A B.C. transgender teen’s bid to obtain hormone therapy was legal, B.C.’s Court of Appeal ruled unanimously Jan. 10 in supporting a lower court decision.
“The child A.B. is able to assert his rights, and has done so in accordance with the law,” Chief Justice Robert Bauman and Justice Barbara Fisher wrote in the decision.
The 15-year-old A.B. was born female but wanted to pursue therapy, a move approved by his mother, E.F., but not by his father, C.D. The parents are separated but share parenting duties.
Doctors found A.B. sufficiently mature to make the treatment decision on his own, and C.D. began legal action.
The appeal court had to examine three Supreme Court of BC orders before arriving at its conclusion that “AB’s consent to that treatment is valid, and no further consent from his parents, in particular CD, is required in that regard.”
A February 2019 order declared A.B. validly able to consent to treatment, and that referring to A.B. as a girl or attempting to convince him to halt treatment would be considered family violence under the Family Law Act.
An April 2019 protection order restricted the father’s ability to speak with others, including media outlets and A.B., about his decision to receive therapy.
And, a July 2019 order dismissed C.D.’s action initiated by C.D. as vexatious and an abuse of process.
The father appealed.
He claimed the orders violated his Charter-protected freedoms of belief and expression and what he terms “parental rights”, were procedurally unfair, and not in his child’s best interests.
A.B., however, said the decisions were Charter-compliant and in his best interests as well as the statutory right of mature minors to make their own medical decisions.
His mother supported that claim.
The decision said A.B. has identified as male since he was 11 years old and began socially transitioning at 12, enrolling in school under a chosen male name and using male pronouns with his teachers and peers.
“Around 13 years of age, after two years of consistently identifying as male, AB’s persistent discomfort with his body led him to want to take steps to appear more masculine,” the court said.
He was soon diagnosed with gender dysphoria, “a recognized medical condition where a person experiences significant distress because the gender identity they experience differs from their genetic or biological gender, and how others perceive them,” the court said.
A doctor said he could be a good candidate for treatment and another found such treatment was reasonable and in his best interests.
The process stopped once doctors found out about C.D’s opposition.
Doctors explained to C.D. that minors are permitted to consent to their own medical treatment under a section of the Infants Act.
One doctor asked for an opinion from the Provincial Health Services Authority Ethics Service, which agreed that A.B. demonstrated capacity to understand the treatment.
The teen was further referred to the B.C. Mental Health Centre, which found that he demonstrated detailed understanding of the risks and benefits of the treatment, and that he displayed reasonable judgment and insight.
C.D. filed suit to stop treatment in late 2018. Treatment was ordered stopped until the case could be heard.
The court said where a child has consented to health care under the Infants Act, the Family Law Act doesn’t provide authority to start consideration of the child’s best interests over medical treatment.
The court said the father continually disrespected his child’s choices and in seemed oblivious to the effect of his behaviour on A.B. But, the court added, such effects did not rise to the level of family violence.
The court said C.D.’s claims he parental rights under the Charter had been violated had no merit.