A Journey to Canada's Highest Court

As a third-year law student at the Thompson Rivers University Faculty of Law (TRU Law), I have been afforded many opportunities to represent the school on a national level. In February of 2018, I was chosen to represent TRU Law in the Kawaskimhon National Aboriginal Law Moot, where myself and a team of four other students represented the Traditional Longhouse Government in negotiating an agreement for the care, control, and trade of Indigenous artefacts and burial sites. I have also represented TRU Law at the Western Canada Championships, a rugby tournament held between all law schools in western Canada.

However, and perhaps most notably, in November of 2017, I was fortunate enough to travel to Ottawa, Ontario to represent the TRU OutLaws, an LGBTQ advocacy group, at the Supreme Court of Canada in the Trinity Western University v Law Society of British Columbia case. This case revolves around Trinity Western University's proposed law school, which asks students to sign a mandatory Community Covenant before they can attend. This Covenant includes provisions that prohibit any kind of sexual intimacy between same sex couples.

The TRU OutLaws is the sole LGBTQ advocacy group at Thompson Rivers University Faculty of Law. We strive to advocate for the interests of the LGBTQ community and seek fair, inclusive, and equal treatment of all students. The OutLaws submitted an application to intervene in the TWU v LSBC because we wanted to have a voice in a conversation that would greatly affect us as students, future legal professionals, and as members and advocates of the LGBTQ community. By nature, the OutLaws are able to offer a different perspective than the formal parties—a perspective that takes into account the views and aspirations of past, present, and future law students.

The OutLaws began this process many years ago. As Vice-President, I was fortunate to work alongside our amazing counsel on factum writing, legal research, and the creation of an oral argument at all levels of the court. Each of these things offered me the chance to work on practical skills and it was an unparalleled experience for me as a law student. However, while honing these skills was useful, it was the peripheral experiences that proved to be the most rewarding.

Aside from the TWU case, I was offered the chance to partake in a number of different events and meetings to further the OutLaws advocacy efforts. Whether it was being a guest speaker at the Kamloops Pride AGM, interviewing with local newspapers, taking part in phone calls with the federal government, or attending a private viewing of Prime Minister Trudeau's apology to the LGBTQ community, I was given the opportunity to create relationships with like-minded advocates and expand the outreach that the OutLaws had started back at TRU Law.

Along the way I listened to stories, shared in experiences, and learned valuable lessons from a number of different individuals, groups, and perspectives. It was these lessons that I took to Ottawa and shared with those I was fortunate enough to meet while there.

The trial itself was an amazing experience. While the OutLaws weren't the ones making the submissions, being able to go to the SCC and listen to my words and arguments be given to the Supreme Court Justices was completely surreal. Names like Chief Justice McLachlin, Wagner, and Abella were no longer just words on a page in a textbook, but they were the people sitting in front of us, listening to the arguments we had poured our hearts and souls into creating.

For me, this experience seemed surreal, but it also offered a valuable glimpse into the future. Watching this trial was inspiring. Our young, confident, and capable female counsel delivered our submissions with passion and grit; they compelled their audience and demanded attention. And this, perhaps most importantly, helped me see myself in them.

To me, this is ultimately what the TWU case is about. It is about being able to see yourself in a profession. It is about being able to go to school in an environment that treats each student equally and where everyone feels safe and welcome. And, finally, it is about affording everyone the chance to follow their dream free from discrimination, restraint, or adversity.

Even though the trial has ended, I continue to work with the TRU OutLaws to advocate for the LGBTQ community. While my time at TRU Law is coming to an end, I will always appreciate the opportunities that I have had and the valuable lessons I have learned, both academic and personal. Regardless of the outcome of the case itself, I have high hopes that the Canadian legal profession will continue to strive for a more equal and better tomorrow and that the diversity of Canada's population will soon be represented in the profession as a whole.

Looking back, I have to thank Southridge and its service program for sparking my interest in volunteering and philanthropy. I still remember presenting for the Toskan Foundation in Grade 10, taking part in trips to the soup kitchen with my advisory (go Lightning!), and working with the Cinderella Project as part of the Grad Committee. I have continued to work with various interest and advocacy groups through my undergraduate degree and into law school, and I look forward to working in various areas of law that will allow me to advocate for others in the future.

Lauren Coles is a Southridge "lifer" from the Class of 2011. She fondly remembers captaining the Senior Girls Volleyball team to its first Provincial playoffs spot as well as spending countless hours painting in the art room. Lauren received her Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in English Literature and Language from Queen's University in 2015. She is currently living in Kamloops, BC where she is finishing up her final year at the Thompson Rivers University Faculty of Law before moving to Calgary, AB where she will be articling with Miller Thomson LLP.

From the Spring 2018 Spirit Magazine