Decide strips Estrie father of custody, citing refusal to adjust to public well being measures

MONTREAL – Failure to follow public health instructions during the COVID-19 pandemic could be viewed as “reprehensible and even harmful to a child’s development” in joint custody cases, according to a recent decision by the Quebec Supreme Court.

In the ruling, Judge Claude Villeneuve cited non-compliance with public health measures as part of their decision to remove joint custody of an Estrie father.

The case, which took center stage in the St-Francois judicial district, concerned the request of an 11-year-old child to end joint custody. The child requested that his mother have sole custody due to “bad experiences” allegedly caused by her father’s lifestyle.

In the decision, made on December 18 but not published online until Monday, Villeneuve took into account the child’s maturity, which they said was beyond her young age, and found it was not in their best interests is to keep the custody formula their will.

Among the items identified as being problematic was a vegan diet that the child refused to adhere to.

“Although an adult is completely free to choose his mode of feeding, and it may be appropriate to teach his child the virtues of it, there are limits to imposing them when it does not meet their needs,” the judge wrote.

The father is said to have hit the child at least twice, once with a belt and once with a book.

Villeneuve explicitly held the father’s behavior against him during the pandemic, especially since the man is self-employed, works in housekeeping and his main customer is an early childhood center.

The judge said: “Even if freedom of expression is a recognized right, it does not go so far that an adult, in the presence of their underage child, can vilify and discredit those citizens who abide by the rules imposed by public health authorities amid a COVID-19 Pandemic. “

He added that such a message conveys to a child “that it is not important to respect the law or the health and safety of others,” behavior that compels the judge to “enhance the parenting ability of parents on matters of education and the well-being of questioning the child. “

The man described allegedly belittled people to the child who wear masks in public places.

Sebastien Gagnon, who served as the child’s attorney in the case, believes the judgment could serve as a case law in a family court. Given the ongoing pandemic and the start of vaccination, he anticipates more cases where instruction compliance is discussed as a factor in a parent’s ability to lead by example.

According to court records, a lawyer representing the father withdrew from the case, citing among other things his “categorical refusal to wear a mask during his sessions”.

Although the mother was granted custody, the father retained the right to visit every other weekend in order to maintain a relationship with the child.

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