Articles and Letters 1990-2012

The following articles and letters appear as published:


Sept 13/12 Letter in Vancouver Sun Spanking law does more harm than good
I want to congratulate the editors of The Vancouver Sun for picking up this item. I work both as a clergyman and in the brain injury field. Corporal punishment of children has life-long and dire consequences.

It saddens me that some elements of the Christian church still believe the biblical dicta must be followed literally. The Bible is a human product and written by people inspired with their understanding of life as spiritual people in their own time.

Unfortunately, there are still churches that promote the use of the rod to “beat the devil” out of their children. It is pressure from this element that adds to the delay in the repeal of section 43 of the criminal code.

Perhaps the latest editorial from the Canadian Medical Association will convince the leaders of these various religious groups to join with others in having section 43 of the criminal code repealed.

As a Christian, I know it is never God’s intention that parents, in the name of discipline, cripple their children for life. Sadly, the means often used by well-meaning people leave irreversible life-long consequences for their children, both physically and psychologically.

It is time politicians from all parts of the political spectrum join together and revisit the criminal code and repeal section 43.
Rev. David Price Agassiz

July 6/12 Letters in Toronto Star Spanking hurts for life, study finds, July 3
As an experienced social worker and a childhood victim of physical and emotional abuse, I hope this article will lead to positive changes in how child abuse is dealt with in our society. The Criminal Code does not go far enough in defining abuse since repeated beatings of a toddler by a 200-lb. man do not appear to meet the definition. Abusers don’t always leave marks that are visible to the public when they are beating someone. Currently the Ontario government is investing in child and youth mental health, and mental health professionals are seeking to bring trauma-informed care into the arena. Now is an opportune time for us to work together to identify abusive behaviours, put a stop to them and train professionals to provide victims with the care they need to overcome the detrimental and long-term effects of abuse. Sheri Weisberg, Toronto

As Mary Birdsell says, people often need clarification about the law on corporal punishment and Section 43 of the Criminal Code. This 1892 section is a defence that “justifies” assaults on children for “correction.” It says nothing at all about the age of children who can be assaulted, whether they can be assaulted with an instrument, on the head, or bruised. These are only some of the 15 limitations the Supreme Court of Canada (with three dissents), introduced into the law in straining to find the section constitutional. Few Canadians know about this judicial change and it is not surprising they are confused. Since legislating a “hitting list” — as to when, where and how you can assault a child — is not an acceptable legislative option, the only solution is to repeal the section and reassure parents that for a minor hit, they will not be prosecuted but helped to find better ways to correct defenceless children. Corinne Robertshaw, Coordinator, Repeal 43 Committee, Toronto

Most child-care professionals know that it is not just fruitless to slap or spank children, but harmful to their self-esteem and may lead to their growing up as adults who are easily shamed and likely to react to provocations with unnecessary violence. The long-lasting harm done to children, especially male children, by corporal punishment, and its legacy of covert depression, was beautifully described in Terrence Real’s best-selling book, I Don’t Want to Talk About It. Nevertheless, it wouldn’t surprise me if you get letters from adults who claim they turned out right morally, partly because they were spanked. I would suggest they turned out right despite that fact.

The Harper Conservatives’ attitude to prisoners in our penal system is very much of the “spare the rod and spoil the child” variety. They don’t seem to appreciate the fact that treating people as less than fully human just leads to worse behaviour from them in the future. Ron Charach MD, Toronto

May 6/12 Letters in Toronto Star Our system failed Katelynn Re: Bystander complex was in full effect, May 3 I cannot believe that our system failed Katelynn Sampson so horribly. It makes me shudder to think how many children are going through this right now. In every aspect, except for the school principal, we failed.

Everything that failed Katelynn needs to be addressed and changed now. We cannot wait. Children’s Aid is probably the biggest failure. First, for allowing Donna Irving and Warren Johnson to foster this child. How did that happen? Isn’t there a screening in place? Both parents had a negative past. I cannot understand how Children’s Aid allowed Katelynn to live with them. Second, for not picking up on signs that Katelynn’s life was at risk. If we can’t rely on Children’s Aid to step up to the plate, how can we save these children? I hope that I’ll never, ever have to read another Katelynn story but that won’t happen unless we change our system today.
Linda Arnold, Burlington

This case raises issues of national importance. Your coverage shows how mistakes made by the judiciary and child protection authorities contributed to this child’s death at the hands of her legal guardians. A more basic issue that underlies this and thousands of other cases of injuries of children every year is the belief that hitting children is a necessary method of discipline.

To Canada’s shame, this belief in hitting for discipline is sanctioned by section 43 of our Criminal Code, which provides parents and substitute parents with a defence to assaults on children if their purpose is “correction.” The defence came into our Code in 1892 and continues to exist, subject to a Supreme Court decision outlining how, when and where a child can be assaulted. Until our politicians have the courage to end this defence, many children will continue to be hit — and some killed.
Corinne Robertshaw, Coordinator, Repeal 43Committee,Toronto


Sept 21/11 Letters in Toronto Star Corporal punishment and the law
Re New trial for dad who spanked son, Sept. 16
 The Supreme Court of Canada made fundamental changes to the law on corporal punishment of children in its 2004 decision on Section 43 of the Criminal Code: the 1892 section that justifies hitting children for “correction.” According to the Court’s 15 guidelines for interpreting Section 43, only “minor, trifling, symbolic” hits are allowed and the “gravity” of the child’s behaviour is not relevant.

Ten to 12 spankings — if the evidence of witnesses is accepted — are hardly trifling or symbolic; and the child’s behaviour is immaterial. A new trial will surely hold that Section 43 is no longer a defence to this father’s assault on his 6-year-old son.
Corinne Robertshaw, LL.B., Repeal 43 Committee, Toronto

Sept 21/11 Dave Quist of the Institute of Marriage and the Family believes hitting children is an appropriate method of discipline and should be administered in a calm manner. This chilling suggestion flies in the face of all the research that shows corporal punishment can be damaging to children physically and emotionally and should never be used. Parents do need a “tool box” as he calls it, of methods of discipline, but hitting children has no place in that tool box. Parenting courses and books offer many ways to help parents raise healthy happy children free from the fear of being hit by the adults in their lives.
Ruth Miller, Toronto

June 16/11 Letter in Sudbury Star Spanking children is never justifiable
Re: Spanking saved for serious situations — June 11
. It’s a little surprising – to say the least – that a certified parent and infant consultant would still justify spanking a two-year-old child 20 years ago “until the smile came off his face.”

She admits spanking is a sign of parental failure, but where the child’s life is in danger, says you have to use it. No, you don’t. Instead, childproof the backyard and, if in spite of best efforts, the child escapes, a simple but serious warning of the dangers will get the message across without modeling hitting as a way to deal with problems.

Hitting defencless children is wrong in any circumstances and it’s time we stopped using emergencies to justify it. Kudos to the other parents who have come to this conclusion.

Saying she’d “go to jail’ for spanking, rather than risk the child’s life, suggests that this hitting was some kind of heroic action. In fact, jail is a non issue, as with or without section 43 of the Criminal Code, no parent would be prosecuted -let alone jailed -in such a case. A review of judicial decisions clearly demonstrates this.

As for the 2004 Supreme Court’s split decision on section 43, the majority judgment has left the law in such a state of uncertainty that the only way to clarify it is to repeal the section and inform the public that “correcting” children by physical punishment is no longer approved by Canadian law.
Corinne Robertshaw Repeal 43 Committee Toronto

Ap 21/11 Letter Frontenac News (Ont) Re: To Spank, or not to Spank
We have read, with mixed encouragement and dismay, recent letters on the subject of spanking. We would like to set straight the facts that John Wallace has either misunderstood or misrepresented in his letter (To spank or not to spank, March 30)

The Federal Liberal Party has not, as Mr. Wallace claims, “made the elimination of spanking as part of their platform in the upcoming election.” The governments of the day—Liberal and Conservative—have opposed the 12 private members’ bills tabled between 1994 and 2011 in the House of Commons and the Senate to repeal or amend section 43 of the Criminal Code. This is the law that provides a legal defence for parents and teachers using force/hitting to correct a child’s behaviour.

While Mr. Wallace’s claim that, “Scientific studies show that about 5% of spanking is excessive causing long term emotional trauma but to declare that all spanking is violence against children is untrue, anti-Biblical, and without scientific proof.” undoubtedly reflects his view that parents should have the right to hit their children, the elements of his claim are unfounded. The now substantial body of research on physical punishment clearly demonstrates that hitting children is harmful. It is strongly linked to physical injury (three quarters of substantiated cases of child physical abuse in Canada are incidents of physical punishment), poorer mental health in childhood and adulthood, impaired relationships with parents, weaker internalization of moral values, stronger likelihood of antisocial behaviour, poorer adult adjustment, and greater tolerance of violence. There are no credible studies that show “benefits of reasonable corporal discipline”.

While Mr. Wallace’s Biblical quote sounds approving of hitting children, there are other quotes in scripture that urge protection, not hurting, of children. Many faith leaders and Biblical scholars view the Bible’s central message regarding children as deserving kindness and patience.

The point of Mr. Wallace’s question, “How would these anti-spanking advocates feel if the ‘spankers’ appealed to the Supreme Court to make all non-corporal discipline a crime?” is hard to fathom. The point surely is that physical punishment is ineffective as discipline and harmful. Parents know children need discipline and want their discipline to be effective, not harmful.

Mr. Wallace’s statement that, “In 1979, Sweden introduced anti-spanking laws and in a few years child abuse rose 400%.” is false from start to finish. It was in 1957 that the criminal defence for physical punishment was removed from the Swedish Penal Code. In 1979, a clause was added to the Swedish Civil Code to set a standard for parental care and respect of children. Child abuse rates did not rise following either of these changes in Swedish law. Research conducted by Swedish and international researchers reveals a continuing decline in violence directed by Swedish parents against their children, and a continuing increase in child and youth well-being.

And finally, to Mr. Wallace’s last statement that, “[repealing] Section 43 of the Criminal Code [would] make all spankers, who discipline with love, criminals”. This is neither the intent of repeal nor the result where similar laws have been repealed in other countries. The law should send the same message to all Canadians about assaulting others—whether they are elderly, female, infirm, or young. Such a law would reinforce the research evidence and educational messages about physical punishment. Law reform in the 29 countries that now prohibit physical punishment of children has led to the growing use of positive and effective discipline of children, and has not increased the charging or conviction of parents.

It is important that discussions—and debates—about physical punishment of children be based on facts to support thoughtful explorations regarding how to raise healthy and respectful children. Ron Ensom, M.S.W., RSW; Ensom & Associates; Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, co-author, Canadian Joint Statement on Physical Punishment of Children and Youth. Joan Durrant, Ph.D.; Family Social Sciences, University of Manitoba, co-author, Canadian Joint Statement on Physical Punishment of Children and Youth.

Mar 24/11Letter Frontenac News (Ont) Re: Scott Reid’s mailouts
While MP Scott Reid’s approval of parents who spank their children may elicit support from all those susceptible to the hot button issues which tend to pepper his referenda, the rest of us should be greatly concerned since parents who spank their children help to create adults who commit crime.

Numerous studies over the past century, including an intensive investigation by the University of New Hampshire in 2008, have repeatedly demonstrated that children who are spanked are significantly more likely to become adults who steal, commit sexual crimes, engage in unprotected sex, bullying behaviour, as well as physical and sexual abuse of their own partners and children. If these are Conservative “family values”, then God help the Canadian family.

Just as property owners do not and should not have absolute rights to do what they want with their property, parents should not have a right to visit violence upon their children and partners. This matter is not merely a family matter but a societal concern, which is why more and more jurisdictions throughout the world have progressively outlawed physical violence in the home and at school, including corporal punishment.

All is not lost, however. Mr. Reid can take comfort in the knowledge that the wrong doers of the future who have been inadvertently fostered by punitive attitudes of the present, can be accommodated in the planned multi-million dollar prisons which appeal so much to Mr. Reid and his “spare the rod and spoil the child” constituency.

I always look forward to receiving Mr. Reid’s missives because they are such a delightful combination of myth and fact but reading them involves both pain and pleasure. For instance, one winces in sympathy at the merciless pummelling meted out to poor Mr. Ignatieff and at times wonder, will he be able to survive Mr. Reid’s bullying? But I suspect he will – after all, the Liberal leader has been in all manner of dangerous places prior to sitting in Ottawa, including Afghanistan and Harvard.
Adrian O’Connell

Mar 11/11Letter in National Post Deadly Discipline
Re: Mother gets six years for beating child to death, March 3.
The short life and violent death of 2-year-old Emmily Lucas again demonstrates what a belief in hitting for discipline can lead to. Emmily was frequently “disciplined” by her mother, by hand and slipper, until the day she was beaten to death in a moment of frustration and rage. Allowing a parent to discipline a child is grounded in a law that became part of our Criminal Code in 1892. Under it,  ”reasonable” parental assaults on children are “justified” for “correction”. In spite of at least a dozen private member’s bills calling for repeal, successive federal governments continue to make excuses for maintaining Section 43.  How many more children must be injured or killed before corporal punishment of children is repealed?
Corinne Robertshaw, Repeal 43 Committee, Toronto

Feb 24/11 Letter Windsor Star Protecting adults, children
CAS executive director William Bevan says if hitting children was against the law, it would be a lot harder to ignore.

Re: Section 43: Let parents do the parenting, Star editorial, Feb. 7.

There are two fundamental issues at hand – parental rights and the rights of children to be protected from harm. Although the current law recognizes that parental rights be upheld, Children’s Aid Societies and law enforcement have the ongoing responsibility and difficult task of balancing respect for parental rights with risk of harm to children and youth.

The Windsor Star notes that “there are already clear laws in place to effectively deal with neglect and abuse.” This is partially correct.

Every day Children’s Aid Societies respond to referrals from the professional community, families, neighbours and parents themselves where the “correcting” of a child’s behaviour has lead to harm, a risk of harm and, in some cases, risk of separation of child and parent –voluntarily or involuntarily.

Unfortunately, child welfare legislation and criminal law does not go far enough to eliminate the misconception that children must be physically hurt in order to gain compliance, or that by being punished they will learn great life lessons. Furthermore, the existence of Section 43 boldly maintains that children should not be afforded the same protection from harm as adults have under the law and hence leaves them vulnerable to the interpretation of “reasonable force.”

The society spends a considerable amount of time and resources to investigate and provide ongoing protection services to families impacted by family conflict and violence. This includes corporal punishment, physical abuse, parentchild conflict, and children exposed to or caught in the middle of domestic violence. Predictably, it unfolds on a continuum of poor communication and problem solving. The majority of physical abuse cases involve a pattern of parenting that uses physical force to attempt to punish or correct a child’s behaviour.

The next most significant areas of our work deals with parent child conflict primarily between adults and their pre-adolescent and adolescent children. So understandably, it should not come as a surprise to learn that Children’s Aid Societies, locally and across the province, work with many families experiencing adult conflict or domestic violence.

Both adults and children should be protected from harm. Just as with adults, if hitting children was against the law, it would be a lot harder to ignore.
William Bevan, executive director, Windsor-Essex Children’s Aid Society, Windsor

Feb 11/11 Letter Windsor Star Spare the rod, protect the child
Re: Section 43: Let parents do the parenting, Star editorial, Feb. 7.
The Senate bill to repeal Section 43 would end the Criminal Code message that hitting is a rightful and legally approved way to correct children. In no way would it interfere with any other style of parenting.

It’s time to drop this scare tactic that any minor force against a child would be prosecuted.
Prosecution must always be in the public interest and the chances of a prosecution against a parent for minor force against a child are even more unlikely than a prosecution against an adult for minor force against another adult.

You are quite willing to accept the risk of criminal prosecution for any assault, no matter how minor, against an adult, but you suggest we must not take this risk when it comes to assaults against a child. This, in spite of the fact that national statistics report thousands of child abuse cases each year and that up to 75 per cent of them begin with hitting children for “correction.”

Is it not time we weighed the risk of prosecution for minor assaults on children against the much greater risk to their safety and well-being posed by the code’s approval of hitting as a rightful method of correction?
Corinne Robertshaw, Repeal 43 Committee, Toronto

Jan 24/11 Letter on Toronto Star website Emmily’s death preventable
Re: Justice for Emmily, Jan. 18 (shorter version published in print edition) Two-year-old Emmily Lucas was hit and beaten as a method of ‘discipline’ during the four months before the final beating that ended in her death. Changes in the law and family court procedure could have helped prevent this. The first is the repeal of Section 43 of the Criminal Code, which tells the public that parents are justified in hitting children for “correction.” This method of correction has contributed to the deaths of other children and will continue to contribute to future deaths until this 1892 licence to hit is ended and parents helped to learn non-violent ways of correcting children.

The second is a change in family court procedure that would alert judges to potentially dangerous situations. Emmily was in such a situation, as after living with an aunt since birth, her mother suddenly removed her from the aunt’s care to live with herself, boyfriend and four other siblings. The aunt had applied for custody but Emmily was beaten to death before the case could be heard. Had it been flagged as a potentially dangerous situation for Emmily, the hearing could have been given priority and Emmily returned to the safety of her aunt’s care.
Corinne Robertshaw, Repeal 43 Committee, Toronto

Jan 12/11 Letter in Calgary Sun (re article below) Spanking Shunned
Thank you, Ian Robinson, for the eloquently written and well thought-out article about the spanking of children. Your powerful article was absolutely dead on accurate and I’m sure many of us reading it took a trip back down memory lane to our childhoods. There are those of us who saw violence in schools towards children or violence at home when spankings were doled out, and many of us vowed never to subject our children to that type of behaviour and we didn’t. Every sentence you wrote rang true. There are many children out there now who are, as you said, living proof that you don’t beat goodness into a child. Your article should be required reading for all parents of newborns because no matter what explanation someone gives for striking a child, it is still violence and all that teaches the child in return is violence and anger and fear. Thank goodness for many of us, it made us see clearly that it is no way to raise a child.
Val Stephanson
Editor’s note to letter: (Fortunately, spanking is not a hit with a lot of people.)

Jan 9/11 Article in Calgary Sun by Ian Robinson
Parents can do better than spanking
I hate it when I find myself agreeing with nuts. Liberal Senator Celine Hervieux-Payette is one of those people. Woman’s a freaking Froot Loop. And an anti-Christian bigot to boot.

And yet she’s right about it being wrong to spank children.

That puts me at variance with most parents and Sun commentators, but that’s OK.

Popular opinion isn’t necessarily right; it’s just popular.

Whether we need a bill to ban corporal punishment of children, as she proposes, is another matter. I’m not sure if we’re ready to do that. I’d prefer we start talking seriously about alternatives and trying to create a cultural shift so that it became less and less socially acceptable, like smoking.

But the bottom line is that hitting children is an immoral act. We can dress the practice up all pretty-like and pretend it’s being done as an act of love … but it’s a lie.

I was the last generation teachers were allowed to hit with leather straps.
Today, if a teacher hits a kid, it creates newspaper headlines.
The notion that teachers would be encouraged to hit children is absurd — as it should be.
Yet it is a cultural change that only occurred within my lifetime.

Maybe we could create a similar cultural change with all forms of corporal punishment against children.

But for my generation, it was OK for teachers to hit us. It was for our own good. It was educational. It was making us better people and better citizens. I had a teacher who would strap me on the hands until I screamed. She may have been crazy. I just think she was evil in the way that rapists and pedophiles are evil.

She strapped me every school day. In September, it took three strokes of the strap per hand to break me. By June, she’d get up to about 30 when her arm got tired and she had to stop and I’d just stand there and glare at her dry-eyed. I was nine. And what that monster took from me I never got back.

I’m a father of two. The girl is a woman now, 22. The boy is 13. Part way through my parenting journey with the girl, I drew my hand back to smack her on the ass for some reason — a transgression so egregious I can’t even begin to remember it — when I stopped. I wasn’t going to smack her because it was good for her. I was going to smack her because I was angry.

And I put my hands in my pockets that day and did my best to keep them there. I found other ways to discipline. Ways that worked better. By the time the boy came along, I had the hang of it. He’s turning out pretty good. Highly disciplined. Does homework without being told. Works out every day. Gets great grades. Coaches love him. Teachers like him. He’s smart and funny and adults are always telling me how polite and well-mannered he is. And I never laid a hand on the kid except to hug him or to wrestle on the floor.

He’s living proof you don’t beat goodness into a child. When you strike another human being in any circumstance other than self defence, you are sending an extremely important message. And the message isn’t, “Golly, mommy and daddy really, really love you.”

The message is: You are weaker than I am. I can demean you at will. You are powerless. Might makes right. When you strike a child you are saying the child’s dignity and right to the security of their person isn’t inherent. It isn’t a God-given inalienable right. It isn’t guaranteed by the state. There is no recourse and redress. The humiliation and the pain must be borne.

There is no qualitative moral difference between inflicting a state-approved spanking and an out-and-out beating. I’ve been on the receiving end of both. The humiliation and erosion of self is identical. Only the degree of pain differs. As parents, surely we can do better than that.

Jan 7/11 Letter in Brantford (Ont) Expositor State has duty to protect children
I consider Robert Anes’s labelling Senator Payette’s attempts to protect children “harebrained” and “misguided” (Jan 5) an unwarranted attack. Because she sees things differently she deserves contempt?

Mr Anes’s over-statements and illogical conclusions are on clear display. The admonition to use corporal punishment freely is certainly “millennial-old” and “biblical,” but I have doubts about its wisdom and know it is not a “proven” benefit, despite the writer’s assurances. Mr Anes surely knows this is not proven – nor can it be.

We know that repeated beatings over years have been doled out by authority figures – probably until the vulnerable child became too big to manhandle.

In fairness, Mr Anes claims to be against, “excess child-beating.” My problem is, whose interpretation of excessive to follow? That is so subjective it is pointless to consider: what he might regard as a mild physical response, I would label assault.

He credits a few smacks on the butt for his offsprings’ law-abiding ways. I presume he will permit me to brag that my children have avoided criminal activities, too, without the benefit of physical assault – or the threat of it. I could never claim that as the sole reason for their lawful ways. Neither can Mr. Anes prove his approach resulted in acceptable behaviour from his offspring, but he knows the unknowable.

I am puzzled by those who value privacy above all – even above the safety of children. The state has no right in our bedrooms, but it does have a duty to protect children from those whose views belong in the past and who continue to regard the young as second-class citizens. Change should be embraced, not feared.
Glen Armstrong Cornwall, P.E.I.

Jan 5/11 Letter in Toronto Sun It’s an assault
Brian Lilley says Swedish parents were jailed and fined for having “spanked” their three oldest children (“Spanking new law,” Jan. 3). According to a Swedish news report, these three children were regularly beaten since the age of three as a method of discipline. The beatings included hitting the kids with a hairbrush, a wooden plank, or a hand. Section 43 of our Criminal Code still “justifies” hitting children for “correction” and thousands of reports of physical abuse each year start as attempts to “correct” children in this manner. If we are serious about reducing child abuse, this justification for hitting children must end. It is government’s responsibility to outlaw these assaults against defenceless children — just as it outlaws “reasonable” or “corrective” assaults against adults.
Corinne Robertshaw, Toronto


Dec 27/10 Article in London Free Press by Sam Pazzano, QMI Agency
Group calls for an end to corporal punishment
Toronto – Corinne Robertshaw never met pitiful Randal Dooley or Emmily Lucas in their short, tortured lives. Both slain Toronto children shared the pain of extreme violence disguised as corporal punishment.

