A Canadian father has been barred from seeing his 12-year-old child after a Quebec judge ruled his visits would not be in the child's "best interest" because the father is unvaccinated against COVID-19.
Superior Judge Jean-Sébastien Vaillancourt handed down the ruling on Dec. 23, stating, “It would normally be in the best interests of the child to have contact with his father, but it is not in his best interest to have contact with him if he is unvaccinated and opposed to health measures in the present epidemiological context."
According to the Montreal Gazette, the judge's decision came after the father, who was not identified in court documents, requested an extra day of visitation around the holidays. The child's mother opposed the request, informing the court that she had recently learned that the father was unvaccinated.
The mother reportedly added that her estranged partner was a "conspiracy theorist" and "anti-vaccine," and that he had demonstrated opposition to local health guidelines in posts on social media. She subsequently provided excerpts from the father's Facebook page to the court.
In response, the father acknowledged his unvaccinated status and said he had “reservations about the vaccine." But he told the court that he respected local health regulations and rarely ever leaves his home.
However, Vaillancourt studied the Facebook experts and concluded they “suggest that he is indeed what is commonly called a conspiracy theorist” and that “the court has strong reasons to doubt that he is complying with health regulations as he asserts he does in his written statement.”
In one of the posts, the father appeared to lend credence to the notion that mask-wearing is useless in preventing the spread of the virus.
It should be noted that the 12-year-old child is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. But the judge argued that their protection "seems reduced against the Omicron variant which is spreading at the moment in Quebec."
The mother reportedly lives with her partner and two other children, one seven months old and the other four years old. Neither can receive vaccination in Canada, where vaccination has been authorized for children five years of age and older.
"In these circumstances," the judge said, "it [was] not in the interest of any of the three children" that the father be allowed to visit the 12-year-old.
Vaillancourt noted that the suspension of visitation rights will continue through Feb. 8, at which point the ruling will be reviewed, unless the father gets vaccinated.
Quebec has taken aggressive measures to reduce the spread of the virus and to encourage vaccination in recent weeks. Earlier this month, the province's health minister announced that starting Jan. 18, residents will need to show proof of vaccination in order to purchase alcohol and cannabis from government-operated stores.
The minister also foreshadowed more restrictions for the unvaccinated, stating that the province may soon require proof of vaccination to enter non-essential businesses, such as personal care service retailers.
"If you don't want to get vaccinated, stay home," the minister, Christian Dubé, said.