Repealing spanking law affects more than just First Nations: experts

OTTAWA -- Repealing a provision of the Criminal Code that shields parents from facing assault charges for hitting their children would affect more than just First Nations communities, legal experts say.

See Full Article

It would also affect many immigrant and minority parents caught in a legal haze when it comes to child-rearing.

Section 43 of the Criminal Code gives parents and teachers a legal defence when they physically discipline children, most often seen as legalizing spanking. Removing the section was one of the 94 recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that examined the legacy of Canada's residential schools, including rampant abuse.

The Liberal government has committed to implementing all of the recommendations.

Defining what crosses the line between spanking and abuse is not always easy and has raised critiques for years that Parliament should review the provision and either rewrite it, or do away with it.

"Should Parliament address this issue? Absolutely. Should it have a simple blanket repeal that could expose parents in many situations to criminal prosecutions for very minor touching, or conduct that is not clearly proven to be harmful? I would say no, but that's not to say that we don't need action in this area," said Nick Bala, a law professor from Queen's University in Kingston, Ont.

Spanking is accepted parenting in some cultural and immigrant groups, many of whom are already disproportionately targeted in criminal proceedings. Bala said parents from those groups, as well as aboriginal parents, may find their actions criminalized.

Toronto-based criminal lawyer Roots Gadhia said she had a case where the father in a Chinese immigrant family had hit his daughter below the neck and left a bruise. He was charged with assault after his daughter complained to police even though culturally he believed he had done nothing wrong in disciplining a rebellious child.

Gadhia said her Indian parents would hit her on the rare occasion she stepped out of line as a child because it was culturally accepted.

"Even that one time, in today's day and age, I would be able to call the police and have them arrested," she said.

Does that mean repealing the law would see parents face criminal charges for restraining or even spanking their children? It's unlikely, said Mona Pare, an associate professor of law at the University of Ottawa, pointing to common law defences that allow parents to defend spanking and a legal principle that leads Crown attorneys not to prosecute what they see as a trivial offence.

Section 43 has been criticized for years as condoning child abuse, while also being criticized for being vague about when spanking crosses the line. The Supreme Court of Canada in a 2004 ruling said spanking was reasonable, but set limits: the child had to be between the ages of two and 12, parents couldn't hit a child in the head, and parents can't use a weapon like a shoe, slipper, ruler or paddle.

The Canadian Bar Association and the Canadian Medical Association Journal have lobbied for its repeal, but private member's bills to remove it from the Criminal Code have repeatedly failed to pass the Senate and House of Commons.

"It's an attitude towards children in this country and that's why we see it as a social policy issue more than anything else," said Kathy Lynn, chairwoman of Corinne's Quest, a B.C.-based group that advocates for an end to any form of child abuse, including spanking.

"As long as we have it, we say we're a country who believes in hitting kids and that's not where I want to live."

Christian Girouard, a spokesman for Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, said the government was committed to implementing the commission's recommendations, but said the government wouldn't "speculate on potential legislative or policy approaches to address" the spanking law.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Trump's threats against North Korea leave Asia struggling for answers

    World News CTV News
    SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of - Was it a bluff? A warning that Washington would shoot down North Korea's next missile test? A restatement of past policy? Or simply just what it seemed: a straightforward threat of annihilation from the president of the United States? Source
  • Officials raise Mexico quake death toll to 226

    World News CTV News
    Mexico's civil defence agency says the death toll has risen to 226 from Tuesday's magnitude 7.1 earthquake that knocked down dozens of buildings in Mexico City and nearby states. The official Twitter feed of agency head Luis Felipe Puente said early Wednesday that 117 people were confirmed dead in Mexico City, and 55 died in Morelos state, which is just south of the capital. Source
  • Rain, relocation add to woes in Rohingya Muslim camp

    World News CTV News
    COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh - Monsoon rains, relocations and extortion attempts are worsening the living situation in the Bangladeshi camps for Rohingya Muslims who fled Myanmar. Several Rohingya camps in this coastal city are flooded from three days of unrelenting rains. Source
  • Sentencing set for man convicted of sexually assaulting 6 girls from same family

    World News CTV News
    DOYLESTOWN, Pa. - A man convicted of sexually assaulting six girls from the same family, fathering two children with one of them, is scheduled to be sentenced in a Pennsylvania court. Fifty-two-year-old Lee Donald Kaplan will be sentenced in Bucks County court Wednesday on multiple counts of child rape, statutory sexual assault and other charges. Source
  • Ninth person dies after Florida nursing home evacuation during Irma

    World News CTV News
    HOLLYWOOD, Fla. - Police say a ninth person has died nearly a week after the evacuation of a Florida nursing home that Hurricane Irma left without air conditioning. Hollywood Police Department spokesman Miranda Grossman says in a news release that a 93-year-old man who had been a patient at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills died Tuesday. Source
  • Mueller team questions deputy attorney general amid probe of Comey firing

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON - Special counsel Robert Mueller's office has questioned Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as it probes the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press on Tuesday. Source
  • Deadly 7.1 magnitude earthquake kills 149 in central Mexico [Video]

    World News Toronto Sun
    MEXICO CITY — A magnitude 7.1 earthquake jolted central Mexico on Tuesday, collapsing some buildings, cracking the facades of others and scattering rubble on streets on the anniversary of a devastating 1985 quake. The quake caused buildings to sway sickeningly in Mexico City and sent panicked office workers streaming into the streets, but the full extent of the damage was not yet clear. Source
  • No reports of Canadian casualties in Mexico earthquake: Freeland

    World News CTV News
    OTTAWA -- Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says there are no reports of Canadian casualties following a magnitude 7.1 earthquake that killed dozens in Mexico. The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake was centred near the Puebla state town of Raboso, about 123 kilometres southeast of Mexico City. Source
  • Deadly 7.1 magnitude earthquake kills 189 in central Mexico [Video]

    World News Toronto Sun
    MEXICO CITY — A magnitude 7.1 earthquake jolted central Mexico on Tuesday, collapsing some buildings, cracking the facades of others and scattering rubble on streets on the anniversary of a devastating 1985 quake. The quake caused buildings to sway sickeningly in Mexico City and sent panicked office workers streaming into the streets, but the full extent of the damage was not yet clear. Source
  • Would-be ISIS fighter caught threatening to bomb girlfriend's car

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    As a wannabe ISIS fighter, Ismael Habib had all the wrong moves. The Montreal native was stuck in Canada while his wife, in Syria with their children, kept bugging him to get on a plane and join the fight. Source