But it’s the extreme suffering of such helpless children – and thousands of others in Canada who endure less severe treatment – that drove Robertshaw, a retired Vancouver lawyer, to create the Repeal Section 43 Committee.

This group aims to outlaw corporal punishment in Canada and has been lobbying Ottawa since 1994. The practice has been banned in 29 countries in the last few years, starting with Sweden in 1979.

“By justifying hitting our children, our Criminal Code puts the seal of approval on pain and fear as a measure of correction,” Robertshaw said. She noted the abuse of Randal and Emmily was never reported.

Emmily was unconscious and barely breathing when she was rushed from her mother’s home to hospital Nov. 13, 2003, her little body covered with a shroud of black and blue bruises. She died 10 days later. Her mom, Erika Mendieta, is awaiting judgement on Jan. 17 on a charge of second-degree murder.

Randal, 7, was found dead on Sept. 25, 1998. His stepmom, Marcia, and father, Edward Dooley, were convicted in 2002 of second-degree murder and are serving life sentences.
“Children are wonderful little people that need love and patience, not hitting as a means of correction. That sends them the wrong signals in life,” Robertshaw said.
(The article also appeared in the Dec 27 Toronto Sun under: Ban hitting kids: Group)

Nov 16/10 Letter in Toronto Star ‘Time for ban on hitting children’
Re: Mom testifies she bruised her daughter, Nov. 10

Your report on the trial of a woman accused of beating her 2-year-old daughter so severely that she died is disheartening indeed. Corporal punishment is a dangerous form of discipline and can lead to physical and emotional damage and, in cases like this, even to death.

Most parents know it is wrong and harmful to hit children but our laws still say it is permitted if the child is between the ages of two and 12. Twenty-seven countries now prohibit corporal punishment. But Canada still allows it.

As we approach Nov. 20 — National Child Day — we should reflect on why our country hasn’t yet repealed that section of the Criminal Code (Section 43) that allows parents to hit children to “correct” them. It is to our shame that we continue to condone a practice that more than 200 Canadian organizations involved with childrearing and children’s health have condemned.
Ruth Miller, Toronto

April 15/ 10 Editorial in The Caledon Enterprise, Caledon, ON
Save a child, spare the rod

“This will hurt me more than it will hurt you.”

Always suspect, those words have often preceded spankings or other corporal punishment. Now, the parents who use them will know with certainty that their words just aren’t true.

In fact, quite the opposite. A landmark study now indicates spanking children “turned out to be the strongest risk factor” on the road to raising children who are aggressive, destructive and disobedient. Spanking children turns out, in the long run, to hurt them on many different levels for many years.

The results of the study should not be surprising to anyone, whether or not they support spanking as a tool in parental discipline kits.

The study of 2,500 children, carried out through an American university, demonstrates that spanking is the single most important factor in shaping aggressive habits in children. While more than half of the children monitored in the study who were regularly spanked developed bullying characteristics later in childhood, even children who received infrequent spankings developed aggressive behaviours.

Other studies have shown corporal punishment also has a detrimental effect on children’s intellectual development, yet some parents still cling to the out-dated notion that “sparing the rod spoils the child”.

For years, parents who support corporal punishment have presented dramatically conflicting messages to their children. How many times has a child been spanked as a punishment — deterrent? — for hitting a sibling?

What child, what person, has the capacity to understand one thing when another is consistently being demonstrated and reinforced?

Clearly, expecting children to, ‘do as I say, not as I do,’ doesn’t work. Children learn by emulating behaviour, good or bad. And, when they’re taught that hitting is the best way to get a desired result from somebody, how can they be blamed for using the same technique?

Surprisingly, hitting children is not illegal in Canada, as long as it’s being used by a parent or care-giver for disciplinary reasons. In fact, Canada’s medieval position on corporal punishment was reinforced in 2004 when a Supreme Court decision upheld a section of the Criminal Code that allows parents to “use reasonable force” when spanking children aged two and over.

Birthing a child does not give parents the right to indulge in corporal punishment in 24 more enlightened countries around the world. It’s time for Canada to join their ranks.

Save a child, spare the rod.

Ap 14/10  Letter in Dawson Creek Daily News  Please think again  
In A. Chapman’s April 1 letter to the Daily News, the sound assertion that parents have a fundamental responsibility for disciplining their children gets mixed up with misinformation about the consequences of physical punishment and a puzzling view of human rights. The belief that there is a big difference between physical punishment and physical abuse of children is comfortable but mistaken. The critical question is, of course, whether or not they have different consequences for children. This is a matter of objective evidence, not subjective belief.

And the evidence is now clear and compelling. No research has been able to distinguish between the consequences for children who experience physical abuse and physical punishment. Both are harmful. Physical punishment has lifespan negative consequences for children and the other people they will encounter as they grow, work, partner, and become parents in their turn.

Canadian research on child abuse and neglect consistently finds that 75% of physical abuse cases are the result of physical punishment. And it is not only strongly linked to physical injury, but to poorer child and adult mental health, impaired relationships with parents, weaker internalization of moral values, antisocial behaviour, and poorer adult adjustment and tolerance of violence.

Canadians pay attention to research. Research has persuaded those who once believed they could safely smoke in their home to do it elsewhere to protect their children’s health from their secondhand smoke. Similarly, research has moved Canadians to change their behaviour with regard to drinking and driving, seatbelt use, and requiring their children to wear helmets. Canadian parents are now paying attention to the growing body of research on physical punishment. They recognize the need for child discipline, but they want that discipline to be effective and not harmful.

A. Chapman’s inferences surrounding human rights are puzzling if not downright bizarre. Human rights are fundamental—they are not based on gender, status, or age. Women in Canada once had no right to protection from assault by husbands. Apprentices were once beaten legally by masters. Years ago, when women and apprentices were given the same right to protection from assault by husbands and masters, there were objections and laments.

When the same objections to providing children with protection from being hit are voiced today, they should be regarded as a sad echo of history and not a serious rationale for ineffective and harmful discipline of young Canadians. Ron Ensom, Ottawa

Jan 19/10 Letter in Telegraph-Journal  Hitting defenceless children must be ended
Charles W. Moore uses an unpublished, and hence unverifiable, study to express approval of spanking and “the strap” as used 50 years ago during his school days. His approval is based on “thousands of years of parenting,” the American College of Pediatricians, and Section 43 of our Criminal Code.

For “thousands of years” children were treated as the property of parents with few rights of their own. Beatings and floggings in the name of discipline were the order of the day. This historical legacy was only seriously challenged in the last century and is hardly a sound basis for current policy.

With respect to the American College of Pediatricians, its approval of spanking is not at all persuasive. It left the long-established and respected American Academy of Pediatrics in order to promote its own extreme views on various social issues, including corporal punishment. Unlike the College, the Academy clearly recommends against spanking.

As for Section 43 of the Criminal Code, its approval of corporal punishment reflects the understanding of children and discipline at the time it came into our Code in 1892. Well over 100 Canadian organizations as well as several parliamentary committees agree that this legacy of hitting defenceless children must be ended.
Corinne Robertshaw, Repeal 43 Committee, Toronto

Jan/14/10 Letter in National Post  ‘Hitting is hitting. Let’s just stop it’  
Re: A Good Spanking, Barbara Kay, Jan. 13.

Why are we, in 2010, still trying to justify hitting kids?

In the column I was struck by Barbara Kay’s closing comment: ” ‘different strokes’ — or not — ‘for different folks.’ “I can remember the same comment being made about spousal abuse.

Hitting is hitting. Let’s just stop it.
Kathy Lynn, Parenting Today, Vancouver.

Jan 12/10 Letter in the Star Phoenix  Questionable research
A story in The StarPhoenix (and New York Times and other newspapers) in September quoted a study that found spanking may lower a child’s IQ. A recent report published in the London Times and Daily Telegraph newspapers noted that “a smacked child is a successful child,” suggesting that those chastised as youngsters do better in life. “Teenagers who had been hit by their parents from age seven to 11 were also found to be more successful at school than those not smacked,” said the story.

If we are to believe the conclusions from these two “research studies,” children who have been smacked/spanked suffer a decrease in their intelligence, but are more successful in school than children who have not been spanked.

The only reasonable conclusion from these studies is that one should take headline-grabbing reports of “research findings” — and that includes many of the public opinion surveys — with a huge grain of salt.
John McLeod, Saskatoon

Jan 08/10 Letter in National Post A Spanked Child May Be A Better Adult: Study Jan 6.
Whether hitting defenceless young children is a good way to teach them is a moral issue quite apart from what conflicting studies tell us about its effects. If hitting a defenceless child is a good way to teach acceptable behaviour, is it also a good way to teach acceptable behaviour to a defenceless parent suffering from dementia? Or from depression?

Would it be even better for the law to approve such hitting on the basis that you can’t reason with such parents and the only way to stop their unacceptable behaviour is by hitting; providing, of course, that the hitting is “reasonable” and makes the parent perform better?
Corinne Robertshaw, Repeal 43 Committee, Toronto.


Oct 16/09 Article in Star Phoenix (SaskatoonSpanking risks children’s well-being
By George Georget
Prompted by a “What do you think?” survey from a Conservative MP, I have checked off “Yes” to the statement: “I agree with Michael Ignatieff’s Liberal senator — all spankings should be illegal.” The alternative was: “No, parents have a right to choose how to discipline their own kids.”  This is not a matter of political parties per se, or liberty for parents/guardians. Rather, it’s a matter of civility and humanity. An amendment to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is crucial on this issue.

How often have you witnessed judicious parents smiling lovingly and issuing warmth from their eyes when striking their child? Fortunately, it is much rarer now — I’m not so certain about what happens in the private domain — to see parents striking their little loved ones in public. However, any time I have witnessed such violence, the emotions transmitted by the adult handing out the “punishment” have been nothing but negative, caused perhaps by frustration or embarrassment, or even trying to do the right thing by having their children grow up to be model citizens — peace loving and respectful of others.

If discipline is about behaviour and not the person, then striking someone makes no sense. Children hold their parents as models. So, if a person who loves you hits you — spanking is an euphemism for striking — then, in the hurly burly of life and the matter of striving for emotional intelligence, it is little wonder that children will resort, as do adults, to physical expression that includes hitting or worse. We wonder where bullying and violent behaviours originate?

Hitting, or spanking as the Conservative MP calls it, is a strange and unnecessary communication tool to say: “I love you, I care for you and I want you to grow up to be a law abiding citizen.” If there are some among us who believe that children are not capable of understanding corrective language and loving interventions, then how in the world can they be confident that a slap or tap or slug will successfully transmit the intended message? The lesson learned is: “Hitting is OK.”

The Supreme Court of Canada is well advised to review its January 2004 decision that “a parent’s right to choose to spank his or her child is legal and congruent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.” If any judge who experienced “spanking” and finds himself or herself on the bench and attributes that personal success to such tender violence, may I suggest that it is purely coincidental. I will bet that parents relied on addressing the behaviours and appealed to their children’s intelligence and propensity for peace, respect and civil guidance.

Spanking may be on the lowest rung of the staircase of violence, but it is nevertheless on that dangerous staircase. I sincerely hope that, as a peace-loving, humane and reasonable society, we have, in addition to the “Liberal-dominated Senate,” the good sense and trust in humanity to take the elevator to total non-violence. We know where the staircase of violence leads.

We also must know how to reach the full dignity of proper conduct, especially with children who have virtually no form of defence if we are to allow “spanking.” If, we as parents cannot come up with an alternative, then society will continue to struggle.

We have stopped spanking adults, for whom other forms of communication and appeal to good judgment seem to suffice. Why would we ever want to reserve that right only for parents and other adults? MP Kelly Block should challenge herself, her party and our government to reconsider what is much more important — the well-being of all children whose welfare runs the risk of being lost in this politically charged question.

Oct 16/09 article in Star Phoenix Better options exist than force to correct kids
By Ailsa M. Watkinson
Re: Keeping contact with constituents treated seriously (SP, Oct. 9). MP Kelly Block appears to believe that her responsibility to the Canadian electorate stops at the boundaries of her riding and includes only those of voting age. But as a Member of Parliament her influence is felt across the country — a point made most evident from the public interest in her recent flyer that supports the use of physical punishment on children. In it she dismisses the issue of violence against children in the home and elsewhere as a non-issue in comparison to the possible imprisonment of “loving parents” who hit their children.

She believes that governments have no place in judging the conduct of those parents. She further states that if parents were prohibited from using physical punishment on children, they could no longer place an unwilling child into a car seat. She’s wrong on all counts.
There are now 24 countries that have banned the use of physical punishment on children and there is no evidence that child welfare intervention or prosecutions have increased in any of these countries.

Block has confused physical punishment with restraint. Restraint differs from physical punishment in that the intent is not to cause pain or humiliation, but to prohibit or remove a person from causing harm to themselves or others. Restraint protects the child from physical harm.

The misrepresentation of this important issue by politicians and others has lethal consequences. A 2003 Canadian study found that 75 per cent of incidents that meet the definition of child abuse have been attributed to parental discipline that escalated from physical punishment. That same year 59 Canadian children under the age of 18 were killed, 31 of them by a family member.  Without a doubt, the culture of acceptance that surrounds physical punishment of children contributes to these numbers.

Research has shown that even mild to moderate forms of physical punishment have serious long-term effects, including disrupted child cognitive and mental development, increased depression and aggressive tendencies.

Block, other politicians, and all of us may find it instructive to listen to children. A recent survey of 1,300 children under the age of 18 found that 75 per cent believe it is wrong for an adult to hit a child, under any circumstances. The children said physical punishment sets a bad example and leaves them feeling ashamed, scared and unloved. Ninety-four per cent of the children believe there are better alternatives.

Sweden’s example provides such an alternative. The country is celebrating 30 years since it banned child physical punishment. This does not mean that parents do not discipline their children. Obviously they do. They just don’t hit them. They apply disciplinary consequences, reprimands, set boundaries or removal of privileges. Since the ban was passed, youth involvement in crime has decreased, as have youth suicide and drug use.

Sept 30/09 Cowichan Valley Citizen, Vancouver Island Growing Intolerant
We were shocked to hear about the case of the woman who was kicked off a transit bus in Victoria because her child was crying loudly — as children will do. We were even more shocked to hear that many people seem to agree with the bus driver and are condemning the mother for not being able to quiet her toddler. One wonders if these people have ever had any contact with young children. You try ensuring that a child under the age of two never cries in a public place. We find it difficult to believe that anybody who’s ever been a parent would voice such a ridiculous thought.

We were frankly disturbed to hear a number of people blame a lack of discipline — reading between the lines — corporal punishment. In this day and age it is pretty horrifying to learn that some are still proponents of hitting a child into submission; smacking them until they’re quiet, or too scared of you to challenge you or make a noise. Ironically, such proponents inevitably seem to argue that a lack of corporal punishment is the reason for youth violent crime and disrespect. Perhaps they should consider the idea that violence begets violence. Hitting a child to teach them not to hit is preposterous. We’re all so used to our little isolated boxes, we’re no longer tolerant enough of the irritations that come with living with others. That’s the true downfall of our times, not a crying child.
Editor, Andrea Rondeau., Cowichan Valley Citizen

Sept 8/09 Letter in Ottawa Citizen Police right to charge dad for excessive force
Re: Ontario dad charged with spanking nine-year-old in public, Sept. 1. Grabbing a child by the throat and then spanking him is horrendous abuse. The Renfrew police are right to charge this man with assault.

While Section 43 of the Criminal Code still allows corporal punishment of a child if the punishment is “transitory and trifling,” this case was anything but trifling. It was very serious, and I fear for this child’s life. Enough children are injured and die from abuse every year; we should take care to save those we know are endangered by violent adults.
Twenty-four countries around the world have banned all corporal punishment of children. In Canada, children aged two to 12 are the only citizens left who can be legally hit. This is discrimination toward a very vulnerable group of people. This unfair treatment must end. Canada should join those nations that acknowledge children are worth protecting, and replace violent, misguided punishments with good communication and positive parenting. Susan Lawrence, Manotick

Sept 5/09 Letter in Globe and Mail I am kid, hear me roar
On behalf of toddlers, I must object to the jocular tone of your editorial Truth About Tantrums (Sept. 3). Are we toddlers not human? If we are cut, do we not bleed (and scream)? A number of us are born introverts. To be “dragged kicking and screaming to daycare” is a terrible fate. We spend longer days there than our parents are at work, because we are dropped off before they go to work and picked up afterward. So why wouldn’t some of us be depressed?

The estimate of depression among us is not high compared with that made for the adult population. Surely, some of our parents go to work kicking and screaming mentally but have learned the necessity of keeping silent. We haven’t; we’re too young and honest in our view of life. And unlike editorial writers, we can’t even go for a quiet lunch and a beer to ease the cares of the day.
Catherine Lissaman Mantell, Chelsea, Que.

Sept 4/09 Letter in Globe and Mail Real truth about tantrums
The basic premise in your editorial mocking the purported high level of depression among Quebec preschoolers (Truth About Tantrums – Sept. 3) is part of the reason that kids don’t get the help they need until they’re troublemakers in Grade 2. There’s an assumption that children are not people. Instead, they are “others” whom adults assume all live that fantasy – the carefree childhood. We love to think kids don’t have real worries, but why should they be any different from adults?

In my 25 years as a family therapist, I’ve seen many young children who are sad, worried and angry, who rarely laugh and have trouble relaxing. The solution lies with helping the child in the context of the family. A good family therapist should be able to isolate the problem so that parents learn how to help the child feel happier.

Don’t pooh-pooh depressed toddlers. They need to be taken seriously so that they can learn to take life less seriously.
Vikki Stark, Montreal

Aug 22/09 Letter in Ottawa Citizen Child neglect is a serious crime
Re: Protecting someone else’s child — is it your duty? Aug. 19.
When you frame this question as though a child is a parent’s possession, it sounds as though the person doing the protecting is interfering. But when you frame the question as though a child is a person, then it becomes more like the real situation: “Protecting a helpless, obviously distressed, person from unnecessary suffering and possible death from heat stroke — is it your duty?” the answer is clear.

I would have done exactly as this brave and caring woman did and tried to call the police first, and when unsuccessful in contacting them, done the sensible thing and taken the baby out of the sweltering car. But the natural thing to do when an abandoned baby is in distress is to pick the baby up and remove her from the dangerous situation, in this case, a stiflingly hot car.

This mother is charged with leaving her little baby in a car, unattended, with the doors unlocked, and with the windows up on a very hot day. This is gross neglect. While it is “not a crime to be dumb,” it is a crime to leave a baby unattended in a closed up car on a very hot day. Still, we needn’t come to the conclusion, and say the sky is falling and parents will be put “in jail for every stupid move they made.” But this baby’s life was allegedly endangered by her own mother. Child neglect is a serious crime. And let us remember that children are people, not possessions, and their lives deserve saving as much as anyone else’s.
Susan Lawrence, Manotick

Feb 3/09 Letter in Globe and Mail Violence breeds violence
Yet again we read of a youthful murderer who was “whacked” daily by his mother, and at the age of 6 “turned up at school sobbing because the mother had hit him with a broom” (A System Focused Too Heavily On The Rights Of The Violent – Jan. 30).

How long will it be before we act on the knowledge that violence breeds violence? How long before a child’s right to a violence-free upbringing is clearly recognized by the law? How long before Parliament repeals a section of the Criminal Code that puts its stamp of approval on hitting children as discipline?
Corinne Robertshaw, Repeal 43 Committee, Toronto


The following articles and letters appear as published:

July 3/08 Letter in Globe and Mail Striking out at hitting
Just who is the most spiritually sick in Lorna Dueck’s world of spiritual sickness (No Place For The State In The Families Of The Nation  –  June 30)?  The two-year-old who dares to say “no”; the parent who then hits him; the senators who want to end legal approval of this hitting under Section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada; or the Lorna Duecks of this world who want the hitting to continue?
Corinne Robertshaw, Repeal 43 Committee, Toronto

July 1/08 Letter in Globe and Mail 
Perhaps Ms. Dueck should focus on the innate goodness of children and cease needing to worry about the “sin”.
Joanne Manley, Victoria

July 1/08 Letter in Globe and Mail Spanking is like fast food
Drat!  Just as I was looking forward to a relaxing breakfast with the Globe on my first full day of retirement after 31 years of teaching, what do I encounter but Lorna Dueck’s column No Place For The State In Families Of The Nation (June 30).  With all the research in child development, it’s hard to believe she writes “we’re born with sin in our genes”, as though children are sinful little beings whose wills have to be broken.

Apparently, the legal guidelines “of never spanking with an object or a closed hand” make it okay, even desirable, for parents to whack their kids into submission.  It must be the “open-handed” that makes all the difference, I presume. Countless ways exist to discipline children without hitting them.  No one method works all the time; no one method works with every child.  Intelligent parents already know this.

Spanking is like fast food:  it’s fast, it works for the moment, it takes zero thought, but in the long run, it’s bad for you.  Spanking simply teaches children to obey out of fear of being caught and punished.  It doesn’t teach self-discipline; it teaches children it’s okay for big people to hit little people, that it’s okay to do something as long as you don’t get caught.
Wendy Kerr Hadley, Port Credit, Ontario

June 25/08  Letter in Ottawa Citizen The effects of spanking are obvious
Re: Who knows best? June 23.
The writer of this letter asks an important question, “Do their (non-spanking parents’) children turn out to be better citizens?” The answer is a resounding “Yes!” Research has shown, over and over again, that spanking children tends to increase anti-social behaviour. A Columbia University meta-analysis of 88 research studies found that spanking children increased aggression and criminality, weakened parent-child relationships, decreased mental health outcomes, and increased the risk of being victimized in abusive relationships in adulthood. A 1990 population health survey by the Ontario Ministry of Health of 5,000 adults showed higher levels of anxiety, major depression, and alcohol abuse among those who had been spanked as children versus those who had not. Another survey in California showed that the less a child is physically punished, the greater chance the child would later earn a college degree and avoid a life of crime. A study just out this year from the University of New Hampshire at Durham shows that spanking children increases the chance they will have sexual problems later in life (coercing dating partners into having sex, engaging in risky sex, and participating in masochistic sex). A study from the University of Manitoba found that since banning spanking in 1979, Sweden has seen youth crime and suicide drop. Also, various studies have shown that a substantial proportion of child abuse cases begin as spanking.

Who wouldn’t want a society with less aggression, crime, substance abuse, child abuse, depression, and sexual problems? Who wouldn’t want a society with more college graduates and better mental health? We need to listen to the facts and stop believing myths about spanking. A better society will be ours if Canada passes the bill to ban corporal punishment of children.
Susan Lawrence, Manotick

June 25/08  Letter in Calgary Herald Slap on wrist!
Where will it stop? This question was attributed to a frustrated lawyer on the losing end of a parent’s rights case. I thought the same question while reading Corbella’s opinion. Where will the knee-jerk reactions of the hitters stop in the fear of losing control? No one is interested in jailing a parent for hitting a very small child on their clothed bottom. Educating and providing practical alternatives are what’s needed. If laws to protect children were sufficient, then children would not be dying and suffering daily in Canada and here in the U.S.A. at the much larger hands and weapons (belts, paddles, etc.) of adults.

Where will the irony stop? Corbella linked spanking to sexual deviancy several times. What she hasn’t realized is that hitting children on their pelvic region leads to just such behaviour. Just google spanking to find out.

