Vaccination Disputes in B.C. Family Law

It is quite known that the topic of vaccinations has a long and contested history. Despite the many debates over the years, the issue of whether or not to vaccinate your children remains the center of many public health disputes.

With a plethora of information arguing for both sides readily available on the internet, it is also recognized that the vaccination debate has found itself at the center of various Family Law disputes.

This blog aims to answer questions around the topic of child vaccinations, particularly when two parents cannot mutually agree on this decision.

Are Vaccinations Legally Required?

While both Ontario and New Brunswick are two provinces that require children to be vaccinated to attend school, it is generally not compulsory to vaccinate your children in Canada.

The decision of whether or not to do so rests solely on the parents.

Generally, most spouses will come to an informed decision together once they have done all the research and spoken to relevant health professionals. However, this choice is not as easy to settle in a separation or divorce.

What Happens When Parents Disagree on Vaccinations?

As no law in Canada expressly requires anyone to be vaccinated, any spouse can withdraw their consent to vaccinate their child/children.

If you and your former spouse share joint parental responsibilities of your child, then generally you are required to make decisions about your child/children’s health care collectively.

Unfortunately, collective decision making isn’t necessarily the most obtainable outcome when it comes to divorced or separated parents sharing custody.

In the case that two co-parents are unable to agree on whether to vaccinate their child/children mutually, a Family Court is empowered to intervene and decide on what is in the child/children’s best interests.

In the recent case ofD.R.B. v. D.A.T. 2019 BCPC 33, the BC Provincial Court was tasked with determining whether the two children concerned should be vaccinated as neither parent could agree on recurrent immunizations.

In the Court’s decision, the Judge held that current medical evidence indicated an overwhelming preference for vaccination as opposed to non-vaccination. Accordingly, the Judge held in favour of the parent who wished to have the two children vaccinated.

The effectiveness of vaccinations is supported by the medical community in BC, with most doctors advocating for children to get vaccinated according to the proposed immunization schedule.

Are There Any Other Consequences When Refusing Vaccinations?

In terms of the Child, Family and Community Service Act, parents must ensure that all their child/children’s essential medical needs are satisfied.

Should any person believe that a child’s medical needs are not being met, they must report it to the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD).

Therefore, although it is not illegal to refuse having your child vaccinated, you may risk being reported to the MCFD.

As within the case ofD.R.B. v. D.A.T. 2019 BCPC 33, you also risk losing your right to equally contribute to any future medical decisions on behalf of your child.

Key Takeaways

The topic of vaccinations has remained a highly contested issue within the healthcare community.

With no laws in BC governing the requirement to be vaccinated, it has similarly become a common dispute amongst divorced and separated parents.

In cases where parents cannot come to a mutual decision as to whether or not to vaccinate their child/children, the decision is left to the Family Courts.

It is important to note that there is an overwhelming amount of evidence that exists within the medical community in support of vaccinations. Consequently, case law indicates that the courts are likely to move in favour of the parent who seeks to have their child vaccinated.

Although it is legal not to vaccinate your child/children, other consequences exist. For example, you may be subject to an investigation by the MCFD, or the Court may discharge your right to make any future medical decisions regarding your child.

If you are separated or divorced and can’t seem to reach an agreement with your former spouse on whether to vaccinate your child or not, it may be beneficial to seek legal advice. Our Family Law lawyers can help you identify legal options for both you and your child. Contact us today!

Disclaimer – The information contained herein is of a general nature. It is not intended to be legal advice and it is not intended to address the exact circumstances of any particular individual or entity. No one should rely on or act upon such information without receiving appropriate professional advice and without a thorough examination of their particular situation. Please contact our office if you have any questions with respect to the content of this entry, this website, or our Terms and Conditions .