A prevalent issue arising between co-parents and guardians in the era of COVID-19 is whether or not to vaccinate their child. It has been a contentious issue for families across Canada, and B.C. courts have not weighed in on the matter until recently.
In a decision finally dealing with children's vaccinations against COVID-19, the BC Provincial Court in R.S.L. v. A.C.L., 2022 BCPC 9 (January 24, 2022) has granted the mother of a ten-year-old child (the "Child") the authority to decide whether, how and when the Child should be vaccinated against COVID-19. In this case, the mother wished for the Child to be vaccinated, whereas the Child's father objected to vaccination as he believed the vaccine is unsafe.
Previous cases in other Canadian jurisdictions have ruled that vaccinating children against COVID-19 is in the best interests of children, as discussed in our other article here.
In ruling in favour of the Child's mother, the Honourable Judge Gouge referred to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice case in A.C. v. L.L., 2021 ONSC 6530 (October 1, 2021). There, the court stated that government authorities have confirmed the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 for children, and have encouraged children to get vaccinated. This is consistent with the Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta's decision in T.R.B. v. K.W.P.B., 2021 ABQB 997 (December 14, 2021), which we analyzed in another article here.
Moreover, Judge Gouge relied on guidance from the British Columbia Ministry of Health, which states that vaccines protect children from severe illness from COVID-19. Importantly, Judge Gouge stated that the Ministry of Health's posting on vaccine safety is admissible without the need for supporting evidence from a qualified expert.
This decision suggests that courts are being influenced by BC government guidance on the issue of vaccination and whether it is in the best interests of children. Courts will not directly involve themselves in granting orders for vaccination of children - this is ultimately a parenting decision. However, courts will determine which guardian keeps the best interest of the child in mind, and grant said guardian decision-making authority.
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