Tuesday, April 29, 2014


Trinity Western University is one of Canada's largest private universities and is located in Langley, BC. Normally, I would not even have heard of TWU, much less feel compelled to write a blog about this school. But a recent column in The Globe and Mail prompted some anguished thought.

Briefly, TWU is a rather new institution of higher learning. Its foundation was back in the 1960's and stemmed from a desire on the part of some well-intentioned people to found a university that not only promoted a rigorous and thorough academic programme, but combined those programmes with a devout and complete adherence to Christian ideals. Students who wish to enroll at TWU are required to sign a covenant that makes them promise to maintain high scholastic performance as well as adhere to the school's beliefs: they must forswear alcohol, drugs, premarital sex, and other behaviour the university finds contrary to its Christian ideals. The school also very publicly denounces same-sex marriage, or in fact, any acceptance of gay rights.

Recently, TWU announced its intention to begin a faculty of law. Something of an uproar ensued. Law societies in Ontario and Nova Scotia ruled that those provinces would not recognize degrees in law granted by TWU because of its discriminatory stance on same-sex marriage. The Law Society of British Columbia, however, ruled in favour of recognizing these degrees. Tony Wilson, a columnist in the Globe and Mail and a "bencher" in the LSBC, justified the Society's decision as being that of a belief in "the rule of law", which states that the Canadian Constitution defends and guarantees the expression of religious ideals. Despite his standing as a lawyer and columnist of high reputation, I found his defence disturbing, to say the least.

The criticism of TWU's potential law graduates centers around the possibility that lawyers and judges and any other officer of BC's judicial system will administer a legal system while harbouring prejudicial beliefs against gay people. To me, this criticism makes perfect sense. Why have people, many of whom are paid by society, administer justice when they are publicly and openly biased against a group of people who are supposed to be protected against bias by law?

In 2001, a similar situation involving TWU emerged. In that year, the school opened a faculty of education. A red flag emerged. That faculty would, in theory, be graduating people who espoused a bias against gay people who would quite possibly find employment in the public education system of British Columbia, and would, quite possibly, be prejudiced against students or parents from same-sex relationships, or try to foist their anti-gay views upon their students in a system where that is not supposed to happen. The education system in BC, and elsewhere in Canada, is supposed to be free of such potential bias.

Yet the College of Teachers of British Columbia were thwarted in their attempt to have teaching degrees from TWU not recognized, and to have graduates from TWU not be allowed to teach in the public system. Their case went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled in favour of the university, citing, again, the Constitution which guaranteed religious freedom. Tony Wilson, in his Globe column, stated that, as far as he was aware, no teacher in BC who graduated from TWU had been hauled before a review board for teaching anti-gay or anti-same-sex marriage ideas in a classroom or school. It would seem, therefore, that TWU has won significant victories over their critics.

For me, the criticism and concern of TWU's graduates in law, education or any other faculty where graduates may work in some type of public system is valid. I am a strong believer in the secular nature of our society, and, while I also believe in a person's freedom to hold any religious beliefs they want, I believe more strongly that society has an obligation to recognize bigotry and radical evangelicalism where they exist and treat them with suspicion and, in most cases, prohibit people who have philosophies  that contain bigotry, racism, hatred or narrow beliefs from practicing these philosophies in the performance of their duties as a lawyer or teacher etc. I believe this because I want to live in a modern society where all beliefs and life-styles are accepted. In the broadest context, this would include beliefs contained in TWU's covenant, but not when that covenant seeks to impose itself on the rest of society.

What do I mean by this? I challenge the reader of my blog to go to Trinity Western University's web site and read their mission statement. Also read their core beliefs. This is a "university" which claims a complete and strict adherence to Scripture. This is a "university" that seeks to involve itself in a training of graduates to go forth into society to excel in their chosen fields but with a decidedly Christian and evangelical zeal. This is a "university" which believes in the "Kingdom" of Christ and wants to be at the forefront of spreading this philosophy with the zeal of missionaries. What if, instead of espousing a profound dislike for same-sex marriage and, by extension, of gay rights generally, TWU espoused a belief in the natural inferiority of people of colour, or women, or Aboriginals, or people of other faiths? Would the Law Society of British Columbia or the Supreme Court of Canada rule in favour of such an institution? I would certainly hope not, and I would hope that you, the reader of this blog, would agree.