I do agree with one statement, but in a different context. Even when corporal punishment is outlawed in favour of protecting children over the desire of some parents to use violence to control children, where will it stop? I’ll let Corbella’s own words answer that: “Unfortunately it likely never will. Stupidity, perversion, relativism and just poor judgment are rampant.”
Paula Intravaia, San Diego

June 23/08  Letter Ottawa Citizen When a child is struck, parental trust is betrayed Re: Senate passes anti-spanking bill, June 19.
Only 23 of the UN’s 192 countries have decided to ban all violence against children.
This list must grow because brain research has shown over the past decade that putting a child, especially a small child, into states of fear and terror elicits the fight and flight and/or a dissociative response in their bodies, harms the development of their brains, causes brain lesions and changes the brain structure and brain chemistry, which has grave consequences for the adult’s health and self-confidence later in life.

The brain is not a fully developed organ at birth and the synapsis between the neurons, the brain cells, are built mostly during the first four years of life. As the human brain is a use-dependent organ that learns through experiences, violence and fear do terrible damage to a child’s developing brain and a human being’s potential. If the beating of small children remains allowed, we must face the fact that most people will continue to live with lesions in their brains, creating violence, chaos, terrorism and a mad society, unable to make healthy decisions.

Neurobiologists Bruce Perry and Martin Teicher have written much about their discoveries and research and we all must learn from their scientific knowledge. Nobody can today ignore these facts and recommend inhumane violence to “raise” children. Children’s chances to become healthy and well-developed human beings are greatly affected and diminished if they must suffer violence by their parents and are thus taught to use violence as a legitimate tool for settling conflicts. Every time an adult strikes a child, trust is betrayed, the child’s well-being is not cared for, his or her health and safety are not protected and the child’s life is endangered.
Barbara Rogers, Laredo, Texas, Author, Screams from Childhood

June 23/08  Letter in Vancouver Sun It’s time to prove we care about our children
Re: Senate passes anti-spanking bill, June 19
At least 24 developed countries have laws that give children the same protection from assault adults have. Canada is a latecomer to protecting children’s right to physical security and Parliament should pass the Senate’s proposed bill to repeal section 43 of the criminal code at the earliest opportunity.

Rather than criminalizing parents, bringing the law into line with children’s right to physical safety encourages them to find more effective ways to guide and teach their children.  Corporal punishment has long been banned in schools, while still allowing for the physical restraint of a child when necessary for safety.

There is no good reason to keep a legal defense that allows adults to “use force by way of correction” against children. Canada signed the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child in 1991.  It’s time our laws showed children the same respect we expect them to show us.
Adrienne Montani, First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition

June 23/08  Letter in Ottawa Citizen Serve as model
Thank you to the Canadian Senate for passing a bill protecting children from
corporal punishment. If your House of Commons adopts the legislation, children in Canada may soon have a measure of protection long ago given to all other humans.
We would be wise to use your enlightened country as a model for teaching children how to become caring and responsible adults without beating them.
Nadine Block, Columbus, Ohio, Center for Effective Discipline

May 21/08  Letter to Windsor Star  Corporal punishment never justified
From time to time, someone will write in defending spanking as if the jury is still out deliberating as to whether parents spanking a child — corporal punishment — to correct a behaviour that is not acceptable is right or wrong.

The latest was entitled Cult of the Kid Benefits No One, May 3, in which the writer seems to believe that no right to spank equals no discipline, and ends up saying “spare the rod? Please,” suggesting that sparing the rod will not work.

To answer, let me quote from a lecture on Childhood Trauma by Alice Miller in New York City, Oct.22, 1998:

“We all know — or, today, we should all know — that physical punishment only produces obedient children but cannot prevent them from becoming violent or sick adults precisely because of this treatment. This knowledge is now scientifically proven and was finally officially accepted by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 1998. Contrary to common opinion prevalent as recently as 15 years ago, the human brain at birth is far from being fully developed. It is use-dependent, needing loving stimulation for the child from her first day on. The abilities a person’s brain can develop depend on experiences in the first three years of life.” (The complete lecture can be found through web search, enter-The Alice Miller Library.)

That was almost 10 years ago, and the proof has increased. The 2005 Repeal 43 Committee folder, End Legal Assaults On Children, lists several examples, Publications Sponsored By Health Canada Advising Against Corporal Punishment, ending with one entitled Nobody’s Perfect, 1997:
“It’s never OK to spank a child. It’s a bad idea and it doesn’t work.”
EVAN R. GRANT, Kingsville, Ontario

May 13/08 Letter to Windsor Star Choosing respect, peace an investment in child
Re Cult of the Kid, May 3. Letter writer Mr. Derbyshire appears to believe that if parents choose not to spank, they are choosing not to discipline. Well, fortunately for those parents who desire a more peaceful path, there are numerous alternatives that can be utilized instead of corporal punishment. We have several very knowledgeable parent educators within Essex County, as well as a vast array of available literature.

Spanking may be a quick and easy choice, particularly with our busy lifestyles; however, it does not engender mutual respect between parent and child. A parent demonstrates self respect by setting boundaries and guidelines for acceptable behaviour. A parent shows respect for their child by taking the time to learn alternative methods, which do not include physical punishment even if done in a ‘loving manner.” When a child becomes a teenager and life choices become potentially more serious, wouldn’t it be advantageous to develop a solid peaceful relationship to maintain open two-way dialogue?

Windsor recently hosted the Rotary Peace Conference, an important and necessary step toward more peaceful global relationships. We must find ways to learn the art of negotiation and compromise so we can work together toward a common goal.
Let peace begin in our homes.

May/08 Article in Today’s Parent  A World without Spanking
By John Hoffman  John Hoffman visits Sweden to report on attitudes to spanking 50 years after Sweden ended its defence to assault (similar to our s. 43) and almost 30 years after making this reform clear in its civil code. His interviews with Swedes showed that most parents think it’s wrong to hit a child. For those parents who continue to hit, the response is an early involvement with families with help and support – not prosecution. Sweden, Hoffman reports, has its share of children’s problems but in a recent UNICEF report on child well being in rich nations, Sweden ranks second. Canada ranked 12th.

Feb 19/08 Letter to Toronto Star Make law of the land official
Re School staff facing assault charges, Feb 16
Your article points out that no Ontario legislation bans corporal punishment in schools. We brought this to the attention of the Ontario government after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 2004 that corporal punishment by schoolteachers is “unreasonable” and that they can no longer use the special defence to “correctional” assaults on children given by Section 43 of the Criminal Code.

We asked that the Ontario Education Act ban such punishment to help the public understand that it is no longer legal. Eight other provinces/territories have done so, but the Ontario act remains silent. This new interpretation of this section by the Supreme Court still remains largely unknown to the public.

Without an unequivocal repeal of Section 43 by the federal government and an explicit ban on corporal punishment in provincial laws, too many children will continue to be subjected to this harmful and discriminatory practice. Clarity in the law and public education – rather than relying on judges to interpret the law – are the best ways to make it clear that hitting and strapping are no longer acceptable methods of correcting children.

Ottawa and Queen’s Park should end their silence on this issue.
Corinne Robertshaw, Repeal 43 Committee, Toronto


Oct 10/07 Letter to Kingsville Reporter
An excerpt from Childhood Trauma (Lecture, New York City-1998, Alice Miller Library) states ‘We all know – or, today, we should all know – that physical punishment only produces obedient children but cannot prevent them from becoming violent or sick adults precisely because of this treatment.

This knowledge is now scientifically proven and was finally officially accepted by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 1998. Contrary to common opinion prevalent as recently as fifteen years ago, the human brain at birth is far from being fully developed. It is use-dependent, needing loving stimulation for the child from her first day on. The abilities a person’s brain can develop depend on experiences in the first three years of life.’ (The Natural Child Project )

We need to repeal section 43 of the Canadian Criminal Code that legally allows parents and teachers or anyone on behalf of a parent to hit a child. (A Bill to repeal s. 43 is before parliament now – see for details)

See also web sites, Kangaroo Mother Care and NINO – standing for nine in and nine out – that the human gestation period is really 18 months. (It has been shown that children whose needs are met as nature intended starting at pre-birth, grow up being co-operative and considerate of others and self-motivated.)

Healthy parenting can start now with the above and Pam Leo’s recent book, Connection Parenting- Parenting through Connection instead of Coercion, Through Love instead of Fear. Christiane Northrup, MD, author of Mother-Daughter Wisdom, writes: “Connection Parenting is utterly transformational. If all parents and grandparents read and applied it’s wisdom, the world would be transformed.” Bravo! Suzanne Arms, founder of Birthing The Future, writes: “Connection Parenting contains the sacred grandmother wisdom that will reconnect us with our children.” (Many more commendations – Category of book: Parenting/Personal Growth)

For more documentation on the cause of criminal behaviour and mental illness go to the web site, APPPAH – The Association for Pre and Perinatal Psychology and Health.
Evan Grant, Kingsville, Ontario

Aug 13/07 Letter to Windsor Star Repealing section 43 will protect nation’s children
The Windsor Star reported on June 19 that Justice department officials advised the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights of negative implications of repealing Section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada. Physical punishment of children is one of the key factors in substantiated cases of physical injury to children. It is not surprising that a mix of emotion and power imbalance so often leads to injury. Repealing Section 43 would likely prevent thousands of incidents of child abuse and injury every year. Children can be raised successfully without being struck. It’s time we did so across Canada.
Dr. Ralph Billingsley, Psychologist, Chairman, Education Committee, Child Abuse Prevention Council of Windsor and Essex County

Aug 4/07 Letter to Windsor Star Response to spanking law should use common sense
I read your recent editorial entitled Spanking Parent Could Be Hit With Charges and was struck by the fear-mongering tone of your article. Specifically, you described a couple of scenarios that might occur if Sec. 43 of the Criminal Code were to be repealed.

Sec. 43 allows for parents and teachers to use reasonable force to control a child. You suggested that by removing this part of the Criminal Code, the police would be able to, for example, charge a well-intentioned parent who is trying to strap an unwilling child into a car seat, ostensibly they are using force. This is fear-mongering in my view. Rather than to assume the policy would apply the intent of the law, you assumed they would exploit the situation through a technicality. With any law, the police and Crown have the obligation to use discretion in the laying of a charge and the responsibility to determine if there is a reasonable likelihood of a conviction before proceeding with a charge.

While I appreciate that the use of corporal punishment can be “morally driven” behaviour by parents who have been led to believe it is right to “discipline” children in this manner, I would argue the following. The word discipline means “to teach.” Discipline is an essential element of child-rearing because it helps to establish limits and teaches self-control. Discipline is characterized by mutual respect and trust, and it includes a belief that the child will be willing to change because of either respect or with greater understanding.
Maureen Reid, Chairwoman, Child Abuse Prevention Council of London and Middlesex

Aug 4/07 Letter to Windsor Star, Feds need to recognize no time is right to hit a child
In response to the Aug .4 Windsor Star column by Antoon Leenaars entitled Make Suicide Prevention a Priority.

Re: Suicide is a major public health problem. Almost 4,000 people take their own lives in Canada every year. I say, start by repealing section 43 of the Canadian Criminal Code, so that children in Canada have the same protection against assault as adults. No adult can legally hit another adult in Canada, only children, the most helpless and vulnerable, with s. 43 in place can be legally assaulted for correction by parents. For details go

Alice Miller talks about suicide in her book, For Your Own Good  – Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence. This book can be read on line by going to the web site There is a bill before Parliament now to have s. 43 repealed. I would implore Dr. Leenaars and all to get on board to lobby for s. 43 to be repealed. Parliament will soon be back in session from the summer recess.

Health Canada has been saying for some time “that it is never right to hit a child.” Justice Canada needs to get on board, then a full scale program across Canada can be put in place to teach parenting from the heart. This will be for the health of children and adults in all ways. Parents need a Canada support system recognizing children as a priority.
Evan Grant, Kingsville

June 30/07 Letter to Windsor StarDon’t lower serious issue to the level of the absurd
Re: Editorial Let Parents Be Parents. Justice department lawyers who claim that putting a screaming toddler in a car seat or forcing one to wear boots instead of sandals could result in assault charges are reducing a serious issue to the level of the absurd.

Whether we should maintain Section 43 of the Criminal Code has absolutely nothing to do with such situations and everything to do with this section’s justification of physical punishment. Research shows that at least 10,000 childhood injuries each year begin with hitting and spanking as “correction.” Prosecuting abuse cases to the full extent of the law is an after-the-fact response. Preventing them must start with repealing this 1892 defence of assaults on children and educating the public on alternative approaches to discipline.

This legal licence to hit has not “worked well for more than 112 years,” as you assert. This is not borne out by judicial decisions allowing harmful and humiliating hitting of children under Section 43. The Supreme Court’s craven decision that continues to allow two-year-olds to be hit by parents simply reinforces this 19th-century attitude to children. The Senate is showing leadership where others prefer to confuse the public with straw arguments.
Corinne Robertshaw, Repeal 43 Committee, Toronto

June 30/07 Article in Ottawa Citizen Only the smallest can be hit
By Peter M. Dudding, Executive Director, Child Welfare League of Canada, Ottawa
As Andrea Mrozek and Dave Quist wrote in a Citizen op-ed last Monday (“Spanking is not child abuse”), most parents love their children and want to be great parents. But most learn parenting on the job. Often, spanking is an emotional reaction that parents soon regret. And sometimes parents spank because their own parents did, so they are unaware of better solutions.

One problem with spanking is that it doesn’t teach children what we really want them to learn. It doesn’t teach them how to resolve conflict, deal with frustration or express themselves appropriately. In fact, it models the opposite behaviours. Studies have consistently shown that even “everyday” forms of physical punishment predict higher levels of aggression in children, poorer parent-child relationships, and poorer mental health. Research clearly shows that ongoing physical punishment places children’s healthy development at risk over the long term.

Another problem with spanking is that it can easily lead to injury. Most parents who injure their children do not set out to harm them; most intend to discipline them. But the situation can escalate easily. A large Canadian study found that children who are spanked are seven times more likely to also experience severe violence (punching, kicking, choking) than those who are never spanked. Hitting a child in a highly emotional situation is a high-stakes response. If the child does not — or cannot — comply, the parent is likely to increase the intensity of the force. Given their size and strength difference, physical conflict between an adult and a child can easily end in injury.

Is this situation just a rarity? According to the Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect, in 2003 alone there were more than 18,000 substantiated cases of physical maltreatment that took place in disciplinary situations. Family violence researchers have known for decades that most of what we call physical abuse actually is physical punishment — and that most abusive parents believe that their acts were justified.

Canada’s law confirms this belief. Our law, which dates from 1892, explicitly states that physical punishment is “justified.” Over the past century, legal justifications for physical punishment of prisoners, apprentices and sailors have been removed from the Criminal Code because it was recognized that physical punishment was not a constructive way to change adults’ behaviour and that it opened the door to increasingly severe violence. It is now only our smallest and most physically vulnerable citizens — children — who can legally be hit. It is time that our laws reflect our knowledge and values about healthy child development.

By removing the legal justification for physical punishment of children, Canada would send a message that children are not to be hit. As a result, parents would be less likely to hit their children, fewer children would be harmed, and professionals could offer support to families long before a child is injured. The government’s own efforts to prevent violence against children would no longer be undermined by a law that states that hitting them is justified.

Canada is not the first country to consider this issue. Nineteen countries have laws stating that children cannot be hit. There are no “spanking police” in these countries. Their laws are meant to shift attitudes and deter parents from hitting their children. As a result, prosecution of parents becomes less likely. In Sweden, law reform has been followed by more supportive and preventive child-welfare measures, decreased youth involvement in crime, lower alcohol and drug use by youth, and lower youth suicide rates. Contrary to Ms. Mrozek’s and Mr. Quist’s claims, there has not been a rise in youth violence there; reporting rates have increased because of anti-bullying campaigns, but there is no evidence that the true rate of violence has increased.

More than 260 professional organizations support the removal of the law that justifies physical punishment of children. Children need discipline that is effective, not harmful.

Most parents do not want to spank their children. Rather than encouraging parents to continue doing so, we hope family and community organizations continue to provide constructive support and information that parents need to move beyond spanking their children. And we hope all Canadians will join the global effort to prevent violence against children.
Peter M. Dudding, Executive Director, Child Welfare League of Canada, Ottawa

Comment: At the June 18/07 hearings before the Senate Committee on Human Rights, Dave Quist identified himself as Exec. Director, Institute of Marriage and Family Canada, which he described as a research think tank. Andrea Mrozek appeared with him. When Senator Munson asked “Who is the Institute?’ Mr. Quist replied that it was established in Ottawa 18 months ago and is the policy research arm of Focus on the Family Canada.

American psychologist and right-wing republican, James Dobson, the founder and International President of FOF, writes parenting books advising parents to hit children as young as 15-months with an object such as a switch for ‘wilful disobedience’. His books are publicized by FOF Canada. When asked by Senator Carstairs about this advice, Mr. Quist replied that since the Supreme Court has prohibited anything other than an open hand (in hitting children), ‘we would have to abide by the court’s ruling in this case.’

June 29/07 Letter to Windsor Star  Comments likely to delay changes to Criminal Code
The testimony given by Justice department officials to the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights, as reported in The Windsor Star June 19, is misleading and harmful. It is misleading because it suggests the justice system would countenance reckless and pointless prosecution of parents for performing the normal and caring duties of parenting. It is harmful because it delays the inevitable repeal of Section 43 of the Criminal Code — the Canadian law that denies children the same protection from assault granted by Canadian law to every adult.
Ron Enson, Ottawa

June 27 Letter to National Post Spanking: It’s assault
Re: Spanking isn’t a crime, editorial, June 21  Hitting a child as a method of discipline causes at least 10, 000 injuries of Canadian children each year.  If your editorial board wants to engage in a rational dialogue with readers on the law that justifies this hitting, you could read this research. It is on our Web site. But if you don’t want to face these facts, you can instead label those who address them as ‘nitwits’. This takes less thinking.
Corinne Robertshaw, Repeal 43 Committee, Toronto

June 6/97 Letter to Toronto Star  Stop Spankings
Wayne Isaacs beats his young daughter to death during a “spanking” and is sentenced to 5 years. If the Canadian justice system would recognize that spanking, slapping, etc., are forms of abuse, perhaps spankings wouldn’t go too far and children wouldn’t keep losing their lives in the name of discipline. How many children need to be beaten to death before the Criminal Code is amended?
Carol Walling, Uxbridge

June 5/07 Letter to California newspapers  State gives green light to child beaters
Assemblywoman Sally Lieber’s courageous, forward-looking bill which would have given California children partial protection against assault and battery — a protection that all other citizens take for granted — has been bullied into oblivion. How did that happen?

The bill’s opponents refused to evaluate it on its merits. They ducked every opportunity to engage in an honest debate based on the facts. They seemed indifferent to, or willfully ignorant of, the ethical considerations that arise when an inferiorclass of citizen is afforded less-than-equal protection of the law. They ignored the long-standing consensus of scientific opinion on the subject. And they refused to examine how reforms similar to this bill have functioned over time elsewhere in the developed world.

Instead, they regurgitated the time-honored, unctuous bromides about the sanctity of the family, and about the need for government to keep its nose out of people’s private lives — exactly the same arguments that until recently gave spouse batterers near-total immunity. They mounted a clever propaganda campaign that wildly exaggerated the bill’s presumed punitive intentions, e.g., “to turn loving parents into criminals,” and that trivialized the abusive behaviors it was intended to curb, e.g., “giving a naughty child a loving tap on the bottom to get his attention.” It worked.

In rejecting a measure that would have protected many California children from mistreatment, injury and, in some cases, death, this legislature set a new low standard in the annals of state government for cowardly abrogation of moral responsibility. While pretending to protect “The Family,” it turned its back on the children. It declined to extend the most basic of human rights — the right to be safe from assault and battery — to the state’s most vulnerable citizens.
Jordan Riak, Exec. Dir. Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education (PTAVE)

Note: The above letter was sent to 11 California papers but not published.

The following is a translation of an article that appeared in L’eau vive, a Saskatchewan French-language newspaper. The author is a retired social worker. The French original is shown below.

May 3/07 L’EAU VIVE, Corporal punishment

It is difficult to understand the nostalgia that certain persons have for old-time methods of punishment for children and young adolescents. Some articles in newspapers seem to indicate that problems with young people stem from the fact that authority figures have lost the right to inflict these good old fashioned punishments! This in spite of studies done across the world that show the negative results of corporal punishment and the efforts made by the UN with regard to the rights of the child. Since time immemorial, many children have been struck by their parents, grandparents, teachers and even uncles, aunts, sitters, visitors, etc. Multiply this during a 12-year period of their existence! It is unfortunately the plight of many, even in our day.

I was 15 years old, when a teacher struck me across the face. He had told me not to help another student who was getting more and more upset with her Algebra problem. I helped her again, defying the teacher’s orders. I have never thought that I “deserved” this slap. I have no respect for that man, even sixty years later. It was simple, all he had to say was; “ You want to help her, well you will both stay after school for an hour and you can show her how to solve the problem.” I was lucky though compared to many other children. My parents did not have strong convictions as some did in favour of corporal punishment. Furthermore, they were opposed to the injustice, too popular in those days, where a child was punished twice; once at school and again on coming home.

We were all raised in a society said to be “democratic” yet violence was accepted. An adult could strike a little person. Even in the 1950s, a man could strike his wife without any great fear of the law. The “bullies” are not a new phenomenon: they existed long ago and reigned supreme in the schoolyard, etc. We became conditioned to this violence.

What can be done?

• Put aside pride, admit our personal errors—our actions, our attitudes towards this accepted violence of the old days and still present today.

• Recognize that we are all victims of our time.

• Learn to teach without striking; there are many other methods of discipline.

• Support striking down Section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada.

• Reject the misinterpreted proverbs of the Old Testament such as: “Spare the rod, and spoil the child.”  There is nothing in the New Testament that teaches corporal punishment of children. On the contrary, it says clearly: Whatsoever you do to these little ones, you do unto me!

May 3/07 Article L’EAU VIVE, Punitions corporelles
Il est difficile d’essayer de comprendre la nostalgie que certaines personnes ont pour les anciennes méthodesde punir les enfants et les jeunes adolescents. Il y a quelques mois un article dans L’Eau Vive semblait indiquer que les problèmes de la jeunesse d’aujourd’hui existent parce que les gens en autorité n’ont plus le droit d’infliger les bonnes punitions d’autrefois! Celà en dépit de toutes sortes d’études à travers le monde quiindiquent les résultats négatifs de la punition corporelle et des efforts fournis par les Nations-Unies pour les droits de l’enfant. Depuis toujours, plusieurs se sont fait frapper presque chaque jour par leurs parents, grand-parents, instituteurs, parfois même oncles, tantes, gardiennes, visiteurs etc. Multipliez celà pendant 12 ans de leur existence ! C’est malheureusement le sort de beaucoup, même de nos jours !

A 15 ans, un professeur m’a donné une claque au visage. Il m’avait interdit d’aider une autre élève. Elle, toute énervée, n’arrivait pas à faire son devoir. Je l’ai aidée une deuxième fois, défiant ainsi le professeur. Je n’ai jamais pensé avoir ¨mérité¨cette claque!  Je n’ai eu aucun respect pour cet homme, encore moins 60 ans plustard! C’était simple, il n’avait qu’à dire: “tu veux vraiment l’aider? alors tu resteras après les classes et tu l’aideraspendant une heure.”¨Moi, j’étais chanceuse, comparée à trop d’autres enfants. Mes parents (nés dans les années 1890 ) n’avait pas de fortes convictions pour la punition corporelle. De plus, ils étaient opposés à la très grande injustice trop populaire autrefois, de punir une deuxième fois, de retour à la maison!

