MONTREAL – As preparations begin to vaccinate 12-17 year olds against COVID-19, family law lawyers warn that if one parent wants their child to be vaccinated, there could be a conflict.
The Quebec government announced last week that it plans to offer all 12 to 17 year olds the first dose of vaccine by the end of the school year. The only vaccine currently approved for this age group is the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine.
“First of all, you have to distinguish between teenagers aged 14 and over and younger,” explains Lucilia Santos, a family law attorney in Montreal.
She explains that teenagers aged 14 and over can agree or reject the vaccine without having to ask their parents. However, the consent of both parents is required for younger children.
According to Santos, in Quebec parental authority is shared by both parents, so both must consent to the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine, as is the case with any other vaccine or medical care.
However, if one parent refuses to allow their child to be vaccinated, the other can go to court to order the vaccination.
“It’s pretty expensive,” admitted Santos.
Brigitte Binette, a St. Eustatius lawyer specializing in family matters, adds that mediation can often help resolve disagreements.
“If parents are in their own way and unwilling to accept each other’s position, mediation may not be enough,” adds Santos. The outcome of such legal proceedings depends on what a judge considers “the best interests of the child”. “
Binette notes that there is already case law on this issue from previous vaccines.
The parent who objects to the vaccination must provide the judge with a medical note or a doctor’s certificate to support their position that the vaccination is not in the youngster’s best interests, Binette says. Otherwise, the courts will follow public health rules for the vaccine.
She adds that the rejection can’t just be based on the beliefs of a parent who doesn’t believe in COVID-19 or a vaccination.
The two lawyers say they have not received calls from parents wondering what to do in the event of a conflict.
“But we are counting on it,” said Binette.
They expect this to be the new big problem related to COVID-19, especially for those who have had health compliance conflicts since the beginning of the pandemic.
“We are all concerned that this will be the new wave,” says Santos.
Both lawyers point out that COVID-19 has led to new types of conflict within families since March 2020, including when a parent fails to comply with health rules, when parents disagree on joint custody, or when children are involved in the Schools are reopened and finally back to school. Cases of parents who want to go abroad with or without children.
– This Canadian press report was first published on May 11, 2021.