My greatest dilemma in all of this, however, is that the controversy surrounding TWU really is about the role and purpose of a university. You may have noticed in my preceding paragraph, that I wrote the word "university" in quotation marks when referencing Trinity Western University. To me, a university is supposed to be more than a place people go after high school. It is supposed to be the highest expression of human intellect, where research is performed fully and, to use TWU's word, "rigorously", where discourse and debate flourish and where there is to be no restriction on ideas or beliefs. To me, TWU's slavish devotion to its evangelical approach to everything and its mission of promoting its strong Christian beliefs in the wider context of society is anathema to what a modern university is supposed to be. Doctrine is not a guidepost in intellectual development, it is a barrier. TWU openly puts barriers on thought, and while the "university" certainly has a right to exist and preach these dogmas, it does not have a right to have its apostles preach them to students or clients in public schools or court rooms.

On its web page, TWU puts a series of Frequently Asked Questions about the gay rights issue. It is in the context of the controversy surrounding the proposed law faculty. The FAQ's are actually an imaginary debate between a concerned person and the "university" itself. The "university" claims that gay students are in fact comfortably enrolled at the school and so too are atheists and those from other faiths. They are welcome to study there: as long as they sign the covenant. If they are not comfortable doing so, they are "welcome" to go elsewhere. I find this disingenuous and repugnant. This is not freedom to choose, as TWU claims. It is a polite way of saying "it's our way or the highway." Fair enough, you might say. But it is not fair. It is exclusionary for a university. Yes, it is a private university, but it is sanctioned by the province and is graduating people who adhere to its doctrine who are ready and willing to work in society, possibly waiting for an opportunity to spread their doctrines. Politeness be damned, it is contrary to what a university is supposed to be.

Monday, April 14, 2014


As of this writing, it has not been announced who the Leafs' first round opponents will be .... oh ... never mind.

A new format has certainly created an interesting grouping of match-ups in this year's playoff structure. Also new is the "bracket" concept, which means that winners of a playoff grouping will automatically meet up with a winner of a divisional and conference grouping. No more re-seeding of match-ups in second, third and final rounds. In this sense, the Stanley Cup playoffs are a true bracket similar to "March Madness" in the NCAA men's and women's basketball. So, in case you need to know who will win the first round of the NHL playoffs, I humbly offer this assessment. Let the debate begin.

Eastern Conference

Boston Bruins vs Detroit Red Wings

Much has been made about the "original six" aspect of this match-up. Indeed, it is always special when a couple of old teams renew acquaintances. And much has been made of the fact that these are two perennial playoff participants. Boston has gone deep in the playoffs in many recent years. They are true playoff warriors. They feature a bruising group of forwards, a corps of defensemen who move the puck well and take care of business in their own zone, and an all-world goalie in Tukka Rask. They miss defenseman Dennis Seidenburg, but have compensated for this loss well. The Red Wings have also suffered from the injury bug, but seem to always find players from their AHL team to fill in. The Wings also have a fine goalie in Jimmy Howard, and probably the best coach in the NHL, if not the world, in Mike Babcock. This figures to be a good series and it will go 6 tough, hard-fought games. But, despite Babcock's genius for tactically managing a game, the winner of this series will be the Boston Bruins.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs Montreal Canadiens

How the Canadiens not only made the playoffs but became an all 'round good hockey team is a mystery to me. Carey Price has emerged as another all-world goalie because of his stellar performance in the Olympics and has not missed a beat since then, except for some nagging injuries. The Habs have quick and talented forwards and a mobile defense corps. For the Lightning, it's been a strange year of adversity. The loss of Vinny Lecavalier last year and Marty St. Louis this year ( surely one of the messiest divorces in history ) seems to have galvanized the team around their one bona fide star, Steven Stamkos, who lost valuale time and an Olympic experience to injury. Stamkos is back, a tribute to his fitness and reputation as one of the best athletes in the NHL. This figures to be an interesting series, but the quirky year for the Lightning and the stellar goaltending of Price will make this a 5 game series, with the winner being the Montreal Canadiens. It kills me to say this, too.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs Columbus Blue Jackets

