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New rules for Manitoba court cases involving vaccination and children

Children are getting caught in the crossfire of divorced parents' vaccine decisions. Getty Images

The increased push for people to be vaccinated against COVID-19 has found some children of divorced parents caught in the crossfire of a courtroom case.

Manitoba’s Court of Queen’s Bench made a change for cases involving children and their vaccine status — lawyers will no longer have to prove the efficacy of the shot.

“There’s a huge volume of this happening,” says Jessica Schofield, partner at Taylor McCaffrey.

Read more: Labour lawyers in demand as Canadian companies fire thousands of unvaccinated workers

Cases involving disputes between parents about COVID-19 vaccinations will proceed on the presumption that vaccines are in the best interest of children, based on the recommendation of public health authorities, according to a notice to lawyers from Chief Justice Glen Joyal.

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The change went into effect on Dec. 14, 2021. The notice also allows cases to be expedited where one parent seeks to have a child vaccinated and the other parent opposes.

Anecdotally, at least one case involving a co-parenting situation and vaccines is ending up in a Manitoba courtroom per week, Schofield told Global News.

Schofield says it’s good news that these types of cases are being sped up, as the emotional toll can be devastating on children.

Read more: Manitoba recommends booster shots for at-risk 12 to 17-year-olds

“It’s just not a healthy situation for kids to be in, especially kids in shared parenting arrangements where they’re just really being torn.”

The outcome of these cases can now be quite predictable, says lawyer Richard Pollock.

“I think it really provides a lot more clarity to who really has to provide an argument,” says Pollock, a partner at Evans Family Law Corporation.

Read more: Group fighting COVID-19 restrictions admits tailing Manitoba judge

“It shifts the burden onto the parent who is opposed to vaccination,” he says.

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While most cases have a financial burden, both lawyers agree the emotional cost these cases take on children is far more significant.

“It’s really important to keep kids out of it as much as possible,” says Pollock. “It’s stressful for children to experience family conflict. They ultimately want to make both parents happy.”

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