The silver lining of going through an acrimonious separation was the quality time James said he could still spend with his two children.
“I’m basically there for them and when they’re not there I try to find stuff to keep myself busy,” he told Global News.
James, which is not his real name due to privacy issues and an ongoing court case, originally had three days and four nights of parenting time a week – about 63 hours.
Now, James said a B.C. Supreme Court judge has approved an application to suspend that time over concerns that he is not vaccinated against COVID-19.
“This very clearly is a statement that any unvaccinated parent is effectively putting their child in danger…and that child is best served by being removed from that parent,” James said.
Access to court documents is not publically available for family law proceedings, but James did provide an unsigned draft copy of the Feb. 1, 2022 order to Global News.
In the order, James’ parenting time is limited to two hours on Thursday and Sunday of each week. The time with his children must not be indoors which includes travel in a vehicle. The father cannot allow his children to spend time with anyone else indoors unless their proof of vaccination is provided. A mask must also be worn at all times when the children are in James’ care.
The order states, “The suspension of parenting time will be removed upon the Claimant providing proof of double vaccination for COVID.”
“As soon as I get double-vaccinated, everything goes back to normal. This is not a suggestion that I’m not a great parent,” James explained.
Family lawyer Scott Taylor said the BC Supreme Court decision could have far-reaching consequences for unvaccinated parents across Canada. While James is representing himself in court, Taylor has provided him with unbundled legal services including legal research and document preparation.
“If you’re a parent and you’re listening to this hug your kids because you never know what can happen,” warned Taylor.
While similar decisions have been made against unvaccinated parents in other provinces, Taylor argued there were other factors involved such as the child having another underlying medical condition. He added that in many of those cases the children were also not eligible for vaccination. Taylor added James’ children are both eligible for vaccination and one has already received a single dose.
With such a massive reduction in parenting time and the lack of COVID vaccination the predominant factor, Taylor worries this decision sets a dangerous precedent that will allow a separated parent’s vaccination status to be “weaponized” against them.
“We’re not talking about a person’s parenting ability,” Taylor explained. “We’re not talking about whether they’re responsible, whether they’re loving.”
Taylor also argued there is no health mandate that declares a parent must be vaccinated against COVID-19 to properly care for their child and that the restrictions and guidelines that do exist are always changing.
While Provincial Health Orders such as the vaccination card requirement might be lifted as early as this summer, he said this court order will remain in place.
“It’s a mandate on any unvaccinated parent,” Taylor said. “They must be vaccinated or they’re a risk to their own children.”
When Global News asked James why he wasn’t vaccinated, he said it’s a decision he’s wavered on a few times but ultimately believes more time is needed before the vaccines are deemed safe. He added that is a decision he is not trying to impose on his children.
“I’m respectful of everybody else’s choices. I’m not out there causing trouble,” he said.
When asked if he would appeal the court order or get vaccinated, James said he remained undecided. What he does know is that no matter what he decides, it will take months before his parenting time can be restored.