Nous avons tous été élevés dans une société dite ¨démocratique¨où la violence était acceptée. Un adulte pouvait frapper légalement une toute petite personne. En 1910-20 et même en 1950, un homme pouvait  frapper son épouse sans grande crainte de la loi. Les ¨bullies¨ ne sont pas un nouveau phénomène: depuis jadis ils régnaient suprême dans la cour de l’école etc.

Nous sommes devenus conditionnés à cette violence.

Que faire ?

1. Mettre de côté l’orgueil, admettre nos erreurs personnelles—nos actions, nos attitudes envers la violence encore de nos jours acceptée, et celles des âges. ( Il y en a aujourd’hui qui reconnaissent leurs fautes et disent “J’aurais pas du faire cela!”)

2. Reconnaître que nous sommes tous des victimes de notre temps.

3. Apprendre à éduquer sans frapper, il y a beaucoup d’autres méthodes de discipline.

4. Supporter l’abolition de l’Article 43 du Code Criminel du Canada.

5. Rejeter les dictons mal interprétés de l’Ancien-Testament comme celui-ci : ¨Si tu ne corriges pas l’enfant avec une verge,il sera gâté. ¨Spare de Rod and Spoil the Child.

6. Il n’y a rien dans le Nouveau-Testament qui indique des punitions corporelles pour enfants. Au contraire, on nous dit clairement: “CE QUE VOUS FAITES AU PLUS PETIT D’ENTRE LES MIENS, C’EST À MOI QUE VOUS LE FAITES”

(20 ans travailleuse sociale.)

April 26/07Article in Winnipeg Free Press Spare the rod, spare the child
Spanking does not encourage learning, quite the opposite

The broad acceptance of physical punishment is a world-wide issue.

According to Penelope Leach, a British pediatrician and parent educator, a random sample of British children at the age of four years indicated that 97 per cent were spanked. The United States reported that more than 90 per cent of all parents slap or spank their children. In Canada, 75 per cent of Canadian parents use spanking as a regular method of discipline, according to a 1995 University of Manitoba study by Drs. Durrant and Rose-Krasnor.

What’s so wrong with a spanking? There is a growing body of evidence, which contradicts the use of corporal punishment as a teaching tool. In fact, studies show it has the exact opposite effect in increasing aggressive behaviour and providing children with a model of using violence as a problem-solving option.

Leach suggests using your own observations if you are still not convinced. If children have learned from having been spanked you would expect that they would need it less often. But in fact, what is more likely to happen is that the level of punishment must be increased, hence the danger of it escalating into abuse.

A number of countries have already instituted legislation prohibiting its use as a regular parenting tool.

They include Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Austria, Cyprus, Latvia, Croatia, Israel, Germany, Italy and most recently, Scotland for children under the age of three, according to the Repeal 43 Committee.

The Repeal 43 Committee ( in Canada continues to follow their lead to have this archaic (1892) and draconian law removed.

At present, it allows teachers, parents and guardians to use ‘reasonable’ force by way of correction, the term ‘reasonable’ providing a wide latitude of legal interpretation. When something is entered into law, it sets guidelines, expectations and standards by which a society ought to live. The purpose is not to criminalize parents but to provide direction for the appropriate discipline of young children.

The extensive research alone showing the negative impact of physical punishment should be reason enough. But there are additional bases that justify change to this approach to discipline.

According to Abraham Maslow, world-renowned psychologist, feelings of safety and security are one of the basic human needs second only to air, food and shelter. Humans need to feel free from any real or perceived danger to maximize their full developmental potential. How safe can a child feel if the person who is supposed to nurture and provide protection becomes the attacker? In the eyes of a small, helpless child, this powerful, angry giant can appear very frightening indeed.

Control through fear may work temporarily but does not develop internal discipline. The child will behave only under external controls that can continue into adulthood, not to mention triggering feelings of resentment and anger that fester into revenge behaviours.

But children are not capable of organizing and have no political voice. The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child spoke for them in 1989 and determined children have the same rights as all human beings. They have a right to grow up in a safe and secure environment.

While it is unfortunate that laws should be required to enforce humane care of our children, I would hope that reason and understanding may also persuade some that non-violence is the best teacher. We start with the premise that most parents want to help their children develop not only into well-behaved, socialized human beings, but to be happy and healthy adults as well. It is not the intent but the method that presents problems. What behaviours we, as parents, choose to reach that goal will depend on our knowledge and beliefs.

Our choices are based on a belief system that originates from various sources, such as our own childhood experiences, our religious views or simply a lack of knowledge. Historically, the view of the nature of the child has changed over the centuries. For example, at one time the child was seen as inherently bad – a creature actively seeking to “get away with” or “oppose the norms.” This “badness” had to be “corrected” by the use of physical punishment in order to “knock it out to ensure the future of cooperative citizens.

But our understanding of the nature of the child has changed. When childhood was eventually identified as a unique stage of human growth our knowledge of child development exploded. Extensive research and studies for over a century has led to our present understanding of the child as being neither good nor bad. Children behave to get their needs met, as we all do. Their behaviours will be directed according to what is socially acceptable in a particular family and environment.

The concept of parenting skills and the role of parents have emerged as central in response to this new information. As children develop, their needs change and parenting is a constant challenge that requires knowledge, intelligence, patience, creativity and yes – discipline.

But discipline and punishment are not synonymous. Discipline is defined as teaching, while punishment is defined as causing or inflicting pain (in one form or another). It is generally accepted that people do not learn well under stress or pain, so punishment in the form of spanking is a poor teacher. Yet, despite our present knowledge, these beliefs are still very much with us today.

While SpankOut Day encourages parents and caregivers to set aside one day not to hit children, the goal is to expand that to 365 spank-free days through awareness and education.

“To get where we want to go with our children we need to take a longer route, teaching them with our heads and hearts rather than with our hands and belts,” Penelope Leach says.

SpankOut Day on April 30

On April 30, a special day will be set aside in the U.S. and many countries around the world called SpankOut Day.

It is sponsored by the Center for Effective Discipline, the headquarters for EPOCH-U.S., an acronym for End Physical Punishment of Children. Coalitions in various parts of Canada also participate in planning events to promote this day as part of the Global Initiative to End Physical Punishment of Children (

These groups are maintained by several organizations that include the Canadian Institute of Child Health, the Canadian Public Health Association and the Child Welfare League of Canada, which endorse similar objectives.

The purpose is to bring attention to the negative impact of corporal punishment and to promote non-violent discipline. All parents, guardians and caregivers are encouraged to refrain from hitting children on this day and seek alternative methods available through programs in their communities (

April 17/07 Letter to Toronto Star Callwood’s wish in Senate’s hands
Re Saint June, April 15
The biggest part of June Callwood’s heart was reserved for her work on behalf of children. She wrote the justice minister asking him to repeal Section 43 of the Criminal Code, which justifies corporal punishment. The issue of Section 43 is currently before the Senate and we believe it will recommend ending this unjust and harmful 1892 defence to assaults on children. If it does, Saint June will be cheering.
Corinne Robertshaw, Repeal 43 Committee,Toronto

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Oct 18/06 Letter in Ottawa Citizen Protect children from corporal punishment
Re: Child Protection, Oct 16.
As your editorial on the United Nations study on violence against children rightly notes, children have less protection than any other group in society. The UN study recognizes this and therefore calls on member states to end adult justification of violence against children in the name of tradition or disguised as discipline.

The Canadian example of the latter is Section 43 of the Criminal Code that allows corporal punishment of children for “correction”. In its split 2004 decision, the majority of the Supreme Court of Canada perpetuated this inequality by upholding this 1892 section if limited in the ways set out by the Court. This judicial rewriting of Section 43 is a primer on when, where and how to hit children and is clearly at odds with the UN study. As your editorial states, there is a tendency to regard children as the property of adults. Section 43 reflects this 19th century belief.

MPs now have a chance to begin the process of ending this unequal and harmful anachronism by supporting Senate Bill S-207. It calls for repeal of Section 43 with time for public education before coming into force. I urge any who are still uncommitted to respect the UN study and support this long-overdue reform of our law.
Corinne Robertshaw, Toronto, Founder and co-ordinator,
Repeal Criminal Code Section 43 Committee

Oct 18/06  Letter in Ottawa Citizen  Impact of violence
The Citizen editorial commending the UN secretary general’s study on violence against children and the need for action is spot on. The extent and nature of violence against children documented in the report is almost unimaginable.

The extensive research linking children’s experiences of violence to the development of violent behaviour as they grow into adults is now irrefutable. And common sense should surely tell us that if the world’s children are not protected from violence, the world will never be free of violence in all its forms.
Ron Ensom, Ottawa

Jan 24/06  Letter in Globe and Mail Making a difference
Having coached youth fastball for 17 years and been a scoutmaster for the past 20, I have kept a clipping by my bulletin board that says it all: “A hundred years from now, it won’t matter what kind of car you drove, how big your house was, nor how much money you had in the bank. But the world may be changed because you made a difference in the life of a child.”
John Barker, Sarnia, Ont.


Nov 25/05  Letter in Toronto Star  Need an inquest into Baldwin case
Re: Boy’s sister reeked of urine, witness says. Nov. 22.
Your report states that Jeffrey Baldwin’s seven-year old sister was reeking of urine at the time she was apprehended. Presumably she was also reeking of urine when she went to school. Either the school failed to report this to the authorities, or, if reported, the report was not acted upon. If the school failed to report this child as needing protection, the school should be required to answer for its failure. If a report were made, but not investigated, children’s aid failed both Jeffrey and his sister. There are many questions that need to be answered. An inquest is essential to answer these and other questions about this horrific case.
Ruth Miller, Toronto

Nov 2/05 Letter in Toronto Star  Constructive step out of boy’s death
Re Remembering little Jeffrey Oct. 31. The best way to remember Jeffrey Baldwin is to hold accountable those who in future fail to report that a child’s life is being seriously endangered by his caregivers. This would require a change in federal and provincial laws to make such failure an offence subject to a substantial penalty.  If the public had such a legal duty to report life-threatening abuse, other Jeffreys might be saved in time. This is one constructive step that could come out of Jeffrey’s appalling life and death. The minister of justice and provincial child protection ministers should take it.
Corinne Robertshaw, Repeal 43 Committee, Toronto

Oct 6/05 Letter in Globe and Mail  Duty to report abuse
Re As Little Jeffrey Sobbed And Suffered His Death Throes, Down The Hall, James Mills Kept Playing Video Games(Oct 1): Five-year-old Jeffrey Baldwin is abused and starved to death while six adults, including a non-family member, live in the house for at least part of this time. The two grandparents are now on trial for murder. But none of the others have committed any offence by failing to alert authorities to Jeffery’s plight.  Neither our Criminal Code nor Ontario’s child protection legislation penalize such a failure. True, the latter requires everyone to report abuse, but except for professionals, carries no penalty for failing to do so. And for them, the penalty is no more than a $1000 fine.

Before another Jeffrey suffers such an appalling life and death, we ask federal and provincial ministers to amend the law to require the public to report such cases—or face a substantial penalty for failing to do so.
Corinne Robertshaw, Repeal 43 Committee, Toronto

Oct 6/05  Letter in Toronto Star  Repeal legal license to hit
Re Cases of child abuse, neglect soar Oct. 4  The study released by Public Health Minister Carolyn Bennett shows an estimated 25,000 cases of physical abuse of children, not including Quebec children, were reported and substantiated in 2003.

As the lead investigator stated, many of these cases involved corporal punishment. This questionable method of discipline is justified by section 43 of the Criminal Code, a 19th century defence to parental assaults on children. We urge our federal politicians to end this harmful message by repealing this legal license to hit our most vulnerable citizens.
Corinne RobertshawRepeal 43 Committee, Toronto


Dec 22/04 Letter to Windsor Star Physical Punishment harmful for instilling discipline in kids
This is in response to Pastor Walt Bartel’s letter, Proper Spanking Can Help a Child (Dec 9). The pastor’s letter conveys the message that physical punishment such as spanking is not harmful and is an effective methods of discipline. Scientific research shows that physical punishment is in fact harmful and not a good way to discipline children. The research indicates that children who are subjected to physical punishment, such as spanking, are more likely to become physically aggressive toward siblings and family members, commit crimes and suffer emotional problems, such as depression and low self-esteem. As adults, they are more likely to use physical force against their partner and/or children.

Physical punishment such as spanking places children at an increased risk of child abuse. According to the Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect, the majority of substantiated investigations of physical abuse involved inappropriate punishment; 69 per cent. The purpose of physical punishment is to inflict some discomfort or pain on the child to correct improper behaviour. Physical punishment has the potential to escalate into physical harm or worse, abuse. It is easy to lose control and hurt someone when angry.

Many people in our society believe physical punishment is an effective method of teaching children right from wrong. Yes, it may stop a child from misbehaving at that moment. However, it is not an effective method of discipline. Discipline means to teach, not punish. Discipline is about teaching a child how to make good choices, have self-control and to have respect for him/herself and others. Physical punishment does not teach a child how to behave. It does not teach a child why a behaviour is wrong, or show the child the right way to behave. Instead, physical punishment teaches a child that hitting is OK, and that it is OK to hit if you are bigger and stronger.

There are different methods of effective discipline and many may need to be tied before one works. Even the best method may not work all the time. Children are not always predictable. Parenting is the most important task there is, and at times it can be very frustrating. Discipline takes time, patience and sometimes help from others. There are organizations in our area, such as the Windsor Essex County Health Unit, which offer free parent workshops, information on discipline, and there are also many books and internet sites available to help parents.
Elizabeth Dulmage, Manager, Comprehensive School Health Dept., Windsor Essex County Health Unit.

Dec 15/04 Letter to Windsor Star When spanking, what is ‘reasonable force?’
I would like to respond to Pastor Walt Bartel’s belief that proper spanking can help a child. I’m just curious if he has read anything about child development or discipline other than the Bible.

It frustrates me to hear people say that parenting is instinctual. If rearing children is the most important task you will face in your lives, doesn’t it deserve a little research? Any professional caregivers or parents who devote time and dedication to researching this touchy subject will find that spanking is not the answer. There is a considerable amount of material out there to assist caregivers in discipline strategies that are not harmful to children.

Discipline is about teaching a child what they have done is wrong, giving them ownership of the problem and giving them ways to solve it. It really works. You don’t have to ridicule or instill fear in them to get compliance. Most importantly, it leaves the child feeling loved, respected and competent.

Current law allows for punishing children with reasonable force. Who is to decide exactly what reasonable force is? Many child abusers who have seriously harmed children have used this law to their advantage to avoid punishment.
M. Chlumecky, Windsor

Oct 28/04 Letter to National Post Spare the Rod
Re: Spare the Rod and Calm the Child: Oct. 26.

Thank you for your front-page coverage of this important Statistics Canada study showing that physical punishment substantially increases aggressive behaviour, such as fighting and bullying, in children. This is the latest in a long list of studies in Canada and elsewhere that come to the same conclusion.

As the spokesperson for the Vanier Institute of the Family indicated, parents generally discipline the only way they know. For too many, spanking and other forms of physical punishment are a tradition they inherited. Our government could help end this harmful tradition by repealing section 43 of the Criminal Code — the defence to “reasonable” assaults for “correction” that entered our Code in 1892.

The National Post could also help to end this practice by changing its approach to the issue. Could you therefore please spare us further editorials like yours of Oct. 10, advising parents to ‘Spank away’?
Corinne Robertshaw, Repeal 43 Committee, Toronto

NB: The Oct 10 editorial referred to in last sentence refers to an Oct 10 editorial in 2003. The year was omitted in the published version.

Oct 22/04 Letter to Windsor Star Repeal Section 43 and end doubt about abuse
The Supreme Court decision you refer to in your October 13 editorial “Section 43—Issue has been settled” is by no means the last word on this 1892 defense to “correctional” assaults on children. The Court’s checklist of when, where, how, and by whom children can be hit will continue to confuse the public and the courts. It will increase the need for prosecutions in a fruitless attempt to determine the meaning of this revised hitting license. Since the wording has not been changed, section 43 will continue to proclaim that schoolteachers, parents and persons acting as parents are “justified” in using “reasonable” force to punish children.

If, as you state, it would be better for accountable legislators to tackle the spanking issue, then Parliament would have to write these Supreme Court limitations into the Criminal Code. This, however, would simply put a new stamp of approval on hitting two-year-old children, at a time when virtually all evidence shows that hitting and threats of hitting are harmful and risk the kind of mental and physical injury commonly termed abuse.

Rather than tinkering with the section, our legislators should repeal it. This would give a clear and unambiguous message that hitting children is no longer approved by our law. Instead of prosecutions, parents could be helped to learn methods of discipline that protect and respect children. This is not the state trying to raise kids. It is society helping and encouraging parents to protect and respect kids.
Corinne Robertshaw, Repeal 43 Committee, Toronto

Oct 7/04 Letter to Ottawa Citizen Poor Logic shows weakness of case against spanking ban
Re Spanking ban a step too far, Oct. 4 Your editorial shows the poverty of arguments against the banning of spanking. “To legally ban spanking” does not put “the state squarely in the family rooms of the nation without a compelling reason” any more than laws against spousal abuse (or laws against assault in general) do. Nor is it a big step for parents to “face legal sanction” for spanking children. Parents already face legal sanction on a number of fronts for inappropriately disciplining their children, and this only adds one more instance.

As for the editorial’s suggestion that banning spanking could lead to laws making sunhats mandatory or banning junk food, these metaphorical arguments are notoriously weak in nature, showing the strain required to make an argument that does not rest on logic. Freedom of choice is hardly a workable defence in most cases of assault, and children cannot consent to being assaulted as some adults might.

Spanking only teaches children to resolve their problems with violence. If we can all agree that the reasonable resolution of disputes within a due process is preferable to violent anarchy, then we can all agree that spanking should be illegal.
Vincent J. Guihan, Ottawa

July 13/04 Letter to Ottawa Citizen Legal support for spanking gives wrong lessons
Re: Wise alternatives to a spanking ban, July 11. The idea that hitting “short of actual or grievous bodily harm” is a good and proper way to discipline children is one of several misconceptions in Peter Zimonjic’s column. There is nothing wise about this House of Lords compromise. [See July 5 news item] Legal approval of hitting puts children at risk of psychological and physical harm and teaches that hitting is an acceptable way to show disapproval. This is not the way to protect children. It is not the lesson their role models should provide. It is not the way to uphold a child’s fundamental right to dignity and physical security.

The idea that ending this 19th century defence to parental assaults would result in criminal charges against “every parent, everywhere in Canada or Britain, who hit a child” is nonsense. Minor breaches of the law are not prosecuted because it is not in the public interest to do so. This common-sense, common law rule has long been recognized by our justice system and prevents the alarmist “mountain of charges” predicted by Mr. Zimonjic.

His hope that the limitations on “reasonable force” set out in January’s Supreme Court of Canada decision will enable parents to know where to draw the line on hitting is an illusion. [Does he think parents read Supreme Court decisions? Latter sentence omitted by editor.] What most parents have learned from that one is that section 43 of our Criminal Code allowing reasonable hitting is alive and well. What some of these parents consider reasonable might shake his complacency.

Mr. Zimonjic’s suggestion that those opposing section 43 should instead be campaigning for shelters for abused women shows his lack of insight into spousal assault. Many of the men these women are fleeing got their how-to lessons at the hands of their parents.
Corinne Robertshaw, Toronto, Co-ordinator, Repeal 43 Committee

July 10/04 Letter to Globe and Mail Appeased, not forgiven
I was truly saddened to see A. Lawrence Healey’s interpretation (The First Steps—letter, July 9) about the two young Blackstock boys’ willingness to forgive their adoptive parents for the horrific abuse they suffered for so many years.

I think a more accurate interpretation would be that these children are suffering from Stockholm syndrome, whereby victims of abuse, isolated from outside support, come to relate to their abusers and shape their actions in a manner that they perceive will not displease the abusers. It is quite likely that the boys’ willingness to forgive merely stems from a desire to appease their adoptive parents rather than from any deeper understanding of what has transpired.

In all the media reports that I have read about this tragic case, I have not seen any indication that the abusers feel any remorse for their gruesome behaviour. Without remorse, do they really deserve to be forgiven?
Jane Gauthier, Ottawa

July 7/04 Letter to Globe and Mail Shame on system
Re Couple Gets Nine Months for Caging Adopted Sons (On-line edition—July 5): I am appalled and disgusted with this sentence. Thirteen years of abuse and torture of two children, robbing them of their childhood and inflicting damage that not even a lifetime of therapy can hope to cure, and what does the judge consider to be justice? Nine months in jail with a possibility of parole in three months. I’m sure there are longer sentences given for non-violent crimes every day.
Claudia Schiffo, Gateneau, Quebec

July 6/04 Letter to Globe and Mail Inadequate sentence
Re Couple Gets Nine Months For Caging Adopted Sons (on-line edition—July 5): This case illustrates why Canadian society needs a fundamental change of attitude when it comes to the way we regard children. Can anyone imagine the prison sentence similar offenders would have received if they had caged and beaten an adult for more than a decade?

Recent court decisions allowing for the corporal punishment of children have debased their value as human entities so that abuses perpetrated against children are just regarded as a parent going too far, rather than as humiliating and despicable crimes. It is only by recognizing that children have the absolute human right of being protected against all assaults on their person that we can precipitate the fundamental change of attitude necessary to better protect children against abusers.
J. Andres Hannah-Suarez, Toronto

June 19/04 Letter to Globe and Mail Repeal ‘discipline’ law
Re Farah’s Stepmother Sentenced (June 15): Five-year-old Farah Khan might be alive today if it were clear that parents had no legal right to strike their children. Farah was a bright child and, had she learned this in her months at kindergarten, she might have told a teacher or neighbour of the bruising “discipline” she was receiving at home. Children’s Aid would have investigated and her death could have been prevented.
Section 43 of our Criminal Code, however, allows “reasonable” corporal punishment and this makes it difficult to teach children to ask for help. As long as this section remains, other children will suffer and some will die. We must repeal this licence to hit and make children aware of their right to a non-violent upbringing. We owe this to Farah.
Corinne Robertshaw, Repeal 43 Committee, Toronto

May/04 Parkhurst Exchange Supreme court decision on spanking


Supreme Court decision on spanking
Section 43 of the Criminal Code
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.

Should section 43 allowing parents to hit their kids be repealed?

PRO Law doesn’t reflect today’s values
BY Corinne Robertshaw, BA (Hons), LL.B

On January 30, 2004, Canada’s Supreme Court limited Section 43 of the Criminal Code, but failed to end it. The action to strike down this1892 defence to correctional assaults by schoolteachers and parents was therefore only a partial victory. It’s now up to Parliament either to write these limitations into the Code or repeal the section completely.

The section was challenged on two main grounds. The first was that it’s too vague, therefore violating a fundamental principle that criminal law must be clear. The second was that it discriminates against children by depriving them of equal protection and benefit of the law against assault. As a result, Section 43 violates the Charter and is unconstitutional.

The majority of the Court addressed these arguments by rewriting Section 43 — and then finding it constitutional. Through rewording, it decided that Section 43 doesn’t allow any corporal punishment by schoolteachers, or by parents or substitute parents of a child with a disability, or that involves objects, or blows to the head. It held that children under two years or over 12 cannot be physically punished, and that only “minimal, transient or trivial” punishment can be used within this age group.

What should Parliament do?

Justices Arbour and Deschamps strongly dissented from this judicial rewriting. Constitutionality, they held, must be determined on the basis of the law as it is, not on how the Court thinks it should be. Only Parliament can amend the law to such an extent. They held that section 43 violates the Charter and must be struck down.

