For many years First Call has been advocating for a repeal of section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada. Section 43, also known as the “spanking law,” permits the use of force for disciplining children by parents and persons standing in the place of parents.
Correction of Child by Force: 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. R.S.C., 1985, c .C-4
Section 43 ensures that children do not have full protection under law and thus it infringes on a child’s basic right to physical security.
However, Canada has a responsibility to protect children from violence. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) requires states to protect children from “all forms of physical or mental violence” while in the care of parents or others.
Moreover, research evidence shows physical punishment to be ineffective in guiding children’s behaviour, interferes with a positive parent-child relationship and is associated with a number of psychological and behavioural problems in adults.
The First Call coalition believes that to ensure a child’s right to security of the person, section 43 should be repealed.
In addition, the federal government needs to develop a comprehensive strategy to support positive parenting, to challenge remaining public acceptance of corporal punishment of children and to ultimately reduce all forms of violence against children.
“Canada has been repeatedly criticized by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child for failing to remove this section of the Criminal Code. Numerous other countries have already moved on this. It’s time for Canada to catch up.”
– Adrienne Montani, First Call provincial coordinator
First Call has been active on this issue for many years. We are a signatory to the 2007 Open Letter to Senators Physical punishment causes harm: Let’s respect a child’s right to be protected as well as a 2008 Open Letter to Members of Parliament Vote for the rights and protection of children, which we sent to all BC Members of Parliament with a letter urging them to repeal section 43.
- Corinne’s Quest – www.corinnesquest.ca
- Repeal 43 Committee website – www.repeal43.org (A full history of action and evidence collected on this issue both in Canada and internationally; however, it has not been updated since 2012).
- Joint Statement on Physical Punishment of Children – www.cheo.on.ca (A worthwhile paper presenting the development of information on physical punishment of children)
- Stop Spanking – www.stopspanking.org (Lots of information about the negative impacts of spanking)
- Global Initiative to End all Corporal Punishment of Children – www.endcorporalpunishment.org
- U.S. Alliance to stop the hitting of children – www.endhittingusa.org
- What’s Wrong with Spanking?, Public Health Agency of Canada and Department of Justice, Updated pamphlet July 2015
- A slap: child discipline or child abuse?, Susan Bissell, Chief of Child Protection, UNICEF, February 2015
- The Science of Spanking: What Happens to Spanked Kids When They Grow Up?, Adam Mordecai, Upworthy.com, December 2014
- Should all forms of physical discipline against kids be made illegal? That is exactly what some children’s rights advocates want to see, News 1130, March 3, 2015
- Editorial: Positive parenting, not physical punishment, John Fletcher MB BChir MPH, Canadian Medical Association Journal, September 4, 2012
- Physical punishment of children: lessons from 20 years of research, Joan Durrant, PhD and Ron Ensom, MSW RSW, Canadian Medical Association Journal, September 4, 2012
- Ban spanking outright, CMA Journal urges, Tralee Pearce, Globe and Mail, September 4, 2012
“To have a specific code excusing parents is to suggest that assault by a parent is a normal and accepted part of bringing up children. It is not. While Section 43 stands, it is a constant excuse for parents to cling to an ineffective method of child discipline when better approaches are available. It is time for Canada to remove this anachronistic excuse for poor parenting from the statute book.”
– John Fletcher, Canadian Medical Association Journal editor-in-chief