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Corporal punishment of children -- spanking

Events in Canada: 2013 to now. More
findings about child corporal punishment.
Federal Liberals vow to scrap spanking law.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay

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Timeline 2013 to now:

  • 2013-OCT: "Summary of law reform necessary to achieve full prohibition:" The goal of the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children is to end corporal punishment of children world wide.They hope to achieve this by:

    • forming "a strong alliance of human rights agencies, key individuals and non-governmental organizations against corporal punishment;"

    • making "corporal punishment of children visible by building a global map of its prevalence and legality, ensuring that children's views are heard and charting progress towards ending it;"

    • encouraging "state governments systematically to ban all forms of corporal punishment and to develop public education programs;"

    • promoting "awareness-raising of children’s right to protection and public education on positive, non-violent forms of discipline for children;" and

    • "providing detailed technical assistance to support states with these reforms." 1

    In their report about child abuse in Canada they note that "explicit prohibition" of child corporal punishment "is necessary" in homes, alternative care settings, day cares, schools and penal institutions. "Section 43 of the Criminal Code allows for the use of force 'by way of correction' and must be repealed. They noted that:

    • "A Supreme Court ruling on 30 January 2004 stated that this section justifies only 'minor corrective force of a transitory and trifling nature' and that it rules out corporal punishment of children under the age of two years or over the age of 12 years, as well as degrading, inhuman or harmful conduct, discipline using objects such as rulers or belts, and blows or slaps to the head."

    • " In Quebec, reference to a 'right of correction' was removed from the Civil Code in 1994, and a number of rulings have stated that the right of correction is no longer recognized in Quebec’s civil law, but section 43 of the federal Criminal Code applies nevertheless."

    • "Numerous bills which would repeal section 43 of the Criminal Code, most recently Senate Bill S-204 which died in March 2011 when federal elections were called. However, there is an ongoing campaign for law reform." 2

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  • 2014-APR-22: Article on child corporal punishment: This article described a study that was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Manitoba Health Research Council. It was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. 3

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation described the study one one of its TV newscast. [This video requires some patience because it is preceeded by two short commercials]


Two similar, earlier studies had been conducted on the long-term effects of child abuse in:

  • Ontario during 1990 where it was found that 31% of male adults and 21% of female adults had been victims of physical child abuse.

  • Quebec during 2006 which determined that 23% of men and 17% of women had experienced physical child abuse as children.

However, the new study was the first survey of child abuse that extended beyond a single province to include all of Canada. It confirms earlier studies that linked abuse of children to mental health problems later in life during adulthood -- problems like suicidal thoughts, attempted suicide, depression, clinical anxiety, excessive alcohol usage and excessive drug usage.

The study team was led by Professor Tracie Afifi of the departments of community health sciences, and psychiatry at the University of Manitoba. They analyzed data collected by Statistic Canada's 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey which had interviewed more than 32,000 adults aged 18 and older. She said:

"Our findings indicate that 32% of the adult population in Canada has experienced child abuse (i.e., physical abuse, sexual abuse and/or exposure to intimate partner violence) and that child abuse has robust associations with mental conditions. ... From a public health standpoint, these findings highlight the urgent need to make prevention of child abuse a priority in Canada."

The national study showed that:

  • Physical abuse was the most common form experienced by children, at 26%.

  • Sexual abuse was less common, at 10%.

  • Exposure to intimate partner violence was the least common, at 8%.

These values add up to more than 32% because some adults were exposed to more than one type of abuse or violence during their childhood.

Physical child abuse" was defined as having been slapped on the face or head, spanked with a hard object, pushed, grabbed, shoved, or had something thrown at them with the intent to hurt them. If they could recall three such events, they were regarded as having suffered child abuse. Men were more likely to have experienced physical abuse, at 31% vs. 21% for women.

Sexual child abuse was defined as having been forced into unwanted sexual activity by being threatened, held down or hurt in some way, having experienced unwanted sexually touching or gabbing, or unwanted kissing or fondling, one or more times. Women were more likely to have experienced sexual abuse, at 14% vs. 6% for men.