Amendment would continue to put a government seal of approval on hitting young children and persist in putting them at risk of physical and psychological harm. The Canadian Paediatric Society recently reviewed available research and concluded that disciplinary spanking is associated with negative outcomes for children. It strongly recommends against such punishment. Health Canada’s Incidence Study on reports of abuse finds that physical abuse usually starts with hitting as discipline and then escalates into actual injury.

Health and child protection workers note that Section 43 undermines efforts to promote positive, non-violent discipline. They recognize that preventing harm to children by ending the culture of corporal punishment is essential. Human rights activists remind us that even minor smacks show a lack of respect for children — just as they do for adults. Spousal assault workers agree that parents who hit set an example of violence.

Repeal would give a clear message that spanking and hitting is, in the government’s own words, “a bad idea”, and no longer legal. This wouldn’t eliminate other defences to assault and restraint or mean that moderate spanking must be prosecuted. In consultation with child protection agencies and medical and community groups, provincial governments can draft guidelines diverting parents from the criminal justice system and avoiding inappropriate prosecutions. Instead, parents would be helped to learn alternative approaches to discipline. Confusion about the meaning of Section 43 would end.

It’s time our law moved forward and clearly repudiated this 19th century approach to correcting children. Other countries have done so. It’s now up to Parliament to do the same.

Corinne Robertshaw, BA (Hons), LL.B, is a retired lawyer and federal public servant. Her research papers, Outline of key legislative issues relating to child abuse (1980) and Child protection in Canada (1981), were published by Health and Welfare Canada. She founded the Repeal 43 Committee in 1994. For more information, visit (

CON Questionable parenting, but not a crime

BY Nicholas Bala, BA, LL.B, LL.M

The Supreme Court of Canada recently held that section 43 of the CriminalCode, which allows parents and teachers to use “reasonable force” for the “correction” of a child is constitutionally valid. The Court didn’t endorse the use of corporal punishment, but rather ruled that Parliament’s decision to allow parents to spank their offspring doesn’t violate the Charter of Rights.

The Justices held that it’s only legally permissible for a parent to use force that’s of a “trifling and transitory nature.” Essentially, the Court has allowed parents to smack a child between the ages of two and 12 on the bottom or the hand. Anything else is a criminal assault.

Children aren’t second-class citizens

In formulating boundaries for acceptable corporal punishment, the Court was influenced by guidelines developed by professional groups like the Canadian Pediatric Society. Although some experts are unequivocal in concluding that corporal punishment is harmful, others disagree. There’s no doubt that children can be effectively disciplined without resorting to physical methods. It is also clear that excessive use of corporal punishment is harmful to kids. Some researchers, however, conclude that occasional use of limited force isn’t damaging to children, and for some kids may be an effective means of discipline, especially between the ages of two and six when reasoning may not be very successful.

The Court didn’t rule that children are “second class citizens”, but instead recognized that they aren’t simply small adults. Kids view the world very differently from adults. Although older children resent and can be psychologically harmed by the application of force, younger children, who themselves are often quite physically aggressive, don’t view the application of force by a parent in the same way as an adult.

Even opponents of physical discipline accept that it may be necessary to enforce a time out, perhaps even locking a child in a room. Yet if an adult did this to another adult, it would understandably be regarded as a crime.

The Court didn’t say that the use of corporal punishment is good parenting. Instead it ruled that it shouldn’t criminalize parents who use corporal punishment. While the Canadian government is trying to encourage parents not to spank their kids, the Court emphasized that “the law is a blunt instrument” for the education of parents. Allowing the police to arrest and prosecute parents for acts that aren’t clearly dangerous to their children would intrude on family life and would be harmful to kids.

Parliament might in the future decide to follow the lead of some European countries and make even modest use of corporal punishment by parents a crime in Canada. Advocates for the repeal of s. 43 of the Criminal Code and a few politicians continue to advocate for this. But given the fact that many Canadian parents still occasionally use physical discipline, or at least threaten their kids with it, it seems unlikely that in the foreseeable future our politicians will want to tackle this highly controversial issue. Attitudes towards corporal punishment, however, have dramatically changed over the past few decades and are likely to continue to do so, and there may come a time when Parliament will be willing to address this issue.

Nicholas Bala, BA, LL.B, LL.M is Professor of Law at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. He is a consultant to various Canadian governments on issues related to family and children’s law and is currently writing a book on child welfare law.

May 6/04 Letter to Canadian Jewish News Corporal Punishment
(Shortened with permission of author.)
We must recognize that spanking is hitting, and that hitting is assault. Violence is not a tool. It is always destructive, however, well-intentioned. Repealing Section 43 of the Criminal Code, which allows corporal punishment, does not mean many parents and teachers will be unfairly incriminated. (visit for information and answers.) We change the world by how we raise our children. We will never rid the world of violence if we don’t rid the home, and specifically childhood, of violence.

Israel, one of 11 countries to legislate against corporal punishment, is truly a light unto the nations on this issue. Section 43 can still be repealed by an act of Parliament if people speak up. Let’s follow Israel’s example, which is inspired by Judaism’s vibrant tradition of pursuing justice.
Suzanne Hersh, Toronto

May 4/04 Letter to Toronto Star Spanking children carries some risks
Re: Spanking effects, ethnicity linked May 3. It may be that spanking is viewed with greater acceptance in some societies than in others, but that does not make it the right thing to do. Research indicates that corporal punishment is not only ineffective in the long run, but also a risk factor for problems later. Children don’t always recognize the harm that is being done to them, especially when that harm is viewed as normal behaviour.
Ruth Miller, Toronto

March 13/04 Letter to Windsor Star Spanking can turn to abuse Create a pause button in your mind to stop yourself from acting on impulse. Do not parent from an upset place.
We can understand how letter writer K. Priscak (Feb. 25) would feel if his little one were to throw a rock through a window. Frustration with a child who just won’t seem to listen, fear that this child will turn into a hoodlum without forceful intervention, and embarrassment and anger that this child would act so outrageously in public are all strong impulses to act forcefully. The urge to parent from an upset place, to smack him on the butt, seems overwhelming.

But we ask our dads in our dads’ course to learn one simple, but difficult parenting skill: Create a pause button in your mind to stop yourself from acting on impulse. Do not parent from an upset place. We urge them, take care of yourself first before you interact with your children. There is no dignity in hitting a person one-third your size. The pause is where you get to choose your response and where you find all your personal power.

A major reason parents hit their children is because they know they can get away with it. If they were insulted by a Hell’s Angel biker, they would curb their impulse to lash out. If they were punished by their boss for hitting their child, by loss of pay or a demotion, they would soon learn better ways to parent.

There’s a fine line between an upset parent and an abusive parent and all of us have the potential to become abusive. Spankings are not administered in calmness. A caring, well-intentioned parent can cross over that line in the heat of the moment. We know that one-in-four homes in Windsor and Essex County is a home of domestic violence. When we act on impulse in dealing with our little ones, the risk is too high to do harm. Too often a spanking turns into abuse. That’s why the Supreme Court in Sec.43 needs to declare, without muddying the waters, that hitting is not an option. If it did so, parents would soon learn other thoughtful, positive ways to guide their children and gain their child’s confidence and co-operation.
Win Harwood, Windsor

Feb 25/04 Letter to Prairie Messenger Education teacher criticizes Supreme Court ruling on spanking
I was both disheartened and disappointed at the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the “spanking law.” Who determines “reasonable force”? We are, after all, products of our past and present environments. While one person is capable of determining “reasonable force,” another may view the “reasonable” part as hitting and kicking. How are the two-year-olds to defend themselves against such attacks?

This seems to be reflective of our times; the movement away from liberal mainstream churches to the Pentecostal right-winged variety with their “the only way to heaven is accepting Jesus Christ as your saviour” theology. I come from a mainstream Catholic church where the emphasis is on a God of Love; forgiving, compassionate and tolerant, instead of the “you are a sinner” attitude of most of the Pentecostal churches I have attended. It is in the right-winged church where people speak of an “eye for an eye,” which is the law of Hammurabi, not of God.

Frankly, this writer finds this very frightening. We seem to be moving to a type of McCarthyism of the ’50s or the Salem witch trials, since some members of our societal order think that “hitting their children is their right.” These are the same individuals that bash homosexuals and any religion that is not Christianity.

What message are we giving to our teachers? As an elementary school counsellor for many years, I witnessed the “good, the bad and the ugly.” Most teachers are reasonable, caring people. But as in any profession, there are a few who are in teaching for the profit margin and control issues (powering instead of empowering). Are these few able to determine “reasonable force”? In my role as an instructor in education at a university, I try to develop empathy in my students. What do I tell my students now? Instead I have made a decision to have a discussion on the issue. At this point all I can do is pray to the loving, compassionate and tolerant God I know. “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do.”
Karen Shubaly-Molnar, Winnipeg

Feb 16/04 Letter to Windsor Star Spanking decision small step in right direction
Yes, the decision allows the continued use of corporal punishment of children. This causes concern for our Council and community given that a recent national poll commissioned by the Toronto Health Unit showed that Canadians hold the majority opinion against the use of corporal punishment. We are sad because we know that children can be raised to be good citizens, that they can be raised more safely, and that they are likely to have better mental health as children and adults when they are not hit in the name of discipline. Yet, our sadness is tempered with the knowledge that the restrictions placed by the court on the use of corporal punishment are a small step in the right direction. The restrictions also illustrate that the Court and society are aware of the risks and the costs of the use of corporal punishment. We are confident that with the growing support of Canadians for non-violent parenting, the continued legal sanctioning of the hitting of any of our children, in any manner, will one day be seen as untenable.
Dr. Ralph Billingsley, Psychologist, Chair, Education Committee, Child Abuse Prevention Council, Windsor & Essex County

Feb 11/04 Letter to Windsor Star Court lets children down. The true issue of spanking is not children getting out of control but adults losing control.
It’s a sad day for children, and for Canada. The Windsor Star, Feb. 3, ignores critical evidence in its editorial endorsement of Sec. 43, the spanking permit. The evidence, with graphic details, is its story-a-week of another small child abused by some caretaker. The Star claims that there are already laws to effectively deal with neglect and abuse. What laws we have are not strong or clear enough. The Star claims that the Supreme Court justices (unelected and unaccountable) have no mandate to interfere with parental autonomy or to have a say how children should be reared. Those very people, appointed to be guardians of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, should butt out.

The Supreme Court has true authoritative influence.When their doctor tells them to, because of its harmful effects, many patients will even quit smoking. When the Supreme Court tells them to, because of the harmful effects on themselves or their children, many parents will quit hitting. That’s why it’s critical that the justices issue clear decisions.

Too often a spanking turns into abuse.When we calm down, we usually think of a better way. How to get to the calm in the midst of the storm is one of the parenting skills we need to learn. Society is confronting outdated misperceptions of children. Some educators of parents still describe children as little devils, and still promote the view that children are devious and manipulative, that parents have to learn to train them, just like you would train a wild animal They advocate using fear (counting up to 3) or force (time outs, locking them in their rooms), and winning the battle of wills with a four year old.

In retaining the spanking law, the Supreme Court reinforces these negative attitudes towards children. How we view our children is crucial to how we treat them. Thinking guides our behaviour. If we think our kids are the enemy, we are going to declare war and stake out the battlefield. This ruling – clarifying how hard, with what, at what age, and where we can hit our children – simply confuses the issue. Hitting hurts and can too easily escalate. Sadly, the only thing the Supreme Court has done is define the weapons of war and the extent of the wounds that can be inflicted by the aggressor.

Section 43 is a risky permit to do harm. Sadly, in this decision to continue to permit the hitting of our kids, the justices have failed to challenge all Canadian parents to become more educated about their child’s development, to examine their own attitudes and mind-set towards children, and to learn peaceful ways of getting their child’s co-operation. They fail to prompt parents to learn how to manage their own feelings without taking them out on their children. They fail to insist that parents learn and teach their children how to resolve conflict without resorting to violence or intimidation, a lesson so badly needed in our world today. They have sidestepped the true issue here, which is not children getting out of control but adults losing control. We must err on the side of safety when dealing with our most vulnerable and precious resource.
Henry Harwood, Windsor

Feb 6/04 Letter to Windsor Star Abolish physical discipline directed at kids
It is interesting that of the several reports mentioned in the Jan. 30 guest column, Justice Still Eludes Abused Women and Children, not one recommendation can be found that prevents the instillation of violence in our society at its very roots: The abolition of all forms of physical discipline directed toward children, enshrined in Canadian law. Physical force, regardless of how little is used, communicates to our smallest citizens that these methods constitute acceptable means to resolve all issues, including future issues involving spouses and children.

The Supreme Court’s revision of the legality of the spanking law is long overdue. If our lawmakers can pause for one moment amidst the paperwork and endless reports to rule in favour of the most defendless of citizens, fewer funds will be required in the future to treat abuse patterns which prevail in so many families.

There is no grey area in discerning between a little pat on the behind and obvious abuse. All cause a sense of humiliation and belittlement, which runs the high risk of carrying into the next generation. The time has come to allow our children and ourselves, in this great progressive country and the world over, to develop a positive sense of who we are. Until that day arrives, justice will continue to elude all humans who are abused.
Nadia Pryce, Kingsville, Ontario

Feb 4/04 Letter to Ottawa Citizen Spanking Cons
I am deeply disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Section 43 of the Criminal Code concerning the right of parents to spank their children. The negative outcomes that letter-writer Beverly J. Antle, president of the Ontario Association of Social Workers, discusses are precisely what I have learned in my university studies in developmental psychology.

Spanking is particularly harmful if the child has a bad temperament, as it may produce severe temper tantrums, lack of compliance and aggression towards parents, siblings, and peers. Parents who resort to spanking their child only display their inadequacies as a parent and their lack of knowledge of the child’s psychosocial development.
Katie Riddell, Kanata, Ontario

Feb 4/04 Letter to Windsor Star Spanking law allows violence on vulnerable
I was greatly anticipating the decision to be handed down by the Supreme Court of Canada concerning the repeal of Section 43 of the Criminal Code – the antiquated and archaic spanking law. I was fairly confident because I feel our country is really coming into its own in the 21st century. I thought the time had come.

Unfortunately, it was not to be – yet. This section, which formerly included women and workers, by the way, was upheld. However, I have not given up hope. I believe in this country and I know that eventually we will join ranks with the enlightened countries of the world that have abolished this reasonable force ideology and embraced human rights for all. We must continue to move forward in this direction. Perhaps by the time my child is a parent, we will live in a country that no longer tolerates a section of the Criminal Code that allows Canadians to use violence against the most vulnerable.
Julie Fader,Windsor

Feb 4/04 Letter to Globe and Mail Don’t hit dogs
Margaret Wente undercut her own argument that child rearing is like dog training when writing that she would hit the dog with a rolled-up newspaper as a method of discipline. Humane dog-training methods never involve striking the dog. A dog that is struck becomes hand-shy and fearful, not obedient, and probably more dangerous than it would otherwise have been. If a child is to be trained like a dog, then the child should most definitely not be struck, unless the object is to produce a fearful, aggressive child.
Noel Boulanger, New Westminster, BC

Feb 4/04 Letter to Ottawa Citizen Risky message
The Ontario Association of Social Workers is profoundly disappointed with the ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada. Failure to strike down Section 43 sends a deeply worrisome message about how we, as a society, view children’s rights to equality and safety from physical harm.

By denying children the same protections afforded all other citizens, the Supreme Court is enabling a practice to continue that research has consistently shown to be an ineffective and potentially harmful method of managing children’s behaviour.

Physical punishment has well-documented negative outcomes for children that include the risk of physical injury, poor psychological development and poor social adjustment. When children are exposed to physical punishment there is evidence that they will mirror these aggressive behaviours in relationships with peers and that this pattern of behaviour can extend into adulthood.

In October 2003, a United Nations Committee ruled that Canada was in violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Children and should “prohibit all forms of violence against children, however light”. Our association strongly urges the federal government to meet its obligation under this UN Convention and unequivocally prohibit all forms of physical punishment of children. Pressure must be placed on federal politicians to rewrite Section 43.
Beverley J. Antle, Toronto, President, Ontario Association of Social Workers

Feb 3/04 Letter to the Globe and Mail Spanking confusion
The Supreme Court’s ruling on the constitutionality of corporal punishment is a fine example of judges who, in trying to please all sides of a controversial issue, end up confusing the law rather than clarifying it.

The court has prohibited conduct that is “degrading, inhuman or harmful”. But what do these elastic terms really mean? Many would argue that it is degrading, perhaps even harmful, to hit children repeatedly, or in public, or when not fully clothed. Is it now illegal to do so? And what on Earth is “inhuman” corporal punishment? (Top Court sets limits on spanking – Jan. 31)? Furthermore, the court has prohibited spankings motivated by rage or frustration, as they are most likely to result in inadvertent harm. Yet, it is precisely those parents who hit only as a last resort who are most likely to do so out of rage or frustration at their children’s behaviour. So is last-resort corporal punishment now illegal? And, if so, what degree of state intrusion into family life is permissible to prevent it from occurring?
Tariq Alvi, Toronto

Feb 3/04 Letter to Toronto Star Made safe zone for child abusers
Re Top court upholds, but limits spanking (Jan 31). While the judges may be congratulating themselves for having established a safe zone for children, they have done so at a price. They have also established a safe zone for child abusers. Surely, that wasn’t their intention, but it will be the effect. We’ll see proof of this as new victims come to light – ones between the ages of 2 and12 who have been battered by hand elsewhere than on the head. Thanks to the generosity of the high court, Canadian child abusers can rest easy once they’ve learned the new rules. This is their lucky day. Meanwhile, wife-beaters and dog-kickers must be eating their hearts out with envy.
Jordan Riak, Executive Director Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education, Alamo, Calif.

Feb 2/04 Letter to Globe and Mail Part of our culture
Did anyone really expect the Supreme Court to ban spanking, as it is euphemistically called? Hitting children, like so many other forms of violence, is part of our culture (and many other cultures). Hitting them is an easy way to teach them that violence is okay, even when it is practiced against someone you presumably love (not to mention all the rest). Given the violence in our society, and in the world, it’s clear the lesson has been well learned (Top Court Sets Limits on Spanking – Jan. 31). Besides, to think of a form of discipline that is non-violent would require imagination; hitting children merely requires a little strength.
Joan Forsey, Toronto

Feb 2/04 Letter to Globe and Mail Part of our culture
The Supreme Court ruling on spanking makes brilliant developmental sense. Why lower the boundary to two? To combat the terrible twos, of course. Why the upper boundary of thirteen? Well, by puberty, the kid will be big enough and strong enough to strike back. Brilliant.
Kenneth J. Zucker, PhD, Psychologist-in-Chief; Center for Addiction and Mental Health Toronto

Jan 30/04 Letter to Toronto Star Children have no rights
Re Top court upholds spanking law, Jan. 30. After hearing the recent ruling changes, or lack thereof to the century-old spanking law of Canada, I had to respond. I can think of no positive effect of spanking for children other than instilling the fear factor. Our court judges have only made some cosmetic changes. What it comes down to here is that children in our country have no rights. So it is up to adults to protect them.

Unfortunately, the bottom-feeders who think it’s acceptable to beat their children will not read any of the fine print. They will only notice that it is still legal. And then they will spout the old “spare the rod and spoil the child” verse from the Bible. I believe the Bible, too, but I will never believe that God wanted us to physically hurt babies and children.

I am a baby-boomer who had old-fashioned parents but no one ever laid a hand on me while I was growing up. And, in spite of any lack of corporal punishment, I would say that I have grown up to be a fairly decent person.
Fran DeFoa, Woodbridge, ON

Jan 29/04 Letter to Toronto Star Courts buried under abuse cases
Re Spanking decision may hit home Jan 24. Faced daily with abused children, my view is that whether we have Section 43 of the Criminal Code or not, the vast majority of adults who hit children or worse, are not now and never will be charged. The courts are already overwhelmed with the victim/criminals of childhood physical discipline and violence. As John Goddard records in his excellent article, this same legal system has seriously lowered the bar and sanctioned significant trauma to children, an excess of “reasonable” force. Laying hands on children is crude, a quick try for a fix. It suggests an intellectual vacuum in a guardian as to discipline. Some advocates of this approach to child raising offer themselves as fine examples of their own parents’ spanking philosophy. We have no way of determining the validity of their claims, do we?
Dr. Charles A. Ferguson, Director, Child Protection Centre at Children’s Hospital Winnipeg

Jan 24/04 Letter to Toronto Sun A teen’s views on spanking
I am the eldest of six children ranging in age from 6 to 15. None of us has been spanked in the past and I am fairly certain none of us will grow up to spank our children.

I know of many parents who believe spanking is disgusting, abusive and should be criminalized. It is nothing more than striking at another human being in an attempt to cause bodily harm. This is, by law, assault, is it not?

If a child is deemed by the parent to be out of line in some way, he or she, by law, has the right to strike the child “carefully” in an attempt to rectify the situation.

Using the same logic, does that give children the right to strike parents when they deem them to be out of line? I think not. To my knowledge, a child or teenager who administered the “punishment” of spanking, or just striking their parent(s) is arrested for assault. A double standard, perhaps?

As a country, we should be ashamed of the fact we still allow corporal punishment in our homes and in public. Not only does it cause physical and sometimes lasting harm to the child (depending on how severe the “discipline” is), but it also can have lasting emotional and mental effects.

And to those for corporal punishment who stick by the argument,” Well we were spanked as children … ” I wish to give you a wake-up call. We are not living in the 1940s, ’50s, ’60s. We live in the 21st century. Times have changed.

Children are more than just able-bodied farm workers parents can order around and “discipline.” They are far better than people give them credit for. If you need to strike your children to discipline them, then you do not deserve to have children as you have absolutely no clue how to be a parent.
Brad Penstone, Courtice, Ontario

Jan 25/04 Letter to Toronto Sun To spank or not to spank?
We disagree with the conclusion reached in your editorial, “Spanking shouldn’t be a criminal act” (Jan. 18).

Criminal law must uphold fundamental principles, the most basic of which is the right to freedom from assault. Legal approval of hitting children for “correction” violates this basic principle. Whether the hitting is mild or severe, it undermines dignity and involves force as a means to an end – quite aside from the potential for serious harm in hitting defenceless and vulnerable children.

Because of this fundamental principle, even a mild slap of an adult is a criminal offence. Whether such a slap should be prosecuted is a policy decision for provincial attorneys general to deal with through guidelines. Whether prosecuted or not, the principle is nevertheless upheld by the law against assault.

Likewise, the principle that it’s wrong to strike a child must be affirmed. This is why section 43 justifying correctional assaults on children must be ended. Guidelines can direct that prosecutions be undertaken only as a last resort. This minimizes the risk of unwarranted or malicious prosecutions. As stated by the Supreme Court in the recent marijuana decision, this risk is part of the social and individual costs of having a criminal justice system. In comparison with the principle at stake, this is a risk we must take to uphold basic principles and protect our children.
Corinne Robertshaw, Repeal 43 Committee, Toronto


Dec 24/03 Letter to Windsor Star Abuse of Children causes mental health problems
Re: The Article, Mental Health for Children – Announced $50 million Will Not Solve Problems. When are we going to stop side-stepping around the cause of mental illness? To put it quite simply using the words of Pam Leo, front cover of Empathic Parenting, Volume 20, Issue 1, Winter 1997 Journal of the Canadian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children: “Let’s raise children who won’t have to recover from their childhoods.”

