We previously discussed a case in which the divorced parents of a transgender minor disagreed over the child’s pursuit of medical treatment relating to their transition. The child, at the time 14-years-old, wanted to undergo hormone treatment at the suggestion of their medical team at the B.C. Children’s Hospital’s Gender Clinic. The mother supported her son’s decision, but the father objected and sought an injunction to prevent the the treatment.
The BC Court of Appeal ultimately granted the child the right to consent to certain treatments on their own behalf, so long as they were able to understand the repercussions. A large focus of the court’s decision also applied to the father’s conduct. The father had been publicly vocal about his objections to his son’s attempts at transitioning and repeatedly misgendered his son in doing so. The behaviour had led the mother to seek a declaration that the father’s actions constituted family violence, which would have enabled her to obtain a protection order against him.
Instead, the Appeals Court chose to issue a conduct order against the father, limiting his ability to speak about his child publicly. Further, the father was ordered to refer to his son by the child’s preferred pronouns and name, which the father had refused to do up to that point. The Court pointed out that the father’s behaviour had a detrimental effect on his son and encouraged him to work with the child’s medical team to gain a better appreciation of his son’s situation.
The case has now escalated to a quasi-criminal matter after the father has repeatedly refused to adhere to the conduct order issued by the Appeals Court. In the time since the order was issued, he has continued to discuss his child publicly, in various online forums in particular. In doing so, he has identified himself, as well as the names of his family members, including his child, whom he continues to misidentify both in name and in gender.
In July of 2020, Crown counsel filed an application seeking a finding of criminal contempt against the father. A trial is set for April of this year and could result in a jail sentence of up to five years if the father is convicted.
In the interim, however, Crown prosecutors pushed for an arrest warrant for the father, citing his flagrant and ongoing disregard of the court’s orders. Pointing to an online fundraising effort created by the father, the Crown said it was clear he was willfully disregarding and flouting the court’s orders. The online presence of the fundraising effort hosts a video of the father, in which he shows his face and identifies his full name, saying that his is “fighting the far left based on a civil disobedience defence”.
In addition, he has granted interviews online wherein he has identified his child and mother by name, as well as the names of the members of the child’s medical team and details of his child’s mental wellbeing.
The Crown prosecutor reiterated the fact that the publication ban and conduct order were put in place in order to protect the child’s mental health and privacy, above all else. The father’s efforts continue to harm the child, and the child has even reported feeling suicidal as a result of his father’s efforts. Despite this, he has not relented. Given his refusal to comply, the Crown sought an order that the father remain in custody until the contempt hearing next month.
The father’s defence lawyer claimed that if the father were to remain in custody, he would be unable to remedy any of the issues cited by the Crown, such as removing the fundraising site from the internet. The judge pointed out that the father had an opportunity to do this in the weeks between the finding of contempt and the issue of the arrest warrant, and he did not.
In the decision, the judge stated the following:
This court absolutely values free speech and the ability of citizenry to have debate — even robust uncomfortable debate. … That’s not what this is about,” the judge said. This is about, at its core, (the child’s) psychological well-being…[The father’s] detention is necessary to maintain public confidence in the administration of justice.
The family law lawyers at Mincher Koeman are exceptionally experienced with respect to parenting issues and disputes following the breakdown of a relationship. We work with families to find effective solutions that always place the best interests of the child first. Contact our office today by calling us at 403-910-3000 or reach out online.
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