It has been over one year since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold of the lives of people around the world. Today, people across Canada are receiving vaccinations, and there are signs that life may return to what it was before March 2020. However, a portion of the population maintains that COVID-19 is a hoax and/or that the vaccines are not safe. Of course, we live in a society where one is free to hold whatever beliefs they wish. However, it is important to recognize that exercising those beliefs could have consequences.
For most people, the consequences of not following COVID-19 safety protocols is likely to result in being asked to leave public or private spaces. They may be shunned by friends. In extreme cases, they may face arrest for refusing to leave a place that requires a mask. But what about parenting? In a recent decision from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, we hear about a father who’s parenting time with his children is at risk due to his outspoken disbelief in COVID-19.
Father does not believe COVID-19 is real
The parents separated on March 11, 2019 following allegations of domestic assault on the part of the father. As a result, the father has been allowed to have access to their two children only with the supervision of his mother.
Friction between the parents increased since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The father has admitted that he believes the COVID-19 pandemic is a hoax. He denies the existence of the virus and refuses to wear a mask. He posts about his views on Facebook, including a post where he told a retail store employee he was not wearing a mask because he had a pre-existing condition of “standing up for my rights.”
Father’s behaviour leads to mother asking for interim custody
As a result of the father’s behaviour related to COVID-19, the mother asked the court for interim custody of the couple’s two children. She also asked that the father only have access to the children at the Supervised Access Centre provided he agrees to COVID-19 protections.
The court found that the father’s behaviour is dictated by his world view, to which everything else, including his love for his children, is subordinate. The court recognized that the father has asked for more parenting time, but at the same time has not shown he is prepared to take steps to protect his children and the public from COVID-19.
The court decided to award interim custody to the mother. The reasons including that she must have the ability to make decisions about the children with the advice of physicians and other medical experts. This was emphasized due to one of their children recently being injured. The court also stated that it wanted the mother to have custody of the children as well as sole decision-making authority and responsibility in the event that a COVID-19 vaccine is made available.
The court noted that the order was temporary, and related only to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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