Although the analysis of the Stats Canada data show an association between childhood abuse and adult mental health problems, they did not prove a cause and effect relationship. The researchers noted that:

"It may be that for some people, a direct relation does exist between child abuse and mental disorders. It may also be the case that behavioural issues for some children could be associated with mental disorders and that behavioural problems could increase the likelihood of child abuse."

  • 2014-APR-28: Ruth Miller submitted the following letter to the editor of the Toronto Star newspaper:

  • "The use of physical punishment of children has long been known to lead to adverse outcomes and to have no beneficial purpose. Thirty-four countries now prohibit its use. But not Canada.

    The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Canada has ratified, requires countries to protect their children from all forms of violence including physical punishment. However Section 43 of the Criminal Code or Canada gives parents a defence against assault of children.

    It is time to repeal this section of the Criminal Code and promote alternative and positive approaches to discipline. Almost 500 national, provincial and community organization have called for the end of physical punishment of children. Recently the Canadian Bar Association has called on the federal government to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, including repeal of Section 43 of the Criminal Code.

    It is time to move forward in our efforts to promote the well being of children. The recent study showing the association between child abuse of various kinds, including physical punishment, and higher risks of mental health disorders later in life, should give us the impetus to make this a priority. 5

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  • 2015-JUN: Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) is released: The TRC investigated the horrendous physical, sexual, emotional, cultural, spiritual, and language abuse suffered by about 150,000 First Nation, Inuit and Métis children Canadian in residential schools. The schools operated from 1876 until 1996 during which as many as 6,000 children died while at the institutions. Abuse was nearly universal. The schools were run by four of Canada's national churches. Between 1986 and 1998, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Presbyterian Church in Canada, and the United Church of Canada -- in that order -- issued formal apologies for their role in the abuse. Over a decade later in 2009, the Roman Catholic Church finally issued what the Assembly of First Nations Leader Phil Fontaine said wasn't an "official apology." 7

    Justice Murray Sinclair unveiled the TRC report saying:

    "Canada clearly participated in a period of cultural genocide."

    Some in the audience applauded; others cried. The Commission made 94 recommendations. It remains to be seen how many will be acted upon.

    Recommendation #6 states:

    "We call upon the Government of Canada to repeal Section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada." 8

    This is the part of the code that allows parents, and in some cases, teachers to use corporal punishment in the discipline of children. It states:

    "Every schoolteacher, parent or person standing in the place of a parent is justified in using force by way of correction toward a pupil or child, as the case may be, who is under his care, if the force does not exceed what is reasonable under the circumstances."

  • 2015-OCT-20: Federal elections were held. The federal Conservative Party of Canada was defeated, and the Liberal Party of Canada will form the new majority government. One of the planks in the Liberal Party's platform was the implementation of all 94 of the TRC's recommendations. This presumably includes #6 cited above which would affect native and non-native children.

  • 2015-DEC-21: The Federal Liberal Party promises to repeal the "spanking law:" A spokesman for Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould (Liberal) confirmed that the repeal of Section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada will be part of its main pledge to implement all 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. 9 More details: Part 1  Part 2

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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. "Global initiative aims..." Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children, undated, at:
  2. "Summary of law reform necessary to achieve full prohibition," Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children,2013-OCT, at:
  3. "Child abuse affects 1 in 3 Canadian adults, mental health study indicates. Findings highlight urgent need to prioritize prevention of child abuse," Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 2014-APR-22, at:
  4. Hele Branswell, "1 in 3 adult Canadians suffered child abuse. New study links early trauma to later mental health issues," The Toronto Star, 2014-APR-23, Page A3.
  5. Ruth Miller, "Re: 1 in 3 adult Canadians suffered child abuse, April 23," Toronto Star letter to the editor, 2014-APR-28.
  6. "Canada confronts its dark history of abuse in residential schools," The Guardian, 2015-JUN-06, at:
  7. "A history of residential schools in Canada," CBC News, 2014-JAN-07, at:
  8. "Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action," Truth & Reconciliation Commission, 2015, at:
  9. "Liberal government commits to repealing so-called ‘spanking law'." Toronto Star newspaper, 2015-DEC-22, at:
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Copyright © 2013 & 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2013-OCT
Latest update: 2014-APR-28
Author: B.A. Robinson

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