To spank or not to spank?
CBC News Online | Updated Jan. 30, 2004
The Supreme Court of Canada has upheld a century-old law that allows parents, teachers and caregivers to spank children, but ruled the use of corporal punishment be confined to children between the ages of two and 12.
The top court had been asked to rule on whether spanking constitutes "reasonable force" for disciplining children, or whether it is a form of abuse. The court has heard arguments pro and con the efficacy of Section 43 of the Criminal Code, which allows parents, teachers and caregivers - including babysitters and foster parents - to use corporal punishment as "reasonable force" to discipline children.
The section was enacted 111 years ago.
Those against corporal punishment - at home or at school - argued that the old law should be thrown out because it is an affront to human dignity. When he argued his case before the Supreme Court in 2003, lawyer Paul Schabas said, "This case is about the right of children not to be hit, a right that in a modern, 21st-century democracy should be unquestioned."
The Canadian Foundation for Children, Youth and the Law, a children's advocacy group, said Section 43 of the Criminal Code is a violation of the Charter of Rights. Speaking on behalf of the foundation, Schabas said, "Section 43 has the effect of making children second-class citizens."
The Ontario Court of Appeal upheld Section 43 in January 2002. The court ruled that parents and teachers are free to spank children for disciplinary purposes if they limit themselves to "reasonable force." The court also said the law strikes a fair balance between the state and the interests of children.
This led a group known as the Coalition to Repeal Section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada to champion the cause of abolishing the century-old law. The coalition applauded the decision to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Matthew Geigen-Miller, director of education and communications for the Ottawa-based National Youth In Care Network, said a law that allows caregivers to use corporal punishment on children is a major concern for his association, which describes itself as "an advocacy group for the more than 62,000 children and youth in care in Canada."
Geigen-Miller said in an essay in The Globe and Mail that upholding Section 43 encourages the use of corporal punishment and "is known to be a gateway to abuse." He said the section "obscures child-abuse investigations, making it difficult for police and child-protection workers to make a legal distinction between abuse and discipline."
It was never a sure thing that the top court would recommend abolishing Section 43. During the argument stage at the Supreme Court, several of the judges took issue with Schabas's argument. A lawyer for the federal government said parents should be free to use "mild to moderate" forms of corporal punishment to discipline their children.
Justice Charles Gonthier said striking down Section 43 could make parents liable to criminal charges each time they spank their children. Two other justices, Ian Binnie and Frank Iacobucci, questioned any need to change the law, saying it guarantees immunity for reasonable discipline, not for child abuse. "This is a defence to assault," Iacobucci said. "It doesn't mean it's a value to be promoted."
"Most, if not all school boards already have rules against physical discipline," says Paul Whitehead, sociology professor at the University of Western Ontario. "The lessons taught by the use of such measures by parents, teachers or other persons in authority are contrary to what we want young persons to learn; that is, bigger people may hit smaller people, older people may hit younger people, stronger people may hit weaker people and higher status people may hit lower status people."
The Canadian Paediatric Society advises doctors talking to parents to "strongly discourage" spanking children as a disciplinary tool. "The days of spanking children were not the 'good old days,' and it is wrong, in my opinion, to think that some of the changes we see in our broader society come down to whether you spank or whether you don't spank," Dr. Sarah Shea says in a paper she co-authored on the subject of corporal punishment. "I think we've had a lot of growth in our understanding of spanking as an act of violence - or of potential violence - and to also know that there are lots of other choices."
There are teachers and education officials who defended keeping Section 43 as it is. In a letter to the editor of The Globe and Mail in 2003, Canadian Teachers Federation president Doug Willard said the elimination of the section would prevent teachers from dealing with potentially dangerous or disruptive situations.
"Why should teachers risk criminal prosecution for assault for returning a student to line, restraining a cognitively challenged student during a physical outburst, or removing a disruptive child from the classroom?" Willard asked.
As with all things, there is a time and a place for everything. The last time my mom smacked my backside, she used a hairbrush, but she was also in a crouch position, and two things happened:
1) she broke the brush - yep it hurt but that was pretty funny too.
2) because of her stance, she also put her back out and could not stand properly for about two weeks.
I felt pretty bad about that part, but the bit with the brush was still pretty funny.
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02-01-2004, 01:32 PM #1
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02-01-2004, 02:50 PM #2
I don't have any children yet, but I'm a firm believer in spanking. I got it when I was a kid, and I think I turned out all right. I see too many kids today that are totally disrespectful to their parents, and other grown-ups. It really disgusts me. If I even thought about acting the way the do, I would have been spanked in the blink of an eye.
02-01-2004, 03:01 PM #3
To tell a parent how to discipline their child should be illegal. There is absolutely nothing wrong with giving a child a good smack on the butt when they have done something deserving of a spanking. I'm not saying it should be used for minor or first offenses but should always be an option.
02-01-2004, 03:49 PM #4
How does that go?
Spare the rod, spoil the child!
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02-01-2004, 04:32 PM #5
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Spanking; by hand. No utensils allowed!
I was spanked as a child and look how I turned out?
Because I learned my lessons the hard way, it was not necessary to employ the same tactics for our son. I could simply raise my voice to achieve the desired results. That and taking away key privileges.
The key is to change the behavior without brutalizing or stigmatizing the child.
Personally, I think it is a bad time to spank a child when you are angry. Sounds funny, I know, but think about it. If you are mad, you might be overly aggressive. You might also be displacing that anger and the child becomes the object of your aggression.
And it could also teach the child that striking someone will solve their problems.
My point is; if you spank out of anger or frustration, then you are doing it for the wrong reasons.
I prefer to use different tactics to change child behavior. If that doesn't work, then I will threaten them with the cops!
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02-01-2004, 05:10 PM #6
I was spanked many times. I am not sure it ever did any good. It made me mad, not remorseful for what I had done wrong. The swats I took at school had no effect.
I see no advantage to taking my kids over my knee to smack their butt. What message does it send? If someone does something you don't like, hit them.
I will not crusade against parents spanking their children. I won't however spank mine."We shouldn't be opening firehouses in Baghdad and closing them in New York City."
02-01-2004, 05:31 PM #7
Valid points by both sides, I feel. There could be place for it in the course of discipline, but I don't think it can be overused for fear that the negative effects, as stated, can occur. Starting with the verbal route, escalating to another tone of verbal route & various other punishment techniques (sent to room, corner, removal of privileges, etc), and always the promise of the last resort because "this won't be tolerated"... a swat to the butt.~Kevin
Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong
02-02-2004, 12:27 AM #8
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Spanking should deffinitely be left up to the parents. I think sometimes it is necessary to get the point across to a child. I also think that I offer a different perspective on this because I believe that I am younger than many of you OLD Crusties. Being only 21 puts me in a different time period than you guys/gals, and the times always change. Since I was a child only about 10-15 years ago times were different but I got my smacks and I'm sure I deserved ALL of them. AND so far I have turned out fine.
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