An unvaccinated father in the Canadian city of Montreal has temporarily lost visitation rights to his 12-year-old because he could expose his child to Covid-19, according to a recent court judgment.
The decision is the first in Quebec that deprives a parent of rights over a child because of vaccination status, said Sylvie Schirm, a lawyer specializing in family law who wasn’t involved in the case. It is unusual and possibly the first decision blocking parental rights due to vaccination status.
The premier of Quebec,
recently floated the idea of asking unvaccinated Quebecers to pay a health tax.
said he wanted to “piss off” the unvaccinated with policies that place tough restrictions on them.
According to the judgment, which was made public in recent days, the unnamed father of the child lost access because his unvaccinated status put the child and two stepsiblings at risk, said Judge J. Sébastien Vaillancourt.
The father had asked to spend extra time with the child, but the mother asked for his visitation rights to be cut off because she was worried about her child’s exposure to Covid-19.
The judge noted that the child, who has received two vaccine doses, isn’t fully protected against the Omicron variant.
The father had said he had reservations about the vaccine but he followed other safety protocols and rarely left his house. The father’s Facebook feed suggested he was stridently opposed to vaccines, however, which helped convince the judge to rule against the father.
“It would normally have been in the child’s best interest to have contact with their father, but it is not in their best interest to have contacts with him if he is not vaccinated and opposes safety protocols in the context of epidemiological evidence,” said the judge in his decision.
The restriction will stay in effect until February, and the court could re-evaluate the decision if the surge in cases caused by Omicron ebbs, or if the father gets vaccinated, said the judge.
Ms. Schirm said the ruling adds to a growing body of precedent in which courts are deferring to health experts on vaccination advice over the rights of parents. In several other cases where one parent opposes vaccines while the other is in favor, the courts have consistently voted in favor of vaccination, she said.
In the Western province of Alberta, a court in December let a divorced woman vaccinate her two children over the objections of their father, who was opposed.
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