Let’s start by supporting the repeal of Section 43 of the Criminal Code that allows parents and teachers or anyone standing in the stead of the parent to use reasonable force by way of correction of the child.
Evan Grant, Kingsville, Ontario

Nov 26/03 Letter to Prairie Messenger Catholic Journal Parental violence on children serious
The Editor: One of the most appalling conditions in this world, whether in democracies or dictatorships, is the victimization of children in their own homes, by their parents and guardians.

In Canada, some lobby groups have finally taken the problem to the Supreme Court, to strike down Section 43 of the Criminal Code, whereby parents/guardians can hit a child using “reasonable force.”

Why does it have to be a lobby group that does this difficult, unpopular task? Why is this not a priority for the Roman Catholic Church who has been a leader against abortion? It is high time that this problem is addressed openly in sermons and in Catholic literature.

It would be especially redeeming for the church, plagued by priests who have sexually abused children, to embark on a campaign against all forms of abuse — all corporal punishment techniques, which have to date been generally accepted. Here are examples: “A little slap won’t hurt, a spanking on the bare bum is not going to damage a child, a good swift kick is what he needs, the strap should be returned to schools.”

Now, if this were done to an adult it would, without a doubt, be an assault. I believe that it is a form of hypocrisy to deal only with the evils of abortion, when the same child whom the church has saved from abortion, will get assaulted, and assaulted legally — maybe starting as early as nine months later, or a year or two later, “when he is old enough to understand and be hit if he doesn’t.”

The severity, the degree of pain inflicted is left to the whim, or anger, or judgment of the adult in power. How many people have witnessed such punishment and been appalled, yet do nothing? No one comes to the rescue of most children who are abused, unless it is of very extreme degree.

These children will go on being struck for 10 – 14 years or beyond, until the punishing parent deems that he/she is “too big to hit.” A child who is hit every day, and there are more than we like to believe, will be struck thousands of times. Where is our collective intelligence?

I have seen so much abuse of children in my years as a social worker. When the horror stories are told, people don’t listen. They think these are exceptions. It is time to dig our heads and hearts out of the sand.

In the New Testament Jesus shows only tenderness toward children, and is very explicit about “whatever you do unto children, you do unto me.” Our so-called democratic society needs to quit hiding behind some vague, misinterpreted passage of the Old Testament in order to justify assault on children.
Therese Lefebvre Prince, Yorkton, Sask.

Nov 22/03 Letter to Toronto Star Child abuse sanctioned by our Criminal Code
(Shortened with permission of author)
Re Time to spare the rod, Opinion, Nov. 20. Thanks to child advocate Ruth Miller, I discovered Nov. 20 was National Child Day in Canada. You could have fooled me.

The Canadian government still officially sanctions child abuse. Section 43 in the Criminal Code of Canada specifically allows parents and teachers to use “force” as “correction.” I agree with Miller that it should be immediately repealed. So far, physically punishing kids with belts, paddles or worse is perfectly okay – in the name of “correction” or “discipline.”

We need more child advocates like Miller and Judy Findlay to remind us that children are human beings. They deserve the best care, protection and advocacy we can provide – not abuse and not Section 43.
Don Weitz, Toronto

Nov 13/03 Letter to Windsor Star Spanking does not benefit child behaviour
The Star recently carried a story concerning the U.N.’s advocacy for the right of children to be protected from physical harm, including the right to be protected from being spanked or corporally punished in the name of “discipline”. Some readers have responded with letters supporting the use of corporal punishment. We strongly advise parents and the community to consider basic information about children, abuse, and corporal punishment when deciding if legal and social support of corporal punishment of children should continue.

First, we know that children can develop well without the use of corporal punishment. They can learn to obey adults, to behave safely, to follow the law, and to respect themselves and others.

Second, we know that in general, children who are not corporally punished are likely to grow up with better psychological health. Corporal punishment of children raises the risk of poorer mental health, higher levels of aggression, and less rule-abiding behaviour, both in childhood and adulthood.

Third, hitting a child, hitting anyone, is a risky act. We know that the vast majority of physical abuse of children substantiated each year has involved corporal punishment that has gotten out of hand.

It is time for our society to realize that children can and should be given the same right to protection from physical harm that adults have. If given that protection, not only will children grow in a safer environment, but they also will grow up with better ingredients to become healthy, well-behaved, responsible adults.
Dr. Ralph Billingsley, Chairperson, Education Committee, Child Abuse Prevention Council, Windsor-Essex County, Ontario

Nov 9/03 Letter to The Record, New Westminster Society wants to stop violence in schools
(Shortened with permission of author)
We’d like to congratulate you on your article ‘ Time to stop hitting kids’ (Eugene Kaellis, The Record, Oct. 29).

PAVE – Parents Against Violence Everywhere – fully endorses the work of the Committee To Repeal Section 43 of the Criminal Code, found at the website

PAVE advocates for the elimination of violence everywhere. This includes the type of violence that falls under the protection of S. 43 of the Criminal Code, whether this violence is at the hand of a parent or educator. Join the movement for children’s safety in supporting the repeal of Section 43 of the Criminal Code through the Supreme Court review currently taking place.

PAVE is a national non-profit society that grew from a group of parents personally affected by violence in schools. Some of this violence resulted in the suicide or attempted suicide of their children.
Sue Halstead ,President ,Parents Against Violence Everywhere Society

Oct 30/03 Letter to Windsor Star No such thing as a ‘mild’ black eye, a ‘mild’ bruise
I have read the letter on mild spanking sent by C. Spourdalakis and have to disagree totally. Violence is never an answer to any issue. It teaches the child that the bigger person has the power, violence is how to deal with anger, that hitting is what you do to correct a problem, etc. The problem I have with your reasoning is the definition of mild.

There is no such thing as a mild black eye, a mild slap on the arm, a mild bruise. Mild to one person is subject to interpretation by another. If I met you on the street and you did something I didn’t agree with, and I slapped you a few times, this would be considered assault. If it’s considered assault and not accepted between adults, then why is it OK to do this to a child?

Psychologists will tell you if this is your method of correction, you will be unable to guide your teenage son in this manner when he is much bigger than you.

Children need guidance, it is true, but violence never solved anything regardless of intent. Guide your children in a manner that can last a lifetime while teaching them non-violent problem-solving skills.

Spanking them demeans them and teaches them to hit others during times of stress, anger or disagreement. Teaching them to hit another person by hitting them does not make sense. It reinforces violence is OK, because you are now doing it.
M. Findlay, LaSalle, Ontario

Oct 28/03 Letter to Windsor Star Whether big or small, no one merits being hit
Re: “Mild Spanking Part of Guide to Good Behaviour”. I would like to reply to C. Spourdalakis’ letter dated Oct. 22/03, and in doing so I will attempt to respond to point after misguided point.

I submit that the often-used euphemism “spanking” attempts to trivialize this blatant act of disrespect and would suggest calling it what it is: hitting, smacking, striking. The first point I’d like to discuss is the same tired argument always trotted out by those who would defend hitting an innocent child; the old “running into the street” excuse.

How would you feel if someone hit you every time you came close to having an accident or making a mistake? Of course, nearly getting hit by a car is very serious, and that is why it is the responsibility of each parent to ensure the safety of their child. Toddlers have no understanding of cause and effect, they have not yet developed impulse control, and cannot be expected to perceive potential danger.

Perhaps we should consider smacking the parent every time a child runs into the street! This would certainly result in better supervision of children. Besides, children don’t learn not to run into the street because you hit them, they simply learn that mommy and daddy cannot control their own impulses.

The next point you bring up is the frightened smack followed by the grateful hug. What better way to teach your child to confuse love and abuse by giving ‘em a smack then giving ‘em a hug? Let’s teach our children that it’s okay for mommy and daddy to hit them because we love them. Let’s raise yet another generation of people who will accept abuse because it’s for their own good, out of love for them.

Your next point is one of my personal favourites. Your child hits her brother or grandparent so you give them a smack to teach them not to hit. This defies all logic. All it teaches is that it’s OK for a big person to hit someone who is smaller and weaker than them. No one has the right to hit another person, big or small.

In closing, I think it is worth mentioning that our daughter and son, ages nine and seven, have never been “spanked” in their lives, and yet, year after year they receive glowing report cards from school and their teachers tell us that they are leaders in their classrooms and positive role models for their peers. In fact, one teacher even asked us what our secret is.

It’s no big secret. We were taught, and firmly believe, that children are our equals in terms of dignity and respect, and we shouldn’t do to them what we wouldn’t want done to us. Incidentally, last month our son was student of the month for respect and this time it’s our daughter’s turn to be student of the month for responsibility. They exhibit no anti-social behaviours, are a constant source of joy and the giving and receiving of respect is the lesson they’ve learned from their loving parents.
Sharon Paolini, Windsor, Ontario

Oct 18/03 Letter to Edmonton Journal Spanking is humiliating
I take strong to exception to Mary Ann Baxter’s view that spanking (the physical violation of a person smaller, weaker and younger) is a valuable disciplinary tool (“Don’t meddle with spanking,” Letters, Oct 11).

While I concur that a one-or two year-old does not reason out the dangers of running into traffic, it seems to me that the person deserving a spanking (were I to condone such a loss of control) is the caregiver – for gross negligence in supervising a child.

Physical violence is humiliating, undermines self-esteem and frequently leads to bullying, as the lesson learned is that if you are bigger and older you can hit.

Coming from a home where physical punishment was the norm, I have always felt that violence is the last resort of the incompetent. Without resorting to corporal punishment, I have managed to hold my temper and raise two children into strong, confident adults, of whom I am rightly proud.
Antje I. Espinaco-Virseda, Edmonton

Oct 15/03 Letter to Vancouver Sun Spanking kids: A precursor of abuse or a necessary tool?
Re: UN should focus on real problems for children, Letter, Oct. 9

As a retired professor of social work at the University of B.C. with more than 30 years of experience in child welfare, I can assure the public that corporal punishment is indeed a real problem. We have numerous incidents here in B.C. and across Canada where spanking has gotten out of hand, and resulted in the physical abuse of children.

The research is in on this issue and it is clear. Research shows that most child abuse stems from a belief in corporal punishment. I’ll quote just one study, the Canadian Incidence Study, which was considered one of the most thorough studies of its kind in the world. It was based on 7,672 child welfare investigations from 51 sites in all provinces and territories. The researchers examined four areas of abuse (physical, sexual, emotional and neglect). The findings revealed that substantiated cases of physical abuse consisted of: inappropriate punishment (69 per cent of physical abuse cases); shaken baby syndrome (one per cent); and other forms of physical abuse (3l per cent).

Section 43 has been in our Criminal Code since our criminal law was first codified in l892. It is based on English common law that allowed corporal punishment of wives, servants, apprentices and children. The only one that is still legal is the corporal punishment of children.

Condoning corporal punishment contributes to violence in our society and is contrary to both the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Other civilized countries such as Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Austria and Norway have all abolished corporal punishment. The majority of Canadians now support repealing Section 43. The timing is right to join these countries.

Those of us who have supported the repeal of this section for many years, have heard all the arguments from those who believe in spanking children. Many of them like to boast that their parents spanked them, and look how great they turned out!
Betty Carter, Vancouver

Oct 9/03 Letter to National Post Spanking
Re: ‘No country in the World’ has Criminalized Spanking, Oct. 8

Dare I suggest that if the Ontario Court of Appeal declared that ‘No country in the world’ has criminalized spanking, the court would be quite wrong.

Sweden and eleven other countries have reformed their criminal law to remove the defence that justifies assaults on children in the name of correction. The Swedish definition of assault includes inflicting pain on anyone, whether adult or child. Hence, spanking that inflicts pain is a criminal offence in Sweden.

As the Quebec Court of Appeal stated in explaining Section 43 of our Criminal Code, the whole purpose of spanking and other forms of corporal punishment is the infliction of pain. Without pain, it said, its whole purpose would be lost. As a result, parents charged with assault for painful spanking and other forms of corporal punishment can use section 43 as a defence. If this defence is ended, a painful spanking will be a criminal offence in Canada, just as in Sweden. Canada will not, in fact, be the only country in the world to “criminalize” spanking. It will join an enlightened group of twelve others.

Whether a parent who inflicts a painful spanking should in fact be prosecuted is a different issue. We believe that if section 43 is ended, provincial attorneys general can and should issue guidelines to ensure that prosecution is a last resort.
Corinne Robertshaw, Repeal 43 Committee, Toronto

June 10/03 Letter to Ottawa Citizen Spanking opens doors to worse physical abuse
Re: A reasonable option, June 10
Your editorial isn’t as reasonable as it may seem. The chances of police hauling away a mother for a smack to her child’s bottom are virtually nil. It took a hard public spanking of six to eight blows to the bare bottom of his 5-year-old daughter for the police to charge a father in the London spanking case several years ago.

This and other assaults on children with belts and sticks have been, and still are, held to be reasonable under Section 43 of the Criminal Code, which allows parents and teachers to us force “by way of correction toward a pupil or child…if the force does not exceed what is reasonable under the circumstances.”

Legal approval of such misguided efforts at correction too often escalate to the “real physical abuse” your editorial deplores. The Citizen’s attempt to equate a law justifying assaults on children with laws prohibiting them from driving cars or buying cigarettes or liquor is another faulty proposition. The latter are designed to protect children. The former allows parents and teachers to hit them. Quite a difference.
Corinne Robertshaw, Repeal 43 Committee, Toronto

June 6/03 Article in Ottawa Citizen Spare the rod, save the child

Canada’s top judges have a chance to send a message that ‘corrective’ spanking of a child is as unlawful as hitting a spouse.


There was an old woman who lived in a shoe. She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do. So she gave them some broth, without any bread; then spanked them all soundly, and put them to bed. Nursery rhyme

There is a perception of reality stemming from our early childhood belief in fairy tales and nursery rhymes which we relegate to the unconscious. Not until the “moral of the story” becomes a lesson in our personal experience does the above rhyme, for instance, teach us something about the impact of life’s cruelties.

That’s why violence against children is such a binding injury. The abused child, who expects protection, comfort and nurture, bonds to the abuser out of terror and revulsion, but also out of love and necessity. The co-mingling of pain and love not only creates a surreal accord which confers the assurance of affection, but becomes a perverse signal to the wounded child that he or she is loved.
This is what makes child abuse so appalling and non-negotiable.

Corporal punishment has for centuries been the practical vehicle for teaching children obedience and respect, right and wrong. The condoning of punitive measures – spanking, slapping, hitting, punching, kicking, or shaking – is part of a pervasive cultural tradition which stems from our Judeo-Christian roots in which children are pieces of property whose wilful desires need to be broken with the application of a hand, belt, ruler or rod.

In fact, “spare the rod and spoil the child” is often attributed to Proverbs in the Old Testament, but the moral maxim is actually from a 17th-century poem, Hudibras, in which Samuel Butler satirizes the Puritans: “If matrimony and hanging go by dest’ny, why not whipping too?…Then spare the rod and spoil the child.”

The point is that under the guise of Christianity and the threat of its divine decrees, the rod becomes a sanctioned form of scourging. A 78-year old former Prince Edward Island nun, Lucille Poulin, for instance, was found guilty last November of beating children under her care with a rod, while acting on “divine orders.”

Another prominent case, still ongoing, involves seven Mennonite children who were forcibly removed in 2001 from their Aylmer, Ont., home by child-welfare authorities. The parents, members of a local Church of God parish which endorses physical chastisement, hit their children with electrical cords, sticks, belts and the twisted wire handle of fly swatters.

Canada’s Criminal Code must change if we want to stop the
cycle of abused youngsters growing up to be abusers themselves

In an Ontario Court judgment earlier this year, Justice Eleanor Schnall issued a 99-page ruling on the Aylmer suit in which she completely exonerated the actions of the child-welfare agency and rejected the parent’s “biblical right” to corporal punishment. Had the judge granted their claim, it would have given constitutional entitlement to all parents who believe that physical discipline is ethical.

The Bible simply does not grant unmitigated permission to beat children. The rod most often spoken of in Scripture is the shepherd’s rod, as in the 23rd Psalm, symbolizing God’s presence to lovingly care and protect the flock, or to guide and rescue wayward sheep. It wasn’t used to strike animals into submission. What’s more, the few isolated verses quoted from Proverbs have been manipulated into a perverse pedagogical edifice of reckoning. The fact is, abused girls often become battered wives, while maltreated boys often become aggressive, totalitarian men.

Not only will a child’s suppression of pain and suffering, fear and rage be avenged on the next generation, says noted Swiss psychoanalyst, Alice Miller in For Your Own Good(Noonday Press, 1990), but the addiction to abuse and violence becomes the solution to personal and global problems. “Tyrants like Stalin, Hitler, Mao and Ceaucescu gave us lessons about what can happen,” says Dr. Miller. “They were mercilessly beaten as children, denied their pain and later inflicted their denied suffering and helplessness on entire nations.”

Likewise Saddam Hussein. Born to landless, poverty-stricken parents, but raised by his brutal stepfather, Saddam became the embittered, resentful victim of his ruthless beatings and long hours of work in agricultural fields. Because Saddam was also denied formal education, he could not enter the Baghdad military academy. Like Hitler, he felt viciously trapped. Turning his childhood abuse into adult rage and violence, he had family members and countrymen murdered, for which the Iraqi people have paid a bitter price.

Although abused children in Canadian society do not become national dictators, many turn into petty despots, tyrannizing spouses and children. According to Children’s Aid Society and Child Welfare statistics, for instance, the number of child abuse cases in Ontario increased 44 per cent between 1993 and 1998, while emotional maltreatment due to domestic violence rose an alarming 870 per cent during the same period. There’s also a dramatic rise in the number of children coming into the care of child-welfare agencies: to 15,792 in March 2001, from 10,410 in 1996.

Unlike Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Austria, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Croatia, Israel and Iceland, all of which have laws that categorically forbid hitting children for correction, Canada and the United States still allow corporal punishment. Section 43 of the Criminal Code, which has existed for 111 years in various forms, says that parents and teachers are justified in using “reasonable” force to maintain discipline. In short, the law is a licence to engage in various and sundry forms of child abuse and family violence.

The Repeal 43 Committee rightfully opposes this section of the code and supports the challenge to its constitutionality, which comes before the Supreme Court of Canada today. Its Toronto-based co-ordinator, Corinne Robertshaw, says revoking Section 43 would give parents “a clear message that hitting children for correction is against the law, just as it is for everyone else. Parents could then be helped to learn non-violent methods of discipline.”

In its assessment of Section 43, the Supreme Court must ask itself: If it is against the law to hit spouses, assault pets, assail citizens and beat inmates, why is spanking helpless children permitted, and called “reasonable correction”?
Peter Mikelic is a Lutheran clergyman and a writer specializing in religion.

Ap 17/03 Letter to Mission City Record PACs should support repeal of section 43
(Shortened with permission of author)
We have been watching for months the standards set by British Columbia teachers when it comes to bullying others to get their way. On this note we would like to relate the story of our six-year-old son. Our son was assaulted by his teacher. The expense of therapy fell on us.

According to the Crown counsel’s report to us, “All of the evidence in this case indicates that Ms. B. assaulted your son.” Despite this, there will be no criminal charges laid due to Section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada:

“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. C-34, S.43″

This section of the criminal code is used by educators to escape criminal proceedings. Crown counsel will not move forward with a case unlikely to be successful. Criminal intent might not be proven beyond a “reasonable doubt” in an aggressively fought cross examination of a child witness if justifiable force has been the excuse.

Our son’s teacher was an exchange teacher from another country. It is clearly stated in her own country that teachers are not allowed to hit, cane, slap or in any way physically punish the students in their care. In Canada we have no such protection for students. Parent Advisory Councils should stand behind the BC Parent Advisory Council to support a repeal of Section 43 of the Criminal Code and close this most dangerous loophole of all.
Marni Crockett, Mission

Jan/03 Article in Mochasofa (An online magazine for Canadian Living)Disciplining your child: Teaching proper behaviour over the years
To spank or not to spank? That is the question parents struggle with as they try to discipline their children.

As a school clinician for over 20 years, I’ve often heard parents ask “what’s so wrong with a spanking?” That’s a fair question, since 75 per cent of Canadian parents use spanking as a regular method of discipline, according to a 1995 University of Manitoba study by Joan E. Durrant, PhD, and Linda Rose-Krasnor, PhD.

As parents, many of us would like to help our children grow into responsible adults who will contribute to the betterment of society. We also want to help our children develop into happy, socialized human beings. There’s no doubt that parenting can be difficult, and discipline is a source of concern for many moms and dads.

It may be useful for parents to understand that children’s behaviour often comes as a result of trying to have their needs met. As children develop, their needs change, thus, parenting is a constant challenge.

Studies show that punishment, in the form of spanking, is a poor teacher and a child who is spanked is more likely to exhibit aggressive behaviour. To teach children appropriate behaviour, there are many alternatives to spanking. Below are some suggestions:

From birth to two years
Although infants do not yet have language skills, they communicate their needs through vocalization. Parents learn their child’s ‘language’ and respond accordingly. Because babies have limited understanding, parents need to rely on babyproofing rather than disciplining. This means that adults need to focus on structuring the environment. For example, rather than slapping a child for putting a finger in an electrical outlet, cover outlets with plastic covers.

Two to five years
For the toddler, structuring the environment takes on new proportions. Keep potentially harmful objects out of reach, but leave one or two cupboards accessible with plastic bowls inside that become ‘toys’ for a curious child. Offer choices — no more than two — that help your children push towards independence. Provide activities and diversions such as crayons or blocks, and other age-appropriate games and toys, to structure positive time.

Five to 11 years
For the school-aged child, verbal communication can often resolve differences. Children can now understand rules and consequences, but these should be reasonable and enforceable. Explanations should be offered whenever possible and alternatives should be given. When all reason fails, time-outs may be helpful as a cooling-off period. During this stage, parents should be aware of one of their most powerful tools: role modelling. Children often observe and imitate their parents’ methods of problem-solving and anger management.

Why are parenting skills so important? As parenting expert Barbara Coloroso’s book title states, “Kids are Worth It.” We take the time to learn effective parenting techniques because we care. For further information, contact your local school counsellor or family service agency.

Libby Simon is a freelance writer and a retired school social worker. Since graduating with a master’s degree in social work, she has worked in child welfare, and as a school clinician and parent counsellor with the Child Guidance Clinic in Winnipeg. Her most recent project is an interactive violence prevention kit titled Don’t Fight, It’s Not Right (kindergarten to Grade 3). To order the kit online at the Manitoba Text Book Bureau’s Web site, search under Stock # 9028.


May 3/02 Letter to Windsor Star Community has role in preventing child abuse
This letter is a response to the recent verdict of second-degree murder for the parents of seven year-old Randal Dooley. His death is being referred to as the worst case of child abuse in Canadian penal history. Unfortunately, where there is abuse causing death, much time is spent determining who is to blame.

This automatically raises the question of whether Randal’s abuse and untimely death could have been prevented. The fact of the matter is that this child did not grow up in isolation. He was part of a family and part of a larger community, which means we are all responsible.

The law governing child welfare requires that if a person has reasonable grounds to suspect that a child is or may be in need of protection, he/she must promptly report the suspicion to a children’s aid society. Professionals, officials, parents, family members, friends, neighbours, and all other community members must report when there is a child suspected to have suffered harm or is at risk of suffering harm at the hands of a parent or someone standing in the place of a parent.

Both father and stepmother have allegedly suffered abuse and violence in their childhood and marriage. While this does not excuse their actions, this does however prompt us to realize that family violence can be generational if there is no intervention. A therapeutic response is essential for survivors of childhood abuse. However prevention must also be given the same priority. Child abuse is entirely preventable.

