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Doctors deny, government demands: At-risk children denied doctor's exemption

Tanya and her daughter, Amanda. (CityNews)

MONTREAL (CityNews) – Under the Quebec government’s back-to-school plan, only children with a doctor’s note, because they or someone at home are at a higher risk of developing symptoms of COVID-19 will be allowed to access remote learning.

Adding to some parents’ concerns, they say they are being denied medical notes despite having someone who fits that description at home or heading back to the classroom.

“The doctor feels her hands are tied because it’s not within the directives that were given. We’re grasping at straws trying to find a medical reason to keep our daughter home so she can distance-learn.”

Tanya Toledano says she was denied a doctor’s note for her 14-year-old daughter who has a history of asthma. Her older kids with the same health issues are in CEGEP and attending university, so are they are already learning remotely.

WATCH: At-risk children denied doctor’s exemption 


“My kids had cold- or virus-induced asthma so if COVID is going around, why would I knowingly send her in an environment that will augment her risks – and hope for the best.”

Tanya has started a letter-writing campaign for other parents in similar situations to call on the Quebec government to remove the requirement of a doctor’s note. They’re also requesting improved safety measures in schools, such as more attention to social distancing, and masks in classrooms.

“I am hoping if the schools and school board get enough letters from parents their representatives can communicate to the ministry. We have thousands of concerns from parents. Can we not do something about this medical exemption note?”

Nadia Marra says she was denied a doctor’s note for her 7-year-old son who has a genetic disorder. He was in intensive care last December after complications caused by the flu, which, according to the Quebec government’s guidelines on when doctors should issue an exemption, would merit one.

“The discussion with the specialist happened and they basically won’t give a note. They say we can give you a letter that states what condition he has and what medications he takes but that’s the most we’ll do. So it seems their hands are tied and the parents are left scrambling.”

“Just the fact that I have to try and get a note for what I feel is a risky situation is already unreasonable and humiliating as a parent.”

Without a doctor’s note, the Quebec government gives parents the choice to either send their kids to school or pull them out to homeschool them.

Tanya says her daughter doesn’t want to be homeschooled but doesn’t want to go to school, either. Nadia is concerned she’ll regret giving up her child’s spot in their school.

The Quebec government has released a guide on doctors’ notes. It says only the sickest kids should be kept home. However, one notable example of what sick really means, is that even kids being treated for cancer are recommended to be in class.

Nadia says the recommendations are over-the-top.

“I think there are inconsistencies between what the recommendations are and what the doctors are doing and I also think the recommendations are far too strict and unreasonable.”