Ban right to spank, court urged

Graeme Bacque (gbacque@idirect.com)
Sun, 22 Nov 1998 01:22:35 -0500


November 21, 1998

Ban right to spank, court urged

By Patricia Orwen
Toronto Star Social Policy Reporter

Children's advocates are asking an Ontario court to declare
unconstitutional the Criminal Code section allowing adults to spank or
use other forms of physical discipline on children.

``As a society, we don't give an employer the right to hit an employee .
. . we also have laws against abusing a spouse . . . now it's time that
children be afforded those same rights and protection,'' Toronto lawyer
Cheryl Milne said at a news conference held by the Canadian Foundation
for Children, Youth and the Law and the youth group VOICE.

A court application was filed yesterday, the International Day of the
Child, by the foundation in Ontario Court, general division. It asks
that Section 43 of the Criminal Code be deemed unconstitutional because
it fails to ``give children the same rights and protection as adults.''
A parent who lightly slaps a child on the buttocks when the child tries
to run into the middle of a busy intersection shouldn't necessarily be
charged. But that child should have the same legal rights as an adult
who is hit by another adult, Milne said.

Section 43 allows parents to use physical discipline on a child provided
that the force is ``reasonable.'' But the precise definition of
reasonable corporal punishment has long been the subject of intense
debate.

All too often Section 43 is used as a defence for parents, teachers and
other caregivers who are charged with seriously assaulting a child in
their care, Milne said.

Five separate private member's bills aimed at repealing the section have
already been introduced in the Senate and House of Commons. None has
made it past second reading.

The foundation expects the case to be heard within six months. It plans
to introduce evidence showing that corporal punishment is a form of
child abuse which perpetuates an acceptance of violence in society.

More than two-thirds of assaults on children under the age of 3 reported
in 1996 were committed by family members, Milne said.

Italy, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Austria have passed
legislation prohibiting corporal punishment.


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