Even in families like Randal’s where horrendous abuse also exists. Accepting that children are not property, that families are to be supported and not isolated, that the authorities must be allowed to do their job, and that everyone collectively must take responsibility for our community’s children are ways to prevent grieving over another abused or murdered child. Tina Gatt, Coordinator, Council for the Prevention of Child Abuse of Windsor and Essex County, Windsor

April 18/02 Article in Globe and Mail Spare the law and kill the child

Section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada 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 . . . who is under his care, if the force does not exceed what is reasonable under the circumstances.”

The parents of seven-year-old Randal Dooley beat him with belts, punched and kicked him over a 10-month period until the night of Sept. 25, 1998; after a final episode of violence, he died of a brain injury. In a police interview three days later, Randal’s father stated that he had “flogged” his son a month earlier for vomiting and soiling himself. Then he told Randal he loved him and explained that he had to teach him a lesson. “I was brought up believing that if you spare the rod, you spoil the child,” he told police. Did the father’s belief in corporal punishment contribute to Randal’s death, and does this belief contribute to about 26 similar deaths and over 42,000 reports of physical abuse in Canada each year? Let’s consider this question in its social and legal context.

Section 43 is a special defence to assault that justifies corporal punishment of children. “Justified” in law means “rightful conduct.” We inherited this defence from English common law when our criminal law was first codified in 1892. Recent acquittals under Section 43 show that it justifies not only severe “spankings” but also kicking and assaults with belts and sticks. Like Canada, the parents’ homeland, Jamaica, also inherited this 19th-century defence. Like Canada, Jamaica has a child-rearing culture that accepts corporal punishment. The belief in this method of “correction” set the scene for the beatings that took place at the hands of both parents. Evidence at trial indicated that some relatives knew what was happening. They disapproved but did not notify police or Children’s Aid. After all, most parents who believe in corporal punishment don’t end up killing their children. The relatives no doubt assumed that things would settle down and Randal would survive.

Whether people in the area noticed his condition is not clear, and whether if they did, they would have reported it, is far from certain. Our society has many voices quick to denounce “state interference in the family” and to proclaim that using belts and sticks to “spank” children is an important part of Christian family values. As for Randal, he was described as stoic and uncomplaining. Perhaps he and his brother saw these beatings as an inevitable part of childhood.

If the brothers had doubted their parents’ right to physically punish them, might they have sought help themselves? Had they been aware that governments are supposed to protect children from all forms of violence, perhaps they would have. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child requires governments to make children’s rights “widely known to adults and children alike.” But could our government do this while at the same time fighting to uphold Section 43 in the constitutional challenge currently before the courts?

The connection between our social and legal approval of corporal punishment and Randal’s death cannot be proven with the scientific precision required by the Ontario Court of Appeal in its recent decision on Section 43. But it is apparent enough when Randal’s death is viewed in this context. However, his death is but the latest in a long catalogue of injuries and deaths in the name of “correction.” Other Randals could be saved if Section 43 were ended. Do our politicians and judges care enough to do so?
Corinne Robertshaw is a retired lawyer and founder of the Repeal 43 Committee.

Nov 18/02 Article in Globe and Mail Save Jamaica’s sons

The following are excerpts from an article written by Trudy Simpson, a reporter with The Gleaner, a Jamaican newspaper. The article points out several reasons why some young men resort to violence as shown by the recent killing of young black men in both Jamaica and Toronto. Ms. Simpson sees a connection between this violence and the corporal punishment of children in Jamaica. Only the portions of her article dealing with this issue are shown below. They are reproduced with her permission.

If we want young black men to stop from killing each other, let’s offer them a more hopeful world to grow up in, says Jamaican journalist Trudy Simpson.

“Children are resilient” my elders always stressed. Like most Jamaican adults, they directed me without asking my opinion. They were confident that I would soon forget a sound beating or a cruel word.

I never did. Nor, I’m sure, have thousands of young Jamaicans. It is those seeds of hurt, made worse by constant exposure to traumatic and violent experiences, that blossom into full-blown anger. And when wounds do not get attention, when more positive outlets for the anger are not created, adults lament the plight of angry youth.

The trouble starts small, with authoritarian parents, guardians, and other caregivers whose philosophy is that children should be seen and not heard. So the young people haunt malls and arcades into the night, vulnerable to being influenced by gangs and other groups that seem to offer respect and love.

Daily life for some Jamaican youth can be a battleground. Often beaten as punishment for simple wrongs, they witness domestic abuse and community violence. Many, like their fathers and other males around them, resort to guns and knives to defend themselves.

The recently concluded 16th annual Mental Health Conference in Kingston called on Jamaicans to stop beating children, to provide home stability and promote better parenting and early intervention in youth crises. This plea has come from health officials such as the Jamaican Health Ministry’s mental health director, Dr. Earl Wright, who maintains that youth crime, teenage pregnancy, increased HIV/AIDS risk among youth and other self-destructive behaviours can be reduced if proper attention is paid to youth mental health.

Child care officials, such as members of the Coalition on the Rights of the Child, complain that while Jamaica supports international agreements to improve the lives of children, it often does not implement or enforce them. Until this changes – and until youth have more employment opportunities and less exposure to violence – they will continue to lash out.
Trudy Simpson is a reporter with The Gleaner, a Jamaican newspaper

May 30/02 Letter to Windsor Star Community has role in preventing child abuse
We feel that recent events and letters to the editor regarding the issue of spanking and the use of corporal punishment have prompted a response from the Windsor-Essex Children’s Aid Society with respect to the issue of child maltreatment. In particular, Tina Gatt, Coordinator of the Council for the Prevention of Child Abuse, wrote an excellent letter pertaining to the tragic details of the Randall Dooley case in Toronto.

We concur with Ms.Gatt’s position of the community responsibility for the safety and protection of our children, and we agree the authorities must be allowed to do their job. Child protection workers have the authority to investigate child maltreatment under the law set out in the Child and Family Services Act. They are also governed by the regulations and standards and guidelines set forth by the Ministry of Social Services.

Unfortunately, through the course of our investigations, we have seen injuries resulting from the use of physical discipline as a result of parents’ frustration, lack of control, excessive force with or without an object. The fact of the matter is that children do get injured under the guise of a parent’s right to spank, and in the absence of alternative ways of dealing with their child’s escalating behaviour.

This means that when a report is made to the Children’s Aid Society about the actual or potential risk of child maltreatment, we will be investigating the matter to determine the extent of the risk to the child, regardless of the decision handed down by the Court of Appeal of Ontario to uphold the constitutionality of section 43 of the Criminal Code. This section of the Criminal Code extends to parents the right to use force on their children.

In our view, physical discipline does not work well and is never justifiable. It provides a child with a poor model for solving interpersonal problems, leads to a pro-violence attitude and contributes to the cycle of abuse. One only needs to consider the very real problem of bullying on the school playgrounds and ramifications of domestic violence.

To discipline is to teach and train our children to become future productive citizens. Physical discipline is a reactive and short-term response to children’s behaviour. Its effectiveness is directly related to the severity and frequency of the pain inflicted and it promotes compliance based on fear and not on mutual respect. Constructive discipline can be achieved without physical punishment and we encourage the use of alternative modes of discipline. Typical examples of alternative forms of discipline are time-out, removal of privileges, and age-appropriate groundings. Consistent use of these practices, along with clear and concise expectations, models an environment where the child learns self-control.

Corporal punishment in the home or school is banned in at least nine European countries: Austria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Latvia, Norway and Sweden. Bans are currently being debated by the governments of Germany, Ireland, Poland, New Zealand, Spain and Switzerland.

Our laws have zero tolerance for adults assaulting one another. Why would a defenceless, vulnerable child not be afforded the same level of protection? We are hopeful that in the future, hitting your child in any fashion will become the taboo that not wearing your seatbelt or drinking and driving are today. Bill Bevan, Executive Director, Janet Palamides, Director of Intake, Windsor-Essex Children’s Aid Society

Nov 5/02 Letter to Windsor Star Alternatives to spanking 
The most glaring problem with Section 43 of the Criminal Code is that there are no clear cut guidelines as to what constitutes judicious restraint when it comes to spanking. Canadian judges have seen fit to site Section 43 even when a child has sustained severe injuries such as welts, lacerations, even broken bones. The only way to rectify this impossible situation, is to strike down Section 43, thereby removing spanking as a disciplinary option. Then, these muddled, grey areas will disappear.

A child looks to his parents for his sole source of protection and security. We teach by example. Given this, spanking is morally reprehensible. It is also frightfully ill equipped in getting the intended job done. No one will argue that discipline is important in the proper raising of a child. But there are many more effective alternatives than spanking, such as logical discussion, time outs, removal of privileges, grounding, etc. Many long termed independent studies have proven this beyond a shadow of a doubt. Fear of physical pain and humiliation is replaced with a parent-child relationship that is built on trust, love and mutual respect. Should we be able to decide on how to best discipline our children? Yes, providing of course that all of the pertinent facts are at our disposal – allowing us to arrive at a truly informed and enlightened decision. Education is the key here.

Should Section 43 be struck down? Get your hands on a copy of this legislation and insert the word “person” in place of the word “child” each time it appears. Consider how this, as acceptable law, could apply to you and a grumpy traffic cop or to you and your temperamental employer. Once the hairs have settled down on the back of your neck, the answer will be crystal clear.
Gary Marsh, Amherstburg

Nov 6/02 Letter to Windsor Star Code’s Section 43 ‘not working well’ 
Your editorial, Spanking, Oct. 30, shows an unfortunate lack of knowledge about section 43 of the Criminal Code. Section 43 does not have a long and successful history. On the contrary, this defence to assaults on children by parents and teachers has justified corporal punishment causing bruises, as well as kicks, karate chops, and hitting with belts and sticks.

A recent study of child abuse shows that 8000 substantiated cases of physical abuse were reported in Ontario alone in 1998. Sixty-nine percent of these started as attempts to discipline children by corporal punishment. Section 43 perpetuates this approach to discipline. It is not working well as you suggest.
Corinne Robertshaw, Repeal 43 Committee, Toronto

Jan 20/02 Letter in Toronto Star The hypocrisy of child abuse laws
Re Second ruling upholds spanking and from head to toe, from back to front, Jan 16.These two sad stories were juxtaposed in your paper. One was about the little boy beaten to death by his parents in the name of discipline, and the other was about the Ontario Court of Appeal’s refusal to strike down an archaic section of the Criminal Code which allows parents and others to strike children in the name of discipline.

It is to Canada’s shame that such a law exists. The court acknowledged that hitting children to discipline them is both ineffective and wrong, but couldn’t find the courage to strike down section 43.

In your editorial of Jan. 17 (Balance needed), you buy the absurd argument made by the court that parents could be charged for putting an unwilling child in a car seat. The police and the courts have discretion in charging and prosecuting. These are not the situations that need prosecution. Much worse is done to children and charges are never laid. Canadian children deserve the same protection from assault as the rest of us. Health Canada publications tell parents that hitting children is wrong, but the Department of Justice gives the opposite message, that it is lawful and justified to hit children. What hypocrisy. Ruth Miller, Toronto


June 29/01 Letter to Globe and Mail Prevent future abuse
Apart from apologies and compensation to victims of physical abuse in residential schools (The Anglican Road to Financial Hell – June 27) the Anglican Church of Canada could help prevent the future victimization of Canadian schoolchildren. This could be done by urging the justice minister to repeal Section 43 of the Criminal Code allowing teachers to inflict “reasonable” corporal punishment on children for “correction”.

Because of this 1892 defence of assault, teachers are allowed to hit youngsters with hands, books, karate chops, straps, and paddles. So long as this relic of the past remains on the books, this method of discipline will continue to open the door to the kind of physical abuse experienced in residential schools.

Apologizing for past misdeeds is not enough. Positive action to prevent the continuation of these assaults is required. Last October, we wrote the Anglican primate suggesting this. No answer was his stern reply.
Corinne Robertshaw, Repeal 43 Committee, Toronto

July 10/01 Letter to National Post Spare the rod
As long as section 43 of the Criminal Code continues to justify the “reasonable” hitting of children for “correction”, this dangerous and confusing message will continue to result in the kind of situation reported in your article Kids’ Removal Worse Than Spanking (July 7). There are indeed parents who believe that hitting with sticks and belts is a reasonable form of correction. They and their supporters are then outraged when child protection workers, police, and the majority of Canadians think otherwise.

Most of these stressful situations could be avoided if this 1892 section of the Code were repealed. The law would then be clear that hitting children is no longer acceptable. Stressful court actions to determine whether using belts and sticks is reasonable would not be necessary. Instead, parents would be given a clear message that hitting children for correction is against the law, just as it is for everyone else. They could then be helped to learn non-violent methods of discipline. Most of those who believe in sticks and belts would in time accept that the law must protect and respect children rather than giving parents a license to hit them.
Corinne Robertshaw, Repeal 43 Committee, Toronto

July 21/01 Letter to Ottawa Citizen Striking a child with a switch is far more than ‘spanking’
The Canada Family Action Coalition calls the removal of the Alymer, Ont., children from their home for “spanking” a “dangerous mind-control game”. Let’s be clear that these children were removed, not because they were “spanked”, but because they were allegedly hit with a strap or switch.

Most Canadians do not consider such hitting with implements to be a “spanking”. Neither did the witnesses and judge in last year’s constitutional challenge to section 43 of the Criminal Code, the 1892 defence to assault that, unfortunately, encourages some parents to view this kind of discipline as “reasonable”. In describing this as a spanking, and characterizing the removal of the children as part of an “Orwellian…liberal academic agenda”, it is the Coalition, not the child-protection authorities, that is playing mind games. It obscures the issues by its use of euphemisms to disguise facts and by its use of hyperbole to alarm the public.

This hinders a rational discussion on how best to protect children from violence and assist parents to learn alternatives. But perhaps the Coalition does not welcome such a discussion. Corinne Robertshaw, Toronto, Repeal 43 Committee

Nov 19/01 Letter to The Gazette, Montreal Corporal punishment violates rights
The British health minister’s reference to a disciplinary hitting of a child as a “healthy smack” is an oxymoron of the first magnitude. (Gazette, Nov. 9, “‘OK to smack” angers charities”).

The British law that allows “reasonable chastisement” as a defence to parental assaults on children gives legal approval to a 19th century method of discipline that not only violates a child’s basic human rights but all too often leads to physical and psychological injury – for which both children and society pay a heavy price.

Coincidentally, on the same day as the British statement, a private member’s bill to repeal a similar defence in Section 43 of our Criminal Code was defeated by a handful of MPs in our House of Commons – who are apparently oblivious to the research indicating the dangers associated with corporal punishment and our own minister of health’s advice to parents that it’s never OK to spank children.

Old ideas die hard. But how many more children will suffer injuries – and in some cases die – before this research is heeded and this harmful relic of the past ends?
Corinne Robertshaw, Repeal 43 Committee, Toronto

Dec 24/01 Letter to Windsor Star Spanking not necessary in raising a child
Recently, The Star has featured articles concerning the difficulty the Children’s Aid Society has in determining if children required protection from caregivers who possibly use excessive physical force during corporal punishment.

Corporal punishment is a tool of child rearing that is a widespread tradition in our society. It is viewed by many people as a necessary and effective response to a child’s misbehaviour. Adults in our society were previously seen as requiring corporal punishment. Historically, it was lawful in Canada to use corporal punishment with adults, children, servants, convicts and apprentices. Canadian law was changed to protect all of these groups, except for children, from physical discipline now deemed to be assault.

Section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada permits spanking and corporal punishment of children as reasonable force used in the name of discipline. Defining what is reasonable, and deciding where spanking ends and abuse/assault of the child begins, can be very difficult for parents, for the Children’s Aid, and for our judicial system. Indeed, courts in Canada have sometimes acquitted caregivers charged with assault who have physically injured children, in some cases in response to minor misbehaviour, by causing bruising, chipped teeth, nose bleeds, and other physical injury.

Moreover, section 43 does not specify when using force might be reasonable. Only the degree of force need be deemed reasonable. Children, therefore, are not only unprotected in law from a type of physical assault called corporal punishment, they are also unprotected from corporal punishment given indiscriminately, frequently, and unnecessarily. Moreover, society usually focuses concern on physical harm caused by punishment, not on the harmful effects of spanking for the child as a human being.

Our traditions need to change with regard to children. We have learned that children do not need to be spanked in order to become healthy, well-behaved, responsible adults. Many children now spend most of their day in settings where spanking is not permitted, such as day care, school, community activity and sports.

Residential treatment centres forbid spanking, even with the most serious of child misbehaviour, as do foster homes and group homes. Many parents attend counselling which teaches non-violent, positive methods of discipline. Finally, many international, national, and local groups and agencies have decided to publicly voice their promotion of non-violent child rearing and to oppose the use of spanking. In our community, many agencies have decided to publicly promote non-violent child rearing and to oppose the use of spanking. Ralph Billingsley, Education committee, Karen Connor, President, Council for the Prevention of Child Abuse, Windsor and Essex County


July/00 Letter to Edmonton Journal Spanking sends children wrong message 
Little Johnny is sent home from school for hitting another child; mother decides to discipline him for his actions and decides to hit (spank) him. What lesson was learned by the child?

He learns that if you’re not happy with another’s behaviour, you hit them to change their behaviour. The mother just reinforces the violence cycle. (“Spanking may not be best, but it should be option,” Letters, July 2.) It makes me laugh when I read the illogical thinking of some spanking parents, and how adamantly they defend their actions when it comes to spanking.

Come on, parents, use your intelligence and creativity in disciplining your children. Spanking (hitting) does not equal discipline. Most of you were spanked as a child by your parents, therefore it must be right, because your parents were the best. Right? Wrong, your parents were also spanked, and that’s all they knew. Let’s mature as a civilization and begin to think for a change, instead of reacting.
Dr. Jim Bartolotto, Edmonton


Jan 17/99 Letter to Globe and Mail No thanks to spanks
Re The Smack (Health – Jan.12) Let’s not beat around the bush: Spanking is about power. When we spank our children, we teach them that strong people have the power to hurt weak people. Nothing more. Spanking is, in essence, an abuse of power against the most defenceless.

It’s bad enough that the “merits” of spanking should be published, but to actually print a How To Guide, well, you deserve a timeout.
Tony Miller, Toronto

June 14/99 Letter to National Post Spanking 
Re: Loving, Sober Parents can Spank, June 7. None of the consensus statements resulting from an American Academy of Pediatrics conference on spanking in 1996 endorsed spanking as a method of discipline. Instead, they pointed to the risks and ineffectiveness of spanking, stating that their conclusions would be revised as data continue to accumulate. Two years later, a committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics clearly recommended against spanking because of its negative consequences and advised its members to encourage parents to develop other methods of discipline.

Professor Larzelere’s belief in “loving spanks” is not only contrary to the academy’s most recent advice, but also an oxymoron that undermines attempts to encourage alternatives to assaulting children for “correction”.
Corinne Robertshaw, Toronto


Mar 29/98 Letter to Toronto Star Spanking children leads to violent adults
Congratulations to Ellie Tesher for her excellent column on Section 43 of the Criminal Code and the physical punishment of children (“It’s time to end legal protection of child abuse”, The Sunday Star, March 22).

I am currently completing my Master’s degree in Social Work at the University of Toronto, and have spent the last year reviewing the research literature on corporal punishment. In addition to the legal arguments outlined in Tesher’s column, a 30-year body of research has consistently demonstrated the relationship between physical punishment (spanking) and increased childhood aggression, conduct disorder, behaviour disorder, developmental delays, and hyperactivity. Long-term outcomes for children exposed to this practice are even more dismal: increased propensity for delinquency, property and violent crime, abuse of one’s own children, and spousal assault.

More recent research has found such psychological outcomes of spanking as depression, anxiety, lowered self-esteem, and impaired self-concepts for adults who were spanked as children. Most of us carry around the legacy of spanking. It is as normal and invisible to us as the air we breathe.

The research in this area invalidates claims of the effectiveness of spanking, and statements like “I was spanked and it didn’t hurt me.” It also challenges the popular notion that current levels of delinquent crime are the result of “permissive” parenting.

It is time for the public at large to have access to the real information which challenges the social mythology that surrounds this outdated practice, and for parents to receive support and encouragement in using alternatives to spanking.
Carole-Anne Vatcher, Toronto

May 30/98 Letter to Globe and Mail Children and Violence
Two items in your March 26 edition should be noted by all those concerned about violence in our society. The first, Britain Bans Caning, is the good news. The British parliament’s 211-15 vote to end the legal right of teachers to assault children means that teachers will no longer be role models for violence as a method of correction.

The second, Two Arkansas Boys Held, is the bad news. One of the boys suspected of involvement in the killing of a teacher and four students was apparently paddled at school the day before the shootings. Paddling is hitting a child on the buttocks with a piece of wood and is a legally approved form of correction in Arkansas and other U.S. states – as well as in certain Canadian schools. Is there a connection between disciplinary hitting in the school and home and violence by those who are hit ? Yes. Research shows a convincing correlation between corporal punishment of children and aggression by them when their anger and fear are turned outward, and depression and suicide when they are turned inward. Notwithstanding this research and recommendations from over 50 Canadian child-welfare organizations, section 43 of our Criminal Code continues to allow Canadian children to be hit for correction. We again urge the Minister of Justice to show leadership by repealing this disgraceful 1892 provision of our law.
Corinne Robertshaw, Repeal 43 Committee, Toronto

Oct 1/98 Letter to Ottawa Citizen Spanking creates bullies
Once again the Citizen allows conservative, right-wing views to dominate its editorial pages. The recent opinion article on spanking by Okey Chigbo is my most recent frustration.

Research linking spanking to mental health problems for children was presented this summer at the World Congress of Sociology in Montreal. This research was widely covered by other newspapers, television and radio. The Citizen ignored it.

Instead, you choose to give three-quarters of a page to an article written by a freelance writer who is quite obviously looking to justify his own behaviour. Mr. Chigbo gives the everyday example of the non-compliant child who refuses to get dressed to go outside. He suggests these parents should have given “a sharp compliance-inducing swat on the bottom.”

The definition of spanking is widely debated. Surveys of parents have concluded that it includes the use of a hairbrush, belt, paddle and hitting on vulnerable parts of the body such as the top of the head. Spanking, however defined, may be effective in stopping the unwanted behaviour at the time.

It has given a stronger message to the child that hitting is an OK way to solve problems and when you are stronger, it is OK to assert your authority over others. Not surprisingly, there is a strong link between identified playground bullies and the use of corporal punishment at home.

Less than 100 years ago, the law also allowed employers to hit employees and men to hit their wives. Although society no longer tolerates these forms of corporal punishment, we do allow it to be used against children, if only because they are small, powerless and unable to vote.
Nanci Burns, Ottawa

Fall/98 Letter to The Next City, Vol. 4, #1 Another reader writes
Okey Chigbo asks me to explain why U.S. tourist David Peterson was charged with assaulting his five-year-old daughter and why he spent the night in a London jail for a “minor” assault.

Mr. Peterson put his daughter on the trunk of a car in a public parking lot, took down her underpants, and hit her hard with his hand six to eight times. Onlookers were so alarmed by the child’s screams that police were called. Mr. Peterson, however, was acquitted under section 43 of the Criminal Code allowing “reasonable” force for the “correction” of children – a section dating from 1892. He spent a night in jail because he was a non-resident without funds to post a bond.

