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Father's sentence reduced after contesting child's gender dysphoria treatment

Father joked about his child's suicide attempts.
B.C. Court of Appeal in Vancouver

B.C.’s Court of Appeal has altered a contempt of court sentence after a man objected to his child’s gender dysphoria treatment, setting it at 45 days time served.

The father, described as C.D. in court documents, had pleaded guilty to criminal contempt and was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment, 18 months’ probation and ordered to make a donation of $30,000 to a charity.

The father's child, identified as A.B., has been under medical treatment for gender dysphoria since he was about 14 years old. But the father was strongly against that medical treatment and objected to the fact his consent was not required for treatment to go ahead, Justice Mary Newbury said in her Aug. 9 decision for the unanimous, three-judge panel.

Family law proceedings seeking the B.C. Supreme Court's assistance in protecting the child's privacy began in 2019, said the judge. But the father disregarded the court’s orders setting up a series of court proceedings.

In February 2019, Justice Gregory Bowden said it was in the best interests of the child to receive medical treatment for gender dysphoria and that he henceforth be acknowledged and referred to as male. The judge also said the child should be identified by the name he had chosen rather than the name set out in his birth certificate.

Bowden said attempting to persuade the child to abandon his treatment or referring to him as a girl or with female pronouns would be considered to be “family violence” under the Family Law Act.

Father gives interviews, shares child's personal medical information online

Two months later, Justice Francesca Marzari made an order anonymizing the names of health professionals involved in A.B.’s care; restrained the father from attempting to persuade A.B. to abandon his treatment for dysphoria; and prohibited the father from publishing or sharing information relating to his child's sex, gender, identity, health or medical status, except to certain people.

The judge said the protection order had become necessary because the father had given interviews to two online publishers links to unredacted copies of his child's personal medical information.

“In the interviews, C.D. expressed his disagreement with A.B.’s decisions, made light of a suicide attempt by him, and referred to him as a girl,” Newbury said.

After the case was turned over to criminal courts, the father continued to give interviews to online outlets. He also provided photos and posted information about the child that allowed anyone online in Canada to identify his child and his caregivers, Newbury said. When the father tried to bring his own legal challenges against his child in July 2019, they were dismissed as “vexatious and an abuse of process.”

Throughout the proceedings, the father has not recognized the distinction between simply expressing his own opinions and doing so in such a way as to violate his child's privacy, said the judge. 

Newbury said the father “has never given a satisfactory answer to the question of why he did not simply redact A.B.’ s name and personal details" so the child's privacy would be protected and he wouldn't be in breach of court orders.

Father pleads guilty 

She said after the Crown brought the criminal contempt charge against the father on July 30, 2020, his lawyer realized the Crown was in a position to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

On July 30, 2020, Crown prosecutors brought the criminal contempt charge against the father. That's when his lawyer realized the Crown was in a position to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, said Newbury.

The father decided to plead guilty.

Crown prosecutors offered to submit a 45-day prison sentence if the father pleaded guilty. But the father's lawyer did not accept that offer, apparently hoping to obtain a conditional discharge and to avoid C.D.’s having a “criminal record,” Newberry said.

Crown counsel advised the lawyer that a conviction of criminal contempt would not leave C.D. with a criminal record.

In appealing his case, the father argued his lawyer had provided ineffective assistance and that if his lawyer hadn't refused the Crown’s offer of a plea deal, he would have been freed at the end of the hearing, without a record, having served almost 45 days in custody.

Newberry agreed, allowing the father to go free but remain on probation. The judge also set aside the father's mandatory $30,000 donation to charity.

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