How Young Is Too Young? Today’s Children Can Consent to a Range of Procedures

May 29, 2021 Updated: May 29, 2021

Canadians as young as 12 can get birth control, abortion, cross-sex hormones, and COVID-19 vaccinations without parental consent if authorities deem them informed enough to decide, a situation that legal experts and advocates call into question.

When it comes to vaccinations, Brian Giesbrecht, a retired judge who is a senior policy fellow for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, says teen vaccination is inconsistent with other legal restrictions.

“Some parents have very strong objections to having their children vaccinated, but if the child can just go ahead and his consent is good enough for vaccinations, how can that be reconciled with the fact that he has to be a certain age to drive a car or to buy liquor?” he said in an interview.

On May 5, Health Canada approved the use of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children 12 to 15 years of age, making it the first COVID-19 vaccine authorized in Canada for use in children. In Toronto, youth in this age group don’t need permission from a parent or guardian to be vaccinated, while other Ontario regions vary on whether consent is needed.

The United States has also approved the Pfizer vaccine for children 12 and over, but the issue is still under deliberation in other jurisdictions, including Europe and Israel. Jörg Dötsch, the head of the German Society of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, is not in favour of rushing emergency approval for kids.

“It is always very important that a child is vaccinated or given medication only when there is a direct benefit to the child or adolescent,” Dötsch told Deutche Welle. “The hurdles are high,” he added, “because this is a vulnerable group that cannot always speak or decide for itself.”

In Israel, about 100 doctors asked in an open letter that the government wait until more is known about the impacts of the vaccine before extending it to children. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is currently investigating a few incidents of teenagers having heart problem after receiving the vaccines.

Giesbrecht said keeping teens from getting behind the wheel but allowing them to attend clinics for abortions and gender transitions reminds him of authorities turning a blind eye to anti-Israel protests that defied health orders while “end-the-lockdown protests” or “going to church” was forbidden.

“The people on the left side of the argument are quite happy to have the age younger and younger for the things that they might [consider] desirable, but the ages stay the same for any cause that they don’t like.”

B.C. family lawyer Carey Linde says he was able to get a court injunction to stop a 17-year-old from getting a double mastectomy that was scheduled to take place just days after the teen’s mom found out about it. However, he couldn’t prevent another teen from getting testosterone treatments against the wish of the teen’s father.

“A school can counsel a child on gender transition and keep it a secret from their parents,” Linde told The Epoch Times. “The problem is when something is being physically done to a child without the knowledge—never mind the consent—of a parent.”

Linde says courts in the United Kingdom have already determined teens can’t give such consent. In Bell v. Tavistock, the court ruled in December 2020 that no one under 16 was competent to consent to puberty-blocking treatment.

Kari Simpson of Culture Guard, a B.C.-based parental rights group, said the sterilization and cosmetic changes made by cross-gender interventions go against the Infants Act in B.C.

Simpson provided The Epoch Times with a letter dated March 8, 1993, that she received from then-premier Mike Harcourt.

Harcourt stated, “As the courts have determined, minors cannot consent to procedures which are not in their best interest, such as aesthetic cosmetic surgery or sterilization. As well, minors cannot refuse treatment which is in their best interest, such as chemotherapy and immunization.

“It is not the government’s intention that parents be excluded from consultation when a minor is receiving medical treatment,” he wrote. “[T]he exclusive consent of a minor to medical treatment will be sufficient only where the minor has attained a sufficient degree of maturity to live away from the parental home, or where health cannot otherwise be provided due to a capable minor’s insistence on confidentiality.”

Giesbrecht says major decisions should not fall to minors.

“My kids were certainly not able to give consent at 12 or 13. Good Lord, some of the things they would have decided if they could. No, I don’t believe they can at all. I believe that parents should definitely make the basic decisions up until the time the child is no longer a child.”