A Greater Victoria mother will get to have her 10-year-old daughter vaccinated against COVID-19, despite objections from the father, after a provincial judge ruled in her favour Monday.
The separated couple, whose names are protected by a publication ban, brought their dispute to the Western Communities Courthouse on Jan. 17.
The mother, R.L., said she wanted her daughter vaccinated based on the advice of her family doctor. The father, A.L., said he believed there are unknown risks of vaccination that outweigh any possible benefits.
At the time, A.L. asked Judge Ted Gouge to refer them to mediation on the issue.
“I declined that request because I thought that (the daughter) should not be left unprotected during the period necessary to schedule and conduct a mediation,” Gouge wrote in his decision.
Instead, Gouge directed R.L. to set up a conference call with her family doctor and A.L. Unable to connect with the family doctor, they spoke with a public health nurse, who recommended vaccination. A.L., however, remained unpersuaded and requested that Gouge order that his daughter remain unvaccinated.
In the meantime, both R.L. and her daughter tested positive for COVID-19, with R.L. feeling unwell and her daughter remaining asymptomatic.
In his decision Jan. 24, Gouge referred to an Ontario Superior Court of Justice decision from 2021, which states that health authorities are in a better position than courts to consider the heath benefits and risks to children being vaccinated against COVID-19.
“Absent compelling evidence to the contrary, it is in the best interest of an eligible child to be vaccinated,” it reads.
Gouge also cited the latest guidance from the B.C. Ministry of Health, in which it recommends vaccines for children ages five and up.
R.L., Gouge decided, was basing her parenting decision on the advice of her doctor and public health authorities, while A.L. was basing it on the statements of people whose qualifications are unknown.
“Unfortunately, the issue would likely be rendered moot if I were to defer its adjudication to allow time for a trial with expert witnesses. If (the daughter) needs to be vaccinated, she needs to be vaccinated now,” Gouge concluded.
He ordered that R.L. be the parent to decide if, how, and when her daughter is vaccinated.
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