Ness and Jackson

For personal and legal reasons, vaccine choices are dividing families, say two Saskatchewan residents.

Michael Jackson, a divorced father from the rural community of Carievale in southeastern Saskatchewan, was opposed to his seven-year-old daughter Sarah receiving the COVID-19 vaccination.

When his ex-wife said Sarah would get the vaccine, he refused to return her. Jackson’s ex-wife applied for a court order for police to retrieve Sarah and a judge heard the case in court.

Jackson lost his case and failed in a subsequent appeal. He went into hiding with his daughter before police could enforce the court order.

Two cases in Quebec suggest judges in other provinces take a similar view. Last fall, a 13-year-old boy wanted the vaccine so he could be in school sports and go to movies and restaurants, but his father was opposed. Then his wife, the mother of the boy, went to court and had the father’s objections overruled.

A similar ruling was made by a Lethbridge judge.

Nadine Ness, founder of Unified Grassroots, says a Lloydminster father who got their under-12 child vaccinated for COVID-19 showed her that proper checks aren’t always made. 

“He messaged me, ‘Look, I’m pro-vaccine. But I think you should know this,’” Ness recalled in an interview.

“He was never asked any documentation as to who he was, how connected he was to that child, nothing. He was just asked for the kids’ health card, and that was it, nothing else. So if that’s happening, then parents who have full decision authority over their children’s health, like the other parent can go and do whatever they want because they’re not asking for ID either. That was a story that I found really odd and concerning.

At other times, parents are at odds. Shortly before Christmas, a Quebec judge denied an unvaccinated father visitation rights to his double-vaccinated 12-year-old child. Ness said knows of instances where parents are using the threat of vaccinating children for COVID-19 as a bargaining chip to extract more from the parent who is opposed.

“I grew up in a divorced family with an absent mother. She was a drug addict, so I know what it’s like to grow without a parent there. And I know how important it is for both parents to be involved in children’s lives. I’m divorced myself, so I share custody of my kids,” Ness said.

“I could never imagine anyone trying to keep their kids away from the other parent, but it’s just you see that too often in custody issues…If you’re using your child to go after the other parent, you’re not doing what’s in your child’s best interest.”

Ness said former allowances for the unvaccinated to cross the U.S. border to see their non-adult children have been taken away.

“At this point, policies like that just show more that this is not about health. And this is about punishing the people who oppose government, punishing political opposition,” Ness said.

“Omicron is so mild. We had it all in our house and I was sick for a day and a half…It was the mildest cold I’ve ever had. My son was sick and had fever for six hours. That was it, nothing else. He’s seven. My 12-year-old never got symptoms, and my two-year-old had a bit of a runny nose.”

Ness believes COVID-19 is an inadequate reason for politicians, judges, and families to separate unvaccinated family members from their children or other relatives.

“It’s putting these parents in a really horrible situation…Some of these parents, it’s not selfishness. They truly believe to their core that it’s not the right decision for them. It’s not that they don’t want their children or don’t want to see their children,” Ness said.

“These are real people, real lives affected. They’re not just robots. It’s dehumanizing them and not recognizing them. These are children who go to bed at night crying because they don’t have their other parent there, their family member there. 

“They don’t deserve this; they deserve better from us. And we deserve better from our government as well.”

Lee Harding is a contributor to the Western Standard living in Saskatchewan.

Senior Contributor (Saskatchewan)

Lee Harding is the Senior Saskatchewan Contributor for the Western Standard and Saskatchewan Standard based in the Regina Bureau. He has served as the Saskatchewan Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

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