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Religious Tolerance logo

2015-DEC: Canada: A potential limitation on religious freedom.

Part 2 of 2 parts:
A proposal by the Canadian government
to criminalize spanking/paddling children:

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This topic is a continuation of the previous essay.

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paddleImplications for children, families and schools if Section 43 is repealed:

  • The main effect on children is that they will be regarded as first class citizens in Canada. They cannot legally be hit by adults.

  • In order to prevent prosecution, parents will have to restrict their disciplinary techniques to the use of reason, logical consequences, time outs, etc.

  • Many teachers and their professional organizations are concerned about being unable to use force to break up violent confrontations among students. 1

  • Many parents are concerned that they might be charged with a crime if they simply restrained an uncooperative child. 1

  • During the next few decades, there should be a significant reduction in the amount of mental illness and addiction among adults due to the reduction in the corporal punishment that they experenced during childhood.

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About the validity of passages in the biblical book of Proverbs for parents raising children today:

Many Jews, Christians, and Muslims follow what they regard as comulsory teachings of the Hebrew Scriptures (a.k.a. "Old Testament.") The book of Proverbs contains apparently compulsory instructions for parents to beat their children with a rod as a method of discipline:

  • Prov 13:24: "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes (diligently)."

  • Prov 19:18: "Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying."

  • Prov 22:15: "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him."

  • Prov 23:13: "Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die."

  • Prov 23:14: "Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell (Shoel)."

  • Prov 29:15: "The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame."

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Parents interpret the teachings of the book of Proverbs in different ways:

  • Many religious conservatives consider the proverbs to have been recorded by Soloman during the tenth century BCE. This was during a pre-scientific era after the end of the late Bronze age and during the early Iron Age. Many consider the author(s) of the book of Proverbs to have been inspired by God to write text that is inerrant -- free of error. Thus, many believe that the rules on beating children with a rod are as valid and compulsory today as they were three millenia ago. Many feel obliged as parents to follow Proverbs by using physical punishment to discipline their own childen, even if they find it difficult to treat their children in that way.

  • Many religious liberals, secularists, secular Humanists, etc. note that the thirty "Sayings of the Wise" in Proverbs 22:17—24:22 are similar to the 30 sections of the “Wisdom of Amenemope." It had been previously written by Egyptian Pagans. Also, the treatment of wisdom as a person/deity in Proverbs Chapter 1 to 9 are similar to earlier:

    "... personification of abstract ideas in both Mesopotamian and Egyptian writings of the second millennium [BCE]." 2

    Many assume that Solomon would have beaten his son Rehoboam as a method of discipline. He turned out to be a particularly vicious ruler. Some interpret the "beating with a rod" messages of Proverbs as a warning of what not to do if parents do not want their children to turn out like Rehoboam.

    This was a time where, according to the Bible, slavery was extensively practiced, men and especially women had few rights, there was little freedom of religion, and where kings and priests ruled absolutely. Many liberals, etc. conclude that Proverbs may accurately reflect the beliefs and practices of the time in which they were written, but consider them immoral and even evil if applied today.

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2015-DEC: Reactions to the possible appeal of Section 43:

  • Cheryl Milne is a spokesperson for the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children, a group that favors repeal of Section 43. She said:

    "We’re now in a stage where social science evidence is now really clear that this is a harmful practice and the long term outcomes for children are really negative. ... Children are still the only group in society that we allow to be hit, and they are the most vulnerable and they can be hurt very seriously by the big people who hit them." 3

  • Kathy Lynn is a spokesperson for Corinne’s Quest, another group that has been working to have the law repealed. She said:

    "It’s just appalling, we have a law in this country which permits legal assault of our children. It’s not necessary and it isn’t even an effective way of disciplining children." 3

    She also noted that physical punishment of children causes long-term, negative effects on personal self-esteem and menatal health later in life.

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Results of an Internet opinion poll:

  • During late 2015-NOV, Global News conducted a public opinion poll on their web site. 4 During the first month, 14,491 visitors to their web site responded to the question:

    "Would you like spanking to be illegal in Canada?"

    Results were:

    • 59% favored a ban on spanking.

    • 41% favored no ban.

These results may not accurately reflect the actual opinion of Canadians. Those who took part in the poll were self-selected and may not represent a tpical cross-section of Canadians.

Still, the result suggests that a generate a great deal of opposition to repeal of Section 43 when it becomes better known.

Some of the comments to the Global News survey were:

  • Coleen S: "Its a very long stretch to say spanking your child and abusing your child are one and the same, I shake my head. I believe it is another way for the government to "own" our children, and imprision our minds into believing we are not making good choices for our children as parents , change the law, amend it, whatever but to make spanking a crime my mind is blown away ....I mean lets just scrap the whole criminal debate and let them decide who can have them (children) and who cant based on worthy parental knowledge of what works best...make sense? I mean I know the saying goes " it takes a village to raise a child" but this is going way too far....DO YOU REALLY WANT THE GOVERNMENT TELLING YOU HOW TO RAISE YOUR CHILDREN!?? (see how that turned out) The system is broken and now this law will take all the power and put it in a childs hand (makes no sense) I am glad I am done, under these circumstances, I probably would not have had children period.
    And, yes I raised a decent, caring, loving, productive in society, human being... and yes they survived and respected a well deserved spank once in a make a parent a criminal because they spanked their child is disgusting."

  • Mike: "All that think a spanking is violence are the ones turning their children into disrespectful brats. Children in grocery stores screaming at the top of their lungs because they can have what they want turn into these type. A spanking has done no wrong in the past and has in fact turned children into respectful people. I am one of those. No matter if they change the law or not I will still spank my children, that is my right."

  • "stephie: "There's a big difference between spanking and abuse. Those who abuse will continue to do so, even if the laws should be changed! Why attack those who choose simple spanking as a form of discipline.?"

  • "joanne:" "Parents please take the time to talk to your kids about what they did wrong and what a better response ior action might be. Above all, be consistent. They can know you mean business with a look. Violence is never the best answer!!! "

  • "Innes Hofmann:" "Speaking from experience both as a child who was spanked frequently and a parent who never spanked, spanking does not make a child respectful of anything or anybody. It makes him/ her fearful and teaches nothing but hate for the perpetrator. Parents who spank lack the ability or willingness to deal with problems and these parents resort to spanking as a means of control. So why should a child pay for the inabillity of her parents to do the job right? " 4

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Possible future activity:

Under the previous Conservative administration, a number of private member's bills were launched to repeal Section 43, but none succeeded. Under the new Liberal administration, the government is expected to launch a repeal that will succeed.

The Canadian Bar Associatiion and the Canadian Medical Association Journal have lobbied for a repeal, but were ignored. They will probably repeat their requests.

We can expect a buildup of activity in early 2016 by conservative Christian parachurch groups in opposition to the repeal of Section 43.

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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. Miriam Yosowich, "What happens if the ?spanking law’ is repealed?," FindLaw Canada, 2015-DEC-22, at:
  2. "Introduction to Proverbs," Biblica, 2011-2015, at:
  3. Kabriya Coghlan, "Children’s rights groups will be thankful to see ?spanking law’ repealed," Global News, 2015-DEC-21, at:
  4. Amy Judd, "Vancouver group wants spanking law scrapped in Canada," Global News, 2015-NOV-26, at:

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Copyright © 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2015-DEC-24
Latest update : 2015-DEC-24
Author: B.A. Robinson

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