Corporal punishment of children -- spanking
Events in Canada: 1980 to 1999
Timeline 1980 to 1999:
"The Court of Appeal added that
if the child suffered injuries which may endanger life, limbs or health
or if the child was disfigured, that alone would be sufficient to find
that the punishment was unreasonable." 2
1989-NOV-20: The United Nations adopted the Convention on
the rights of the Child. 3 Two sections of the
Convention that have been interpreted as bearing on corporal punishment of
"States Parties shall respect the
responsibilities, rights and duties of parents or, where applicable,
the members of the extended family or community as provided for by
local custom, legal guardians or other persons legally responsible
for the child, to provide, in a manner consistent with the evolving
capacities of the child, appropriate direction and guidance in the
exercise by the child of the rights recognized in the present
"States Parties shall take all
appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational
measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental
violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment,
maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the
care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the
care of the child." (Emphasis ours)
1990-SEP-2: Thirty days after the ratification of the
Convention by the 20th state, the document entered into force.
1991-DEC-13: Canada ratified the UN Convention.
- Corporal punishment of children was not a
high-profile topic. With the exception of Christian schools and some other
private schools, punishment of children in educational institutions had been largely abolished as
cruel, unjustified, ineffective and counterproductive.
Spanking in the home was in decline. One study showed
that only 21% of Canadian parents spanked their children. 4 However, an informal poll in
Canadian Living magazine showed that
73% of respondents believed that corporal punishment was appropriate in
- In the mid-1990s, many child psychologists, social
workers and others became concerned about the findings of long-term corporal
punishment studies. They started to form organizations to combat
punishment. Some had as their goal the repeal of Section 43.
- In 1993, Minister of Justice Kim Campbell recommended that Section 43 be
abolished after an 18 month interval. During that time, the federal government
would hold consultations and provide a public
1994: MP (Member of Parliament) Svend Robinson (NDP) introduced bill
C-296 to repeal Section 43. It did not proceed to a parliamentary committee for
study. Like almost all private member's bills, this one died without being voted
1996-APR: Citizen is a publication of Focus on the
Family, a Colorado-based Fundamentalist Christian group. In a major
article, they addressed the matter of corporal punishment. They believe
that the ideological basis of the anti-spanking movement is found in the
United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child. This is a
document signed by every federal government in the world, with the
exception of the United States. Focus feels that the Convention views
children as individual rights-bearers, separate from their families of
origin, with the State as their ultimate guardian. 5,6
Most conservative Christians believe that the state should not
intrude into the inner workings of families. The father should be in
charge; the wife should be submissive to her husband; the children should be
under the control of both parents until they reach their 18th birthday.
- MP Svend Robinson (NDP) introduced his second private member's bill C-305 to
repeal Section 43. It also did not proceed.
- Senator Sharon Carstairs introduced bill S-14. It did not proceed.
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada issued a
position paper on corporal discipline. 7 They
acknowledge that "some parents resort to physical discipline too
quickly and too often..." They suggested that "it would be
preferable, and more effective, for the state to launch an education
campaign about alternative approaches to discipline." They
interpret Article 5 of the UN Convention as emphasizing the role of
parents in bringing up their children. They do not believe that "reasonable
physical discipline" violates the wording of Section 19.1 which requires
parents to "protect the child from all forms of
physical or mental violence" (Emphasis ours). They continued: "every responsible Canadian opposes child abuse.... the issue here is
the intrusion of the state into the domain of parental responsibility."
argued that "by criminalizing [corporal punishment], society would be
saying that parents cannot be trusted to raise their children."
1997: M.P. Libby Davies introduced her first private member's bill:
C-276. It did not proceed.
1998: M.P. Tony Ianno introduced ha private member's bill: C-368. It
did not proceed.
1999: M.P. Libby Davies introduced her second private member's bill:
C-276. It did not proceed.
The Repeal 43 Committee make a number of interesting points
on their web site. Two of which
"The government has no public education campaign against
physical punishment: The claim that the government is educating the
public against physical discipline is a fiction. There is no widespread
educational campaign aimed at the general public. One or two pamphlets and a
video targeted at a specific audience do not amount to public education.
Given that...[Section] 43 would conflict with an effective campaign against corporal
punishment, it is not surprising that no such campaign has been launched.
"The Court's decision makes certain parenting advice illegal.
'Spanking' children with switches, paddles or belts or spanking
toddlers is now a criminal offence as a result of the
[Supreme] Court's decision. Some
parenting books advocate such punishment. This now amounts to counseling the
commission of a criminal offence. The government should advise publishers,
libraries, and booksellers that these books must be revised or withdrawn
from sale in Canada." 8
"Political Response," Repeal 43 Committee, at:
- R. v. Dupperon (1984), 16 C.C.C. (3d) 453.
"Correction of child by force," Criminal Code of Canada, at:
"The Convention on the Rights of the Child," Office of the High
Commissioner for Human Rights, at:
"Canadian parents' approach to discipline," The Institute for the
Prevention of Child Abuse, Newsbrief 4, (1990).
- Cindy Silver & Dallas Miller, article, Citizen magazine, Focus on the
"Parental authority the real target of anti-spanking lobby,"
Campaign Life Coalition Canada, at:
"Constitutional Challenge," Repeal 43 Committee, at:
Copyright © 2002 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2002-SEP-09
Latest update: 2008-JUL-22
Author: B.A. Robinson