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Ontario court sides with child on vaccination stance

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Officials with an Ontario law firm are saying that a recent case involving a pre-teen who did not want to be vaccinated against COVID-19 is breaking new legal ground.

The divorced parents of the youth share custody of the girl and could not agree on her vaccination.

Nafisa Nazarali, a senior managing associate lawyer at Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers, discussed the case with CTV News in a live interview Tuesday night.

"Essentially, this case is really about the concept of a 'mature minor' being empowered to make her own decisions regarding her refusal to take the COVID-19 vaccine," Nazarali said.

"So, in this case, the father, wanted his 12-year-old daughter to get the vaccine and the mother didn't really take a position on it. She didn't want to force her daughter to do something she didn't want to do."

Whether to vaccinate or not has divided much of the country and the family was willing to spend "quite a bit of money to get a decision from a third party arbitrator."

Ultimately, the court ruled the daughter a 'mature minor' and in this case, it was not in her best interest to order her to get the vaccine against her wishes, Nazarali said.

"It is extremely difficult to navigate when parents have joint decision-making power and are unable to come to an agreement on these important issues," she said.

And, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented several issues that separating families have consider: in person versus virtual learning decisions, parenting time and vaccinations.

"I think this decision highlights the importance on focusing on the best interest of the child. In this particular case, the judge ruled that the emotional and psychological effect of forcing this particular child to be vaccinated against her wishes far outweighed the potential benefits of the vaccine," the lawyer said.

Adding, because each family's circumstances are different, judges must balance competing priorities using evidence in each case to determine what is in the best interest for each child.

"What this case does highlight, Tony, is that judges are cognizant of the fact that the science around vaccines is evolving and each case requires that careful analysis," Nazarali said.

"There's really no presumption that it is in the children's best interest to be vaccinated." 

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