Justice Pazaratz Speaks Out: “Pandemic Fatigue is No Excuse for Shortcuts”
Long-time readers of this Blog will recall our coverage of some of the noteworthy past rulings by Justice Pazaratz. He’s the renowned Ontario Superior Court judge with a reputation for sharp, incisive, no-holds-barred judgments that often ripple through the legal community and the media. He has a reputation for dispensing justice in Family law cases – while bluntly telling it like it is.
In January 2021, we reported on Justice Pazaratz’s ruling in Dhaliwal v. Dhaliwal. In that decision – which was rendered mid-way through the worst of what the Judge called the “existential crisis” of COVID-19 – he sharply criticized the warring former couple for obliviously perpetuating their dispute during the “pandemic nightmare”. Only a month later, we covered Justice Pazaratz’s formal rebuke of two former spouses who were embroiled in what he called “litigation nonsense” against each other.
And now, in the wide-ranging ruling set against the backdrop of a custody dispute, Justice Pazaratz is at it again.
In his decision in a recent case called J.N. v. C.G., he was asked to rule on the unfortunately-common scenario where separated or divorced parents are at-odds over whether to vaccinate their child. The facts had it all: Both spouses hurled nasty allegations against each other. One of them accused the other of adhering to COVID-19 conspiracy theories. They both relied on questionable science and data. The mother even objected to the widely-used term “anti-vaxx”, which she felt was perjorative.
Importantly, the ruling is a goldmine for concise and perceptive judicial observations about how best to conduct Family Law cases in general. He also speaks directly on the topic of how the justice system must maintain its integrity, even in the face of unprecedented evidentiary challenges.
For example, Justice Pazaratz offers litigating parties guidance on tendering reliable medical evidence to the court. He impugns the frequent use of the term “misinformation” – especially in the context of pandemic data. He calls into question the heavy reliance on quasi-scientific “evidence” in court, and examines the legal concept of “judicial notice”.
Finally, he offers a long and noteworthy diatribe on how Family litigants should keep their personal attacks to a minimum.
The case is so meaty, that we’ll have to cover this case in a series of parts. But for now, it’s sufficient to introduce the Blogs with the following opening lines from Justice Pazaratz’s decision:
 The motion before me is a typical – and frightening – example of how far we are drifting from cherished values.
 The father wants two children ages 12 and 10 to receive COVID vaccinations. The mother is opposed.
 Now, answer honestly. Did the previous paragraph give you enough information to form an opinion about how this case should turn out?
 We’re all weary. We all wish COVID would just go away. But pandemic fatigue is no excuse for short-cuts and lowering our standards. We all have to guard against the unconscious bias of thinking “Why won’t these people just do what the government tells them to do?”
This recent ruling is full of legal insight, and provides plenty of food for thought. We’ll cover the facts and substance of the decision in an upcoming Blog.
For the full text of the recent decision, see:
J.N. v. C.G., 2022 ONSC 1198
For the full text of Justice Pazaratz’s prior rulings, see:
Dhaliwal v. Dhaliwal, 2020 ONSC 3971
Berta v. Berta, 2021 ONSC 605