In a scathing judgment rendered this week, Quebec Superior Court Judge Hon. France Bergeron criticized the province’s Director of Youth Protection (DYP) for suspending a parent’s visits throughout the COVID-19 pandemic; in one notable case, a microbiology specialist was barred from seeing her children despite following public health guidelines and having a judgment in her favour granting her supervised access.
“Melanie”, whose identity is being protected in accordance with the Youth Protection Act, retained the services of Me Anne-France Goldwater, senior partner, Goldwater, Dubé, when the DYP informed her that she could not visit her two children, temporarily under DYP care, due to the declaration of a province-wide health emergency on March 13, 2020.
Parents visiting their children under supervision, the DYP declared, constituted “a threat to the health of the entire population,” and can only be allowed to see their children in exceptional circumstances, which the DYP determined based on internal guidelines not vetted by the Minister of Health. Judge Bergeron was critical of the failure of the DYP to disclose its internal guidelines, which, in any event, were demonstrated to be out of line with the Justice Ministry and Health Ministry Guidelines which prioritize the respect of all parental visitation rights, even during the pandemic.
The DYP had taken upon itself, without colour of right, to develop its own internal guidelines without the authority or consent of the Minister of Justice or the Minister of Health. Goldwater argued that the DYP has no more right to disobey a judgment on access rights than any other person.
Melanie, a scientist herself, along with the children’s grandmother tasked with supervising the visits, committed to taking the necessary precautions outlined by public health authorities, and obtained consent from the children’s father to continue visits. The father explained the children wanted to spend time with their mother in her own home, and they missed her.
Guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Social Services also specify that the rule for the DYP is that visits can and should take place, so long as all parties take the appropriate health precautions, as Melanie did, to protect public health.
In addition to the illegal overreach and disregard for parental rights, Judge Bergeron commented on the misplaced reliance by the DYP on technology. Apple’s FaceTime video conferencing platform, the Court noted, is not an adequate substitute for in-person parental affection.
Photo: Morgan Harris // Unsplash