Pittsburgh has been one of the NHL's more exciting and also one of its most enigmatic teams over the last few years. They are loaded with talent, featuring perhaps two of the most talented players in the game, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.  Malkin may be banged up a bit at this time of writing, but the supporting cast is solid. The one aspect of the game that is the most inconsistent is goaltending, with Marc-Andre Fleury still on the cusp of stardom, but not quite there. Dan Bylsma is one of the game's more underrated coaches too. As for the Columbus Blue Jackets, two things emerge: first, they did well down the stretch to win a playoff spot as a wild card team: second, it is remarkable that the city of Columbus, Ohio has a team. This one figures to be a short series. Columbus did well just to qualify and it will be over mercifully quick for them. The winner in 4 straight will be the Pittsburgh Penguins.

New York Rangers vs Philadelphia Flyers

This figures to be the nastiest series in the first round. Both teams hate each other and play tough hockey, which is needed in the playoffs. The Rangers have made many changes during the last off-season and during the regular season as well. They surprise everyone with any success they have, and it's mostly due to good goaltending from Henrick Lundquist and solid coaching from Alain Vigneult. As for the Flyers, they seem to knock on the door of success every year. Vinny Lecavalier seems to have settled in for solid, but not spectacular play, and Hartnell and Simmons lend tough play along the boards. Claude Giroux, if healthy, is one of the most talented players in the game. The Flyers' Achilles heel, as always, is goaltending. As of this writing, Bob Mason may not be available, or if he is, he may be banged up. Despite the obvious goaltending edge to the Rangers, the outcome will be close and bloody. In seven war-like games, the winner will be the Philadelphia Flyers.

Western Conference

Chicago Blackhawks vs St. Louis Blues

A week or so ago, I would have said that this would be the best first-round series. Both clubs had stellar seasons and seem to have the players and coaches to win it all. But the Blues have gone into an injury-induced death spiral over the last few games. I believe they are on a 6 game losing streak to close out the regular season, and prize acquisition Ryan Miller has been less than spectacular. The 'Hawks have been banged up too, with stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane out with nagging injuries, but they figure to be back and contributing to the cup defense. If the Blues get their stars back from sick bay, ( Oshie, Pietrangelo, Shattenkirck ) they will give the 'Hawks all they can handle, but class wins out all the time. Joel Quennville is a much underrated coach, and Kevin Hitchcock, while a competent coach, is, in my view, overrated. So it will go 6 games, with the winner being the Chicago Blackhawks.

Colorado Avalanche vs Minnesota Wild

I don't really know much about these two teams. I do know that the Avalanche were a bunch of also-rans last year, so their turn-around is nothing short of remarkable. The addition of one of the truly psychotic personalities in the game, namely their coach, Patrick Roy, has been instrumental. After that, I don't really know much. As for the Wild, well .... Minnesota likes hockey, so they will be glad to be in the playoffs. How many games? Who will win? Who will care !! But for the record, I'll say 6 games that nobody will watch and Colorado, by virtue of the fact that they had more points, will win.

San Jose Sharks vs Los Angeles Kings

San Jose is a perennially good team that never seems to go anywhere. It won't be much different this year . Los Angeles won the Cup recently but that really doesn't matter. The Kings still have potentially the best goalie in the Western Conference in Jonathan Quick, and Drew Doughty on defense and Anze Kopitar up front are among the better players in the league. History and experience are with the Los Angeles Kings in 6 games. But, truthfully, does anyone care ?

Anaheim Ducks vs Dallas Stars

I know so very little about these teams, it's a bit embarrassing. Maybe one of them will get on an unholy roll and go all the way ? Nah, not going to happen. I know the Ducks have Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, two pretty good players. And I know that one of the Dallas Stars had a heart attack during the regular season, so the Stars will be motivated to play for him. But this is such an irrelevant series, it really doesn't matter. It will be over in 4 games and the winner will be the Anaheim Ducks in probably the most one-sided series.  Or maybe both teams will just surrender now?

So, there you have it. Enter your NHL brackets now and enjoy the games. It will be a long and eventful ride.