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B.C. father arrested, held in jail for repeatedly violating court orders over child's gender transition therapy

National Post logo National Post 2021-03-17 Tyler Dawson
a person standing in front of a building: The B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver. © Provided by National Post The B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.

A B.C. father who objects to his teenage child’s gender transition therapy was arrested on Tuesday and put in jail until at least Friday for repeatedly speaking publicly about aspects of the case.

The father, known as C.D., has been charged with criminal contempt for allegedly violating court orders and is being held in custody until a bail hearing on Friday. The criminal charge is one that, if found guilty, could see him spend as much as five years behind bars.

The case stems from C.D.’s battle to prevent his child — A.B., as the child is known — from receiving gender transition hormone therapy. But what began as a family court dispute has now wound up in criminal charges due to allegations that C.D. is persistent in violating court orders.

The orders instruct him to not make public any information that would identify A.B., or the medical professionals involved, to call A.B. by the child’s preferred name and gender pronoun, and to not share his opinions of the case publicly.

The British Columbia Court of Appeal laid out the court orders C.D. was to abide by in January 2020. Since then, the B.C. Prosecution Service alleges he has failed to do so on multiple occasions.

In June 2020, C.D. gave an interview to a YouTube channel, where he’s alleged to have identified health-care providers, revealed information about A.B.’s mental health, medical status or treatments, and gave out information that could reveal C.D., A.B. and the mother’s identity.

He was charged with contempt of court, and that matter will come before the court in April.

On Tuesday, C.D. was back in court, arrested for allegedly breaching court orders again. The B.C. Prosecution Service told National Post that “the subsequent breach of court order allegations are being treated as aggravating circumstances.”

He still faces just the one contempt of court charge, the prosecution service said.

The case has become emblematic of the complex ethical and legal issues that arise in gender dysphoria cases, including who gets to make their own medical decisions, what role parents have to play, and at what age young people are able to make these life-changing decisions.

While doctors and families usually work together to come to consensus on treatment plans, this case has wound its way through the courts, pitting parents and child against one another.

C.D. objects to A.B., who was assigned female at birth, receiving gender transition treatments. The child’s mother, E.F., supports the child’s treatments.

At age 11, A.B. knew he was male and, at age 12, began to socially transition, says a 2020 court decision, “enrolling in school under a chosen male name and using male pronouns with his teachers and peers.”

E.F. took him to a number of psychologist appointments when the teen was 13, when “persistent discomfort with his body led him to want to take steps to appear more masculine.” By August 2018, A.B. had met with an endocrinologist setting out a hormone treatment plan.

C.D. objected. In December 2018, C.D. went before the Provincial Court of British Columbia to prevent the treatment without his consent. That application successfully prevented A.B. from seeking treatment. Further applications were made before the Supreme Court of British Columbia by A.B. — who wanted to be declared able to make his own health decisions — and C.D., who sought to prevent treatment and bar a variety of groups from counselling him regarding treatment.

On Feb. 27, 2019, Justice Gregory Bowden ruled that A.B. was able to consent to medical treatment. In the ruling, the judge also issued a de facto publication ban, saying A.B., C.D. and E.F.’s identities must remain anonymous.

In March 2019, there were two alleged breaches of the publication ban, and A.B. went to court to force media who had published articles to remove identifying information.

“Both breaches were apparently supported by C.D., who had given interviews to both organizations,” says the court documents of the decisions.

In April 2019, A.B. went before Justice Francesca Marzari seeking a court order to prevent his father from speaking about his medical case publicly. C.D. countered that speaking about the case was “important to society and to his rights as a parent.”

Marzari issued a protection order, forbidding C.D. from attempting to persuade A.B. to abandon treatment, from referring to him by his birth name and, among other conditions, from sharing information about the case and medical treatment with parties other than the court, lawyers and medical professionals.

C.D. appealed. The court found the Bowden ruling was correct, that A.B. was able to consent to medical treatment. When it came to the Marzari protection order, the court was less accepting, concluding the order — and its subsequent conditions — would have required a finding of “family violence” occurring.

“As concerning as C.D.’s conduct was, however, it does not necessarily follow that such conduct equates to the kind of psychological or emotional abuse that would constitute ‘family violence’ under the (Family Law Act),” the court found.

But the court issued a conduct order, saying the father couldn’t discuss his son’s medical treatment, mental health or treatments with anyone other than legal counsel, doctors or others allowed by the court. The father also must refer to A.B. by his preferred name and pronouns.

“This order should not restrict C.D.’s right to express his opinion in his private communications with family, close friends and close advisors, provided none of these individuals is part of or connected with the media or any public forum, and provided C.D. obtain assurances from those with whom he shares information or views that they will not share that information with others,” the court said.

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