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Corporal punishment of children -- spanking

Events in Canada: 2007 to 2012. Six more
years of government inactivity in
criminalizing child corporal punishment.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay

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Timeline 2007 to 2012:

  • 2007-JUN-4: Senate committee starts hearings. The committee heard eight witnesses: five in favor of the bill and three against. Representatives for:

    • The Canadian Teachers' Federation expressed concern that a specific exclusion be written into the law to allow teachers to use reasonable force when moving or restraining students.

    • The Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children, Justice for Children and Youth, the Repeal 43 Committee, Joan Durrant of the Department of Family Social Studies of the University of Manitoba, Ron Ensom, co-author of the Joint Statement on Physical Punishment of Children and Youth all supported the bill. Ensom quoted a 2003-AUG survey in Toronto, ON that showed 51% supported repeal of Section 43. This rose to 72 to 80% if the bill would avoid inappropriate prosecutions and research showed that physical punishment harmed children.

    • Dave Quist, executive director of the Institute of Family and Marriage Canada -- a policy research arm of the fundamentalist Christian group Focus on the Family Canada opposed the bill, citing a survey that showed that 72% of Canadian adults favored keeping spanking as a legal option.

  • 2007-JUN-19: The Senate Committee referred bill for 3rd reading.

  • 2007-SEP: Parliament was prorogued: The bill died.

  • 2008-MAY-14: Senator Hervieux-Payette introduced Bill S-209. It was identical to previous bills: S-21 and S-207. The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs (LCAC) began hearings. Senator Hervieux-Payette testified that spanking is not educational. It does not favour the development of confidence, autonomy and self-respect in the child. Also, Canada has an international obligation to uphold a child’s right to physical integrity.

    Mark Lapowich, representing the Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers testified that Section 43 should be retained. It adequately prevents violence against, and abuse of, children. To repeal it would introduce a problem, in that our broad assault laws would criminalize not only corporal punishment by parents and teachers, but would also make mild restraint and confinement illegal.

  • 2008-JUN-05: Further testimony began before the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs on S-209. This led to minor amendments.

  • 2008-SEP: Federal election called. S-209 died.

  • 2009-JAN-27: Senator Hervieux-Payette reintroduced S-209 to the Senate as earlier amended.

  • 2009-JUN-22: Bill S-209 receives its second reading: It is re-assigned to the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.


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  • 2010-MAR-10: Senator Hervieux-Payette introduces a new bill, S-204, to repeal S. 43. It is a duplicate of the original bill S-21.
  • 2010-JUN-10: Bill S-204 receives its second reading. She said that those who say that a repeal of S. 43 would result in parents and teachers being criminally charged for trifling reasons are arguing in bad faith. She noted that 26 countries have banned the use of violence in the discipline of children. None has experienced this problem. 1

  • 2010-DEC-01: Senator Donald Neil Plett argues against Bill S-204. He said:

    "There are inherent dangers in repealing the defence in section 43 as part of a ban on corporal punishment. As a government, we are inappropriately crossing a line into where the government, rather than the parent, is now determining how to raise a child.

    It is my view that the current law, which has been upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada, represents the best balance to protect children from abusive parents, while also allowing responsible parents the decision in how they choose to raise their children. I do not believe that an outright repeal of the defence for parents in section 43 will result in a better balance than that already achieved by the Supreme Court of Canada.

    Honourable senators, repealing section 43 of the Criminal Code goes beyond taking away a reasonable, responsible parent's ability to spank; it takes away their ability to parent. By repealing section 43, general assault provisions of the Criminal Code would be applied to any parent, teacher or guardian who chooses to use force against a child without their consent. This means that a statutory defence based on reasonable correction could no longer be used. ..."

    "Let me be clear: There is a definitive line between punishing a child and abusing a child. Parents who abuse their children should be subject to the full force of the criminal law, but responsible parents punish their children, not abuse them. By repealing section 43, we are blurring that line and risk unduly charging responsible parents with criminal offences.

    By repealing section 43, we are inappropriately crossing a line into where the government would be determining how to raise a child, rather than the parent. ..."

    "Let me be clear: There is a definitive line between punishing a child and abusing a child. Parents who abuse their children should be subject to the full force of the criminal law, but responsible parents punish their children, not abuse them. By repealing section 43, we are blurring that line and risk unduly charging responsible parents with criminal offences.

    By repealing section 43, we are inappropriately crossing a line into where the government would be determining how to raise a child, rather than the parent." 2

  • 2011-MAR-26: Federal elections called. Bill S-204 dies.

  • 2012-FEB-06: Canadian Medical Association publishes report on spanking: Dr. Joan Durrant and social worker Ron Ensom wrote an article in the CMA Journal in which they concluded that spanking does not work and that it is detrimental to children. Research studies over the previous 22 years show that children who are physically punished have higher level of aggression as well as -- during adulthood -- a higher incidence of mental health issues like depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol use. Recent studies suggest that corporal punishment may slow cognitive development and negatively affect academic achievement. They wrote:

    "No study has found physical punishment to have a long-term positive effect, and most studies have found negative effects. ... The evidence is clear and compelling -- physical punishment of children and youth plays no useful role in their upbringing and poses only risks to their development." 3

  • 2012-SEP-13: Rev. David Price writes letter to The Vancouver Sun newspaper: It was titled "Spanking law does more harm than good.:" He wrote:

    "I want to congratulate the editors of The Vancouver Sun for picking up this item. I work both as a clergyman and in the brain injury field. Corporal punishment of children has life-long and dire consequences.

    It saddens me that some elements of the Christian church still believe the biblical dicta must be followed literally. The Bible is a human product and written by people inspired with their understanding of life as spiritual people in their own time.

    Unfortunately, there are still churches that promote the use of the rod to 'beat the devil' out of their children. It is pressure from this element that adds to the delay in the repeal of section 43 of the criminal code.

    Perhaps the latest editorial from the Canadian Medical Association will convince the leaders of these various religious groups to join with others in having section 43 of the criminal code repealed.

    As a Christian, I know it is never God’s intention that parents, in the name of discipline, cripple their children for life. Sadly, the means often used by well-meaning people leave irreversible life-long consequences for their children, both physically and psychologically.

    It is time politicians from all parts of the political spectrum join together and revisit the criminal code and repeal Section 43." 5

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Senate Bills to repeal S. 43," Repeal 43 Committee, at: http://www.repeal43.org/
  2. Senator Donald Neil Plett, "Response to Debate on Bill S-204," at: http://www.donplett.ca/
  3. "Make spanking illegal: Report," Canoe.ca, 2012-FEB-06, at: http://lifewise.canoe.ca/
  4. "Letter in Vancouver Sun," Repeal 43 Committee, 2012-SEP-13, at: http://www.repeal43.org/
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Copyright © 2002 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2002-SEP-09
Latest update: 2014-APR-28
Author: B.A. Robinson

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