An anti-vax Canadian father is on the run with his daughter because he doesn’t want her to get vaccinated—something the girl’s mother wants.
Michael Jackson told far-right talk show host Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson that he had tried to contact his ex-wife for over a month before vaccines were approved for children ages 5 and up to figure out how she felt about the vaccine. He didn’t disclose where he’s staying.
“She has final say on medical issues with our daughter so I had no authority in the department,” Jackson said. “I was trying to contact her saying, ‘What's your position? What’s your position?’ and she just ignored me.”
The 7-year-old girl lived with her mother, Mariecar Jackson, in Regina, Saskatchewan, occasionally spending time at her dad’s place in a village about three hours southeast of the city. Now that children are eligible to get vaccinated in Canada, Mariecar indicated that she would get her daughter vaccinated, Jackson said.
So in November, he took his daughter and fled, resurfacing early this month in interviews with fringe talk show hosts about his views. Jackson said that he didn’t return his daughter to her mom because he didn't think the courts would side with him.
"Even if there's a one in a million chance that your daughter could, not even die, but there's a one in a million chance she couldn't have a baby, wouldn't that be enough?" he said. (There’s absolutely no scientific evidence to back fears that getting the vaccine puts a person’s fertility at risk.)
Meanwhile, the girl’s mother said she’s worried about her daughter’s mental and physical health, and is pleading for help. Saskatchewan judges have issued two court orders for Jackson to immediately return his daughter to her mother, CBC News reported.
"She's only seven. She needs to be home. I just want her home," Mariecar told CBC.
Jackson is wrong about a lot of things, including that vaccines are dangerous, but he’s right about one: Courts will continue to side with the parents who believe in vaccines, experts say.
“The courts, generally, will follow whatever health experts or legislatures and governments say is the right way to go. They're like, ‘Who are we to second-guess the professionals?’” said Ontario-based Lawyer Pamila Bhardwaj, who has worked on related cases. “I had an anti-vaxxer mother call me and my advice was, ‘You don't want this to end up in court; you're going to lose.’”
Custody battles between parents who have contending views about COVID-19 vaccines are playing out across North America. Typically, parents disagree on whether to vaccinate their children or whether the anti-vax parent poses a threat to the child’s health.
In another case, a father temporarily lost the right to see his child because he’s unvaccinated and allegedly against COVID-19 public health measures, a Quebec court ruled last month. In Ontario, courts limited an unvaccinated father’s ability to see his kids because he displayed anti-vax and anti-mask behaviours, including ripping up a child’s mask at a day care.
“He was causing some confusion for his children [by]: going into day care saying, ‘You don’t have to wear a mask,’ causing chaos,” said Bhardwaj, who represented the mother. She added the mother was concerned about the emotional harm her ex could cause with his views, too.
Courts have been deferring to health experts and government policy: every jurisdiction and public health authority in Canada is encouraging people to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The only exception Bhardwaj could think of is if “proper medical evidence”—a doctor’s note confirming that a child has medical conditions that make it impossible to get vaccinated—is produced.
According to Toronto-based lawyer Alyssa Bach, contention about vaccines has plagued custody and co-parenting issues all along, but the pandemic has fuelled vaccine-related conflict.
“COVID has definitely raised it,” Bach said, adding that even divorced parents who traditionally get along well are getting into “polarizing” conflicts around vaccines.
The problem with vaccine-related issues is that there is no way for parents to compromise. With other issues, such as where to send a child to school, parents can put their heads together and sift through options until they find one that works for both of them, Bach said. But with vaccines, the dilemma is black and white.
“Either you're vaccinated or you’re not,” said Bach, who has worked on multiple COVID-19 vaccine-related cases. “Now that the vaccine is approved for children ages 5 and up, I’d expect these cases to continue.”
Public health experts and governments continue to encourage those eligible to get vaccinated. This month, Quebec announced it would ban unvaccinated people from weed and liquor stores, and would start taxing the unvaccinated. Vaccines are heavily researched and tested before they end up in your shoulder, and the risk of adverse effects is extremely low. Most importantly, they’re helping people stave off severe COVID-19 infections as the Omicron variant spreads at unprecedented rates.
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