When it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine, many parents are split on whether their children should be vaccinated. This can represent a contentious issue at the best of times, and, if a couple has separated it can become another wedge issue that results in serious disagreement.
This topic has come to the fore once again as BC children return to school, and approval of the COVID-19 vaccine for children under 12 is inching closer to completion. With mandatory vaccine policies being introduced across Canada, this week’s blog will focus on how to resolve vaccination disputes between parents, and how the law approaches these types of conflicts.
The Facts About BC’s COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate
Starting September 13, proof of COVID-19 vaccination will be required in BC for people attending certain “non-essential” social and recreational settings. As of now, this includes spaces such as ticketed sporting events, indoor and patio dining in restaurants, fitness centres, and weddings.
Those aged 12 and older will be required to show proof of vaccination to enter/take part in these activities.
With those aged 12-17 still considered children in the eyes of the law, it falls to parents to consent to their vaccination. Let’s examine how this is handled via the courts.
What’s in the Best Interest of the Child
A phrase we constantly return to in family law, and one that influences so many decisions, is – what is in the best interests of the child? With COVID-19 vaccines that have been rigorously tested and approved by Canadian health authorities, getting vaccinated is deemed in the child’s best interests. As a society, we can only achieve herd immunity if enough people (including children) are eventually vaccinated.
Luckily, we also have some legal precedents to refer back to regarding vaccinations.
In this BC family law case, divorced parents couldn’t reach a consensus on their children’s regularly scheduled immunizations. One parent did not want the children vaccinated, while one parent did. The judge presiding over the case, Judge S.D. Frame, noted the following:
Immunizations play a central role in the prevention of infectious diseases in children and the severe complications that can result. In addition, immunized children contribute to a herd immunity effect to protect the community as a whole. In particular, children who travel abroad should be up to date with the immunization schedule.
In this instance, the judge ruled in favour of the parent seeking to have the children immunized.
Moving east to Ontario, we find a case that deals with COVID-19 vaccinations. With Tarkowski v. Lemieux, the Ontario Court of Justice granted custody of the child to the mother, while simultaneously giving the father the right to decide whether the child should receive vaccinations, including a COVID-19 vaccination. The judge factored in the mother’s history of anti-vaccine sentiment, deciding the father was better qualified to make the decision on behalf of the child.
Get in Touch
If you have questions or concerns about vaccines and your children, contact us today to speak with a lawyer. We are hard at work to ensure you and your child’s best interests are safeguarded during this stressful time.