By Hilary White

GATINEAU, Quebec, June 20, 2008 ( – A Quebec youngster has used the courts to avoid parental discipline in a “landmark” case. The 12-year-old girl, who is too young to be named, went to court to force her father to overturn his decision not to allow her to go on a school trip. Her father had decided to ground her after he found out she had posted photos of herself on a dating website against his wishes.

The sixth grader then took her father to court, arguing that his punishments were too severe.

Madam Justice Suzanne Tessier of the Quebec Superior Court ruled today that denying the girl permission to go on the school trip was an excessive punishment. The girl’s lawyer, Lucie Fortin, said, “She’s becoming a big girl” and described the school trip as “a unique event in her life”, the Globe and Mail reported.

In arguing the case, Fortin cited Sections 159 and 604 of the Quebec Civil Code, which allow minors in some circumstances to initiate court proceedings relating to the exercise of parental authority. Section 159 is used in “extreme circumstances”, such as cases of parental negligence.

The father’s lawyer, Kim Beaudoin said that her client is “stunned by this situation. He feels like he’s lost his daughter”. He is appealing the court’s decision.

Although the child got what she wanted, others are saying that court has blazed new paths into the very heart of the family, which compounds the growing threat of state interference in private life in Canada. Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention, called the decision “another chilling precedent”, saying that it was so outrageous that it sounded like a parody.

“This judge needs to be grounded and sent to her room,” Mohler wrote. He points out that the rules the girl broke, and which the court has helped her to flout, were put in place for her own protection. Police have identified online dating sites as a common window through which sexual predators gain access to children.

“For years, we have been warned that the courts were poised to usurp parental authority. We have seen chilling judicial precedents and the encroaching reach of bureaucrats and government agentsâEUR¦Parents are supplanted by professionals who are ‘experts’ in raising other people’s children.” Mohler notes that the reaction in Canada is one of growing outrage.

The Ottawa Citizen quoted Gene Colman, a veteran Toronto family lawyer who founded the Canadian Journal of Family Law, who said, “It sounds unbelievable. I’ve never heard of this before.”

Ottawa family lawyer Fred Cogan said, “I think it’s state interference where the court shouldn’t be interfering.”

“I’ve got six kids,” Mr. Cogan said. “I certainly wouldn’t want a judge watching over everything that I do, and I wouldn’t want my kids being able to run to the judge.”

But it was Lorne Gunter, writing in his regular column for the National Post, who had the strongest words, rebuking Judge Tessier for not laughing the case out of court.

Gunter quotes Fortin saying of the girl’s school camping trip, “For me that was really important.”

Gunter responds, “So what? Just who are you? Are you the kid’s parent? Are you a relative of any sort? No? So why, then, does your opinion matter? And if it does matter, how is court action appropriate?”

“Here is a father who has full-time custody struggling to keep his daughter from getting caught up in the whole world of Internet predators, while also dealing with all the issues of discipline and conflicted loyalties that arise from divorce, and now the court has made his task far more difficult.”

“Even if his punishment is an overreaction, unless the judge wants to take over raising his daughter directly, calling all the shots, making all the emotional, on-the-ground, late-night decisions, the judge should butt out.”