B.C. man ordered not to discuss or share social media posts about COVID-19 vaccine with 11-year-old son
Kelowna judge sides with mother in fight with ex-husband over child's vaccination
A B.C. provincial court judge has ordered a father not to talk with his 11-year-old son about COVID-19 vaccination or to share any social media or other information about the vaccine and the disease with his child.
In a decision released this week, Kelowna provincial court Judge Cathaline Heinrichs sided with a mother who wanted to have her son vaccinated over the objections of her ex-husband.
Heinrichs followed the lead of other provincial court judges across the country in concluding that getting the vaccine is in the child's best interest.
But the judge said the child — known as NW — was caught up in the "tension and polarization that this issue has caused" between the warring exes and ordered the father to stay silent.
"While at age 11, N.W. may start wading in to making medical decisions for himself, I am not satisfied that he has maturity to understand and appreciate the significance of the recommendations and public health orders made by the public health office, nor the psychological, emotional and social benefits of receiving the vaccination," Heinrichs wrote.
"He thinks the vaccine is experimental, which it is not. It has now been applied globally on millions of people, with effective results."
'His father has a fake vaccine passport': mom
The father — JW — and mother — TK — separated in 2016; both parents share guardianship of NW.
The ruling came after an application by the mother to allow her to arrange vaccination for the child.
According to the decision, NW believes "that the vaccine is too new to know the long-term impacts ... and that the risk of harm from the vaccine outweighs the possible benefit he may receive from the vaccine."
The father also believes NW has natural immunity after recovering from COVID-19 in recent weeks.
According to the decision, the father claimed that "he and those in his household are hygienic and wash their hands, they maintain good immunity by consuming vitamins and healthy food, and wear masks when required to do so."
Both the mother and her new partner — a firefighter — are double vaccinated.
The father wouldn't disclose his vaccination status to the court but said there was no evidence to support his ex-wife's assertion that he was not vaccinated.
The mother swore an affidavit claiming that NW "reported that his father has a fake vaccine passport to get into places that require proof of vaccination."
She also claimed that he was seen sitting at the Capital News Centre without a mask.
Regardless of whether or not JW is vaccinated, the judge concluded that "he is not a proponent of the provincial recommendation for vaccinations for children and would be less likely than TK to follow that recommendation."
'This must be stressful for him'
The legal battle followed a pattern similar to other family court cases across the country, with the judge rejecting the father's attempt to introduce "various scientific documents, links, and purported expert opinions attempting to support the inefficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine."
"There are problems with the admissibility of information that is printed from the Internet or is submitted with the intent of offering an opinion to the court, without meeting the requirements of expert evidence," Heinrichs wrote.
"I have not considered the purported medical or scientific information in my decision."
The judge noted that previous court decisions have established certain facts: Canada is in the middle of a pandemic that has resulted in restrictions; contracting COVID-19 poses a serious and significant health risk to adults and children; and the Pfizer vaccine is "safe and effective for use in both children and adults."
Heinrichs cited a growing body of cases that found that governments and public health authorities were better equipped than the courts to determine the best interests of children when it comes to vaccination.
JW claimed that it was NW, himself, who was opposed to vaccination, in part, because he rarely gets sick and because many of his friends were choosing not to be vaccinated.
But the mother countered that NW was willing to be vaccinated but was worried about his father's reaction.
"I am satisfied that NW is aware of his parents' different views, and this must be stressful for him because if he makes the decision, he is either deciding with his father against his mother, or vice versa," Heinrichs wrote.
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"He apparently is relying on what his friends are doing to determine whether he will take the vaccine, which does not suggest that he has an independent, considered conviction about the matter."
The judge said the mother could discuss vaccination with NW, but neither parent is allowed to speak ill of each other in front of the 11-year-old, both when it comes to the subject of their court battle and their differing views on vaccination.