushfield, executive director of the B.C. Humanist Association said; “This decision seemed to set aside the impact on the LGBTQ community as theoretical or very minor,”
The judges said: “TWU is a relatively small community of like-minded persons bound together by their religious principles, It is not for everyone. For those who do not share TWU’s beliefs, there are many other options.”
“The LSUC’s decision not to accredit TWU does not prevent the practice of a religious belief itself; rather it denies a public benefit because of the impact of that religious belief on others — members of the LGBTQ community.”
This is an interesting case as the accrediting body, the law society, does not believe the program offered by TWU is in keeping with the values of the law society.
This quote from the Globe and Mail is a good summary of the reasons the law society wished to deny the accreditation;
“I cannot vote to accredit a law school which seeks to control students in their bedrooms,” bencher Howard Goldblatt said.
The law society is not denying the accreditation based on the content of the program, but rather on the admission requirements. The strict admission requirements may cause graduates to lack the ability for critical thinking and free thought.
This is definitely a complicated case worth reviewing.