TORONTO (Reuters) - A Quebec father has decided to appeal a decision by a judge who ruled he had no right to stop his 12-year-old daughter from going on a school trip, even though the girl has already gone on the outing.
The dispute began in May when the girl had a disagreement with her stepmother. That prompted the father to forbid the girl to go on a three-day outing with her classmates to celebrate their last year in elementary school. The girl then moved to her mother’s house.
The parents, who live in the Gatineau region of Quebec, are divorced, and the father has legal custody.
Last week, Quebec Superior Court Madam Justice Suzanne Tessier ruled the girl could attend the outing despite her father’s wishes. She went on the trip this week.
Kim Beaudoin, a lawyer handling the father’s case, said the judge’s ruling raises unsettling questions for families.
“It’s dangerous to let kids play their parents. They have to learn to respect rules,” Beaudoin said in an interview on Thursday.
Beaudoin said her client feels the judge had undermined his authority over his daughter.
“He doesn’t think a judge should be allowed to take away a punishment,” she said. “And he doesn’t think another parent should be allowed to say ‘Well, come live at my house, and you won’t have to live that punishment.”’
Miriam Grassby, a family law attorney in Montreal, said it’s not that simple.
“In Quebec, even if a parent has legal custody, both parents retain parental authority,” she said. “If one parent has custody, the parents still have to make the decisions jointly.”
The girl’s lawyer, Lucie Fortin, maintained on Thursday that she exhausted all other avenues - including negotiating with Ms. Beaudoin - before presenting the petition to the court.
“This trip will not be possible next year,” said Ms. Fortin. “It’s the end of elementary school. It’ll never come back. It’s once in her life.”
She also said it is an isolated case, and disagreed that the ruling would open the door for other children to rush to court whenever parents try to punish them.
“It’s very, very rare,” she said, adding that she finally decided to present the petition to the court last Friday because the girl’s trip was planned for Monday
Ms. Beaudoin is preparing to file a formal appeal.
Editing by Frank McGurty