That Mr. Chigbo considers this a minor matter speaks volumes about his complacency concerning assaults on children and underscores the need to end this dangerous, unjust, and discriminatory section. Would he consider it a minor matter if the law allowed this to be done to him?
Corinne Robertshaw, Coordinator, Repeal 43 Committee, Toronto


June 6/97 Letter to Toronto Star Stop Spankings
Wayne Isaacs beats his young daughter to death during a “spanking” and is sentenced to 5 years. If the Canadian justice system would recognize that spanking, slapping, etc., are forms of abuse, perhaps spankings wouldn’t go too far and children wouldn’t keep losing their lives in the name of discipline. How many children need to be beaten to death before the Criminal Code is amended?
Carol Walling, Uxbridge

Sept 22/97 Article in Toronto Star Should physical punishment of children be abolished? 
Section 43 of the Criminal Code says “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…who is under his care, if the force does not exceed what is reasonable in the circumstances.”

Most people are unaware that section 43 of our Criminal code allows children to be kicked and hit with belts and implements in the name of discipline. Learning this comes as a shock.

This 1892 section of the Code allowing teachers and parents to use “reasonable” force for “correction” of children also permits slapping and severe spanking. Recent court decisions have acquitted adults of such assaults on the basis of section 43. Those who uphold the section either consider this appropriate discipline or are unaware of – or choose to ignore – these decisions.

Section 43 is a relic of a bygone age. Hitting children as a method of correction is part of a long, unhappy tradition in English common law – a tradition that allowed physical “correction” of wives, apprentices, domestic servants, and convicts.

When our criminal law was first codified in the last century, this common law right to assault children became part of our Code and has remained essentially unchanged. We are therefore entering the 21st. century on the basis of a 19th century attitude to children.

Allowing children to be assaulted for “correction” is a violation of their fundamental rights to security of the person and equal protection of the law guaranteed by our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Such a violation can only be upheld if it can be “demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society”.

Section 43 cannot be so justified. There is no credible evidence to show that hitting children is beneficial and much to show that it is harmful, including the possibility of injury and death. It is an important factor in societal violence, such as spousal assault. A growing number of parents and professionals have come to this conclusion. This is reflected in legislative and judicial changes in at least eight countries, including Sweden and Italy.

This law also violates the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child: particularly the duty to prevent all violence against children. The U.N. committee overseeing the convention has therefore recommended that Canada end legal approval of physical punishment. Tinkering with the section through attempts at amendments is not the answer. Section 43 should be repealed. It protects adults at the expense of children. Arguments in support of retaining this 19th century law are unfounded.

To argue that without section 43, any swat to a child’s bottom will result in prosecution and jail ignores the principle that minor breaches of the law are not prosecuted. Where a child is hit more severely, prosecution is normally a last resort. Diversion from the criminal system is the preferred alternative.

Repealing section 43 will not make reasonable force against children illegal in other situations. The law allows such force for self-defence, defence of others, of property, and in cases of necessity.

The claim that repeal would amount to “state interference” in the family ignores the fact that every adult family member has legal protection from assault. The claim has more to do with politics than reality.

The belief that Christianity requires physical punishment of children is sad, to say the least. If our criminal law were based on isolated Biblical passages, death for blasphemy, adultery and homosexuality would be the order of the day.

Aside from the basic right to be free from “corrective” assaults, there are important benefits to repealing section 43 as a new generation learns that hitting is not an appropriate way to show disapproval.

Education alone is insufficient. It must be complemented, not contradicted, by our Criminal Code. Our children need positive discipline – not lessons in violence.
Corinne Robertshaw is a retired lawyer and founder/coordinator of the Repeal 43 Committee

Letters to Toronto Star re above article - Should the physical discipline of children be abolished?

Sept 29/97 My hope for Canadian children is that they be raised in families and educated in schools free of the threat of physical assault. The Canadian government must protect all citizens regardless of age and repeal Section 43 of the Criminal Code. As citizens, Canadian children deserve no less. Such action would be an important step toward the reduction of domestic violence and intergenerational cycles of violence.
Kenneth Goldberg, Toronto

Sept 29 I believe that physical punishment of children does not facilitate learning self control, or a close parent/child relationship, has the potential for inflicting lasting physical and emotional harm on children, is not effective in the long term and promotes compliance based on fear and reinforces aggression as a legitimate and even desirable means of problem solving.
Gordon Wolfe, Executive Director, Jewish Family and Child Service, North York

Sept 29 It is, unfortunately, to be expected that some (including pediatricians, child psychiatrists, teachers and religious leaders, who usually know little of family histories of disease and intergenerational parenting deficits) attempt to deny the real association between physical punishment of children (“spanking”) and child abuse. The (long overdue) repeal of Section 43 of the Criminal Code would negate such denial. Canada should do exactly that, i.e. abolish Section 43.
Joseph Jacobs M. D., Hamilton

Sept 29 Children are indeed vulnerable, as Gary Walsh states. Physical punishment hurts and humiliates them so how can it possibly help them? Many effective alternatives exist. Parents and society need to adopt a philosophy of child rearing which rejects outdated and harmful approaches and preserves the dignity of children. It’s time.
Ruth Miller, Toronto

Sept 30 Section 43 adds to confusion
Gary Walsh argues that the Criminal Code should allow parents to use corporal punishment “in a non-abusive manner”. Unfortunately, the line between corporal punishment and physical abuse is difficult to draw.

Our 1993 study of child abuse investigations in Ontario shows that punishment or discipline problems were factors in more than 70 per cent of physical abuse investigations. Section 43 only adds to parents’ confusion about the distinction between the two.
Nico Trocme, Professor of Social Work, University of Toronto

Sept 30 Child abuse rates haven’t increased since Swedish ban
Having studied physical punishment for a decade and having lived in Sweden to investigate the 1979 corporal punishment ban, I wish to correct some of the inaccuracies in Gary Walsh’s Sept. 22 editorial page article.

First, Walsh refers to a group of studies demonstrating the benefits of physical punishment. The children in these studies were exceptionally oppositional and the only measure of effectiveness taken was the children’s immediate compliance. Three other methods were also found to be effective with these children in the short term. No measures were taken of long- term effects.

Many other studies have consistently demonstrated a correlation between spanking and aggression, the most recent of which suggest that this relationship is a causal one. Further, it has been repeatedly demonstrated that the majority of incidents of physical abuse are the result of typical physical punishment that escalates to injurious levels.

Second, rates of substantiated cases of child physical abuse have not increased in Sweden since 1979. In fact, the rate of child death due to abuse or neglect, the most reliable measure of physical abuse currently available, has declined in Sweden since the early 1970s; it is currently one-third of Canada’s and one-tenth of that found in the United States. Reporting rates, however, have increased, as they have in most countries (including Canada) that have implemented mandatory reporting laws, and public education campaigns.

Third, measures of youth well-being in Sweden consistently show positive trends since the mid-1970s. Rates of alcohol and drug use, teen suicide, and homicides of young people have declined substantially, as has youth involvement in burglaries and narcotic crimes.
Joan E. Durrant, Associate Professor of Family Studies, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg

Sept 30 No studies show corporal punishment beneficial 
Re your Sept. 22 Editorial page debate on corporal punishment. Although Gary Walsh presents his arguments in a readable fashion, he takes considerable liberty with the truth and, as a consequence, leads the reader to false conclusions.

Having conducted several studies and literature reviews on corporal punishment for the federal government, I can assure you that there are no studies that show corporal punishment “has beneficial outcomes.”

Second, Walsh states that Sweden, which banned corporal punishment in 1979, has “an increase in child abuse and teenage violence.” The truth is, quite the opposite has happened. Serious forms of child abuse are now almost non-existent in Sweden.

Although parents were initially opposed to this legislation, there is now overwhelming support for it. Parenting is a very difficult job. Helping parents realize what is healthy discipline and when it is harmful to children needs to be clearly spelled out.

Section 43 leaves parents, police, CAS workers, teachers and judges free to interpret what is “reasonable force.” Right now, everyone has different answers. By eliminating section 43, we are allowing children the same rights to be protected from assaults that adults have in our society. I think all Canadians, including children, deserve this right.
Nanci Burns, Family Violence Research Consultant, Ottawa

Oct 9/97 Letter to Globe and Mail Violence begins at home
Buried in the story about the trial of Daniel Miloszewski (Oct. 7) for the murder of a Sikh temple caretaker, is the telling sentence that when teachers complained about his disruptive behaviour at school, “Daniel’s father beat him with a belt.”

Research has found that beating and corporal punishment are risk factors for delinquency and violence later in life. Unfortunately, this connection is rarely, if ever, made in crime reports. Why not?
Ruth Miller, Toronto

Nov 1/97 Letter to Globe and Mail Spanking is Assault
Poor Phyllis Sidey Wilson (A whack in time saves nine – Facts and Arguments – Oct 29). She can’t tell the difference between discipline and assault. It is one thing to hit your child because you can’t think of any thing else to do. It’s another to be proud of it and to recommend it.

Adults can discipline children without resorting to corporal punishment. It takes resolve and a recognition that children are deserving of the same protection from assault as are adults.
Ruth Miller, Toronto

Nov1/97 Letter to Globe and Mail Spare the Rod
Phyllis Sidey Wilson suggests that because a child refuses to leave a bookstore she needs to be hit. I would like to suggest that tucking the youngster under her arm and leaving the store would be quite sufficient. Inflicting physical pain is totally unnecessary.

I am particularly concerned that the writer equates spanking with discipline as if they are the same thing. Spanking is punishment and according to all the available studies, it is not helpful.
Kathy Lynn, Vancouver


May 1/96 Letter to Globe and Mail Spanking 
Training children to be responsible adults is not a matter of Rather Spank Than Spoil as suggested by he headline of Isobel Vincent’s April 24 article. Nor is it a question of deciding “where spanking ends and child abuse begins”.

The assumption behind both statements is that corporal punishment is necessary and desirable in training children. Research – including research funded by our federal government – shows this to be a false and dangerous assumption that is a major cause of violence in our society.

In spite of this our Minister of Justice continues to uphold section 43 of the Criminal Code allowing children to be hit for their “correction”. The fact that some adults, whether immigrant or Canadian born, justify this as part of their cultural heritage does not determine the issue. If it did, the cultural heritage of using physical force to “discipline” wives would still be part of our law.
Corinne Robertshaw, Coordinator, Repeal 43 Committee, Toronto

May 4/96 Letter to Globe and Mail Corporal punishment 
I read Isobel Vincent’s article Rather Spank Than Spoil with great interest (April 24). Jewish Family and Child Service is on record that “physical violence against children, including physical punishment, is harmful to a child’s development.”

We recognize that many child-rearing practices are derived from people’s cultural or ethnic heritage. However, we do not support the use of child-rearing practices which are harmful to the sound development of children.

Jewish Family and Child Service also advocates the repeal of Section 43 of the Criminal Code, which allows parents and teachers to use corporal punishment on children.
Gordon Wolfe, Executive Director, Jewish Family and Child Service, Willowdale, Ont.

Sept 26/96 Letter to Edmonton Journal Geiger challenged on spanking ‘discipline’ 
John Geiger’s September 15 column “Spanking foes are striking back” dealing with the case of the 12 year-old British boy caned is full of contradictions and misinformation.

The boy was “disciplined” by his step-father by a caning so severe that the child required hospital treatment. Charged with assault, the stepfather was acquitted on the basis that this was reasonable punishment allowed by British law.

The boy and his biological father are appealing to the European Court of Human Rights to have this law nullified on the basis that it is contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights. The case will be tried by a court of international judges – not by “bureaucrats” as stated by Geiger.

Geiger’s claim that there is not a shred of reputable evidence to suggest hat corporal punishment can lead to physical injury of children is contradicted by the very case he writes about. It is also contradicted by research studies that show this connection. Two examples, of many, include a 1994 Ontario study funded by the Institute for the Prevention of Child Abuse and a 1995 study funded by the federal departments of justice and health.

Our committee and many other Canadians have urged the federal government to repeal section 43 of our Criminal Code, a legacy of English common law allowing the corporal correction of children by “reasonable force”. Geiger asks what is the point of doing so? The point is that a law telling teachers and parents that it is quite proper to assault a child for correction is fundamentally unjust; can and too often does lead to injury and even death; teaches children that violence is an appropriate way to show disapproval; and contributes to a host of other social problems too numerous to mention here.
Corinne Robertshaw, Coordinator, Repeal 43 Committee, Toronto

Oct 13/96 Letter to Toronto Star Rescue the suffering children
I thank Michele Landsberg for her columns on corporal (read physical) punishment (Sept. 22 and Oct 6). The good work of Corinne Robertshaw and the Committee to repeal Section 43 of the Canadian Criminal Code does not go unnoticed by those of us who were victimized as children with the help of this law.

Many a time as a child I hoped and prayed for someone to rescue me from the brutality and the sexual abuse that was visited upon me. Now 33 years later, the rescue has begun. Too late for me but not too late for our little brothers and sisters.

Corporal punishment, in fact, is violence against children and has long been used to ensure complete compliance. Many children in Canada today are being forced to obey their parents every command or face the prospect of receiving physical “punishment” to ensure that they respond “correctly”. The “absolute power” that Section 43 gives parents allows this to occur all too frequently.

Perhaps Justice Minister Alan Rock may want to reflect on how many children are being “corrected” for not “complying” to their parents’ unacceptable sexual desires. One would be too many; unfortunately there are many.

Canadians pride themselves on being a caring and compassionate society. Our federal government, on our behalf, goes to great lengths to preach to other societies who violate human rights about the need for respect and human dignity. Section 43 makes hypocrites of us all. Rescue the children now, Mr. Rock, they have suffered long enough.
Guy L’Heureux, Canadian Male Survivors of Child Abuse, Edmonton


Jan 31/95 Letters to Globe and Mail Spare the rod 
Lynn Wright’s frivolous article about discipline equates discipline with hitting. Of course the parent in the supermarket who refused to discipline her child should be taken to task. But hitting her child is not the solution. Spanking hurts children. It teaches them that those who love them will hurt them and that problems are solved by violence.

Children are the only group in society who are still legally subject to assault. It’s time we adults acknowledged that hitting children is harmful and cruel whether we are in full control of our emotions or because we have “lost it” as Lynne Wright’s mother used to do.

Section 43 of the Criminal Code permits parents and others to use force to “correct” children. It’s time this section was repealed. There are more intelligent and civilized ways to teach children right from wrong.
Ruth Miller, Toronto

Feb 1/95 Spare the rod 
Lynne Wright’s ill-considered advice that parents should smack, whack, thump and paddle their young children to teach them “respect” displays a complete lack of knowledge and insight. The corporal punishment she so cheerfully recommends too often results in injury and death of children. More than 85% of the 2,000 annual substantiated reports of physical child abuse in Ontario started with corporal punishment as a method of discipline. Each year in Canada, at least 25 children die as a result.

Unlike Ms. Wright, the “restful, well-behaved” survivor of “rousing thumps”, we don’t consider the corporal punishment of children a subject for attempts at humour and are working to repeal Section 43 of the Criminal Code which allows children to be thumped and whacked for their “correction”.
Corinne Robertshaw, Copordinator, Repeal 43 Committee, Toronto

May 5/95 Letter to Globe and Mail Nothing justifies spanking 
Re How to Discipline A Child (letters – April 29): Dr. Earl M. Cooperman makes two points: only hit a child in a calm, controlled, dispassionate manner and do it with love.

The thought of cold, calculated violence perpetrated on a young child by an adult is even more disturbing than blows struck in anger. I have met hundreds of abusing parents and most claim that they struck their children because they loved them. No rationalization can justify an assault on a vulnerable child.
K.C. Finkel, Consultant Pediatrician, McMaster University Medical Centre, Hamilton


Aug 16/94 Letter to Ottawa Citizen Ban the Belt
In the Aug. 7 article, Child Abusers target mainly toddlers, babies, the researcher in charge of the Health Canada study asks “Would you like to do something about it?”

A number of professionals involved with children have recently formed a committee and presented a brief to the federal minister of justice and other cabinet ministers (including the minister of health) urging the repeal of section 43 of the Criminal Code.

This is the section that, in effect, allows parents and teachers to assault children for the purpose of their correction, providing the force used is reasonable. Reasonable has been interpreted by our courts to include hitting with belts and sticks and causing bruises, welts and abrasions. Various studies over the past 18 years have concluded that this belief in the corporal punishment of children is one of the main causes of the abuse you so rightly describe as gruesome.
Corinne Robertshaw, Coordinator, Repeal 43 Committee, Toronto


April 21/93 Letter to Globe and Mail Abusive discipline
It is distressing to see that our courts are still justifying corporal punishment of children with the flimsiest of excuses and no evidence that it is beneficial to the child. (Holding the Rod, Sparing the Child – April 10). Even more distressing are the comments by the judges quoted in the article. In particular, the comments by the late Mr. Justice Joseph O’Sullivan give us some insight into the thinking of the court. In acquitting a man of assault for beating and kicking his eight-year-old son, the judge wrote that the thrashing the child received was “mild indeed compared to the discipline that I received in my home.”

One shudders to think what Mr. Justice O’Sullivan endured at the hands of his parents, but it is unforgivable that the abuse which he suffered as a child should be justification for condoning abuse of children today. Section 43 of the Criminal Code must go. Our claims that we care about children in this society are mocked by the perpetuation of a system which permits their abuse.
Ruth Miller, Toronto

Dec 19/93 Letter to Toronto Star Reassuring move by teachers
How reassuring that teachers “fully support” the Ontario government’s plan to combat violence in schools. (Ontario unveils blueprint to combat school violence, Nov. 26). Can we now expect the Ontario Teachers’ Federation to drop opposition to the repeal of Section 43 of our Criminal Code – the section that allows teachers to use strapping, slapping and shaking against students for their “correction”? If the Federation is really against violence in schools, it must put its principles where its mouth is and support the repeal of Section 43.
Corinne Robertshaw, Toronto


Nov 2/92 Letter to Globe and Mail Assaults on Children 
In her column on “the painful topic of parents who spank their children,” Vivian Smith states with respect to Section 43 of the Criminal Code that children are the only people left that parents can “still smack with the goal of smartening them up”. (Fifth Column – Nov. 5). What she and your readers may not realize is that in allowing “reasonable force” to be used on children for the purpose of their “correction,” Section 43 allows more than a “smack”.

In one of the leading decisions on this section of the code, the Quebec Court of Appeal stated concerning the punishment permitted by the section: “That the punishment naturally may cause pain hardly needs to be stated; otherwise its while purpose would be lost. If in the course of the punishment the pupil should suffer bruises or contusions it does not necessarily follow that the punishment is unreasonable.”

The following are some of the attacks on children by parents and teachers that have been allowed by Canadian courts because of Section 43: strapping a 10-year-old girl on the buttocks causing bruises and weals; slapping a 10-year-old boy in the face with sufficient force to chip a tooth; pushing a 13-year-old boy’s face onto his desk causing a nose bleed; strapping and bruising a 12-year-old girl with a leather belt; causing abrasions to the buttocks, arms and shoulders of a 15-year-old girl by striking her several times with an extension cord.

In a society that purports to condemn violence and respect the rights and dignity of all persons, these assaults on children should no longer be tolerated by the law. When will the Minister of Justice end this victimization of children by recommending the repeal of Section 43?
Corinne Robertshaw, lawyer, Toronto

Nov 22/92 Letter to Toronto Star Turf use of force from Criminal Code 
In your Nov. 15 article Wife abuse: hidden horror devastates lives, by Patricia Orwen, the National Action Committee on the Status of Women recommends certain legal changes to combat violence against women.

The changes proposed, however, fail to include the repeal of Section 43 of the Criminal Code, which 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.”

The law’s message to children is unfortunately all too clear: the important people in your life have the right to physically hurt you if they don’t approve of your behaviour.

Is it any wonder that some of these children grow up to believe they have a similar right to correct their wives and girlfriends, and that some of the latter believe they deserve such “correction” ?

If NAC recommended the repeal of section 43, it would be addressing one of the root causes of family violence. While it may be helpful to make some laws “tougher” as NAC suggests, it would be even more helpful to make this one history.
Corinne Robertshaw, Toronto


May 19/90 Letter to Globe and Mail Relic Encourages Abuse
In the article Court Widens Use of Self-Defence Plea in Battering Cases (May 4) the Supreme court of Canada is quoted as stating that the law has historically sanctioned a man’s right to own and discipline a woman and that the time has come to turn aside this destructive thinking.

The time has also come to turn aside another example of destructive thinking. I refer to section 43 of the Criminal Code which allows parents, teachers and persons standing in the place of parents to use “reasonable” force to “correct” a child. In effect, this section permits assault as a child-rearing method and embodies the same thinking that formerly allowed wives to be assaulted in the name of discipline.

This relic of another age encourages a child-rearing climate in which spankings, slappings and beatings are too often the norm. It undermines a wider acceptance of non-violent child-training methods, leads to the horror stories emanating from Mount Cashel orphanage and St. Joseph’s Training School for Boys and allows perpetrators of violence against children to rationalize their actions.

If we are really serious about reducing child abuse, isn’t it time we reconsidered the wisdom of Section 43 – particularly since the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is supposed to guarantee everyone, including children, the equal protection of the law?
Corinne Robertshaw, Ottawa

June 19/90 Letter to Ottawa Citizen Stop child abuse
The article “Education is the key to preventing massacres like Montreal: legal experts” (June 2), again reminds readers how children subjected to violence by their parents often become violent adults. It is seldom mentioned by such experts, however, that section 43 of the Criminal Code actually condones violence against children by allowing parents and teachers to use “reasonable force” against them for the purposes of “correction”.

As long as our law, in effect, allows children to be assaulted, attempts to educate them against the use of violence as urged by your experts will be undermined. A conflicting message is hardly a good basis for effective education.
Corinne Robertshaw, Ottawa

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Emmily Lucas Death

2-year-old Emmily Lucas was beaten by her mother, Erika Mendieta, on Nov 13/03 and died in hospital Nov 23. Her death was preceded by 4 months of hitting and spanking for ‘discipline’ by her mother. Medical examination revealed bruises all over Emmily’s body, face and head. There were so many, it was difficult to document their number and age. She was a tiny child but appeared well cared for. Emmily’s death resulted from injuries to her brain and spinal cord from ‘blunt force trauma’. The family was known to both police and child welfare officials.

Circumstances of Emmily’s beating and death
On Nov 13/03, Emmily was crying and ‘fussing’ after waking from a nap when her mother was hurrying to pick up her 4 other children, age 4 to 11 yrs, from school. In a moment of rage at her crying, Mendieta hit Emmily a number of times on the head and body, placed her on a couch, covered her with a blanket and left. Her common-law husband and father of her 6th child were in the house but apparently not present when Emmily was beaten. After the beating, Emmily would have been unconscious but when her mother returned about 20 minutes later, she was convulsing and grinding her teeth. The mother panicked and called 911. Neighbours said they often heard thumps and muffled yelling from next door.

Mother charged with 2nd degree murder – first trial
Mendieta, 33, was charged with 2nd degree murder in March/05 after 9 months of forensic testing and after anonymous sources finally came forward as witnesses. The trial took place in Oct&Nov/09, the Crown arguing that Emmily died from ‘an episode of physical correction gone wrong’ and that the mother should have known that hitting on the head would likely kill Emmily. Mendieta claimed the bruises resulted from a previous fall down stairs. The jury could not reach agreement because of conflicting evidence from a boyfriend who took responsibility for Emmily’s death under protection of the Canada Evidence Act. This meant his evidence could not be used against him, except for the offence of perjury. The jury could not reach a verdict and a mistrial was declared in Nov/09.

Second trial and conviction for manslaughter
At her second trial in Nov/10, Mendieta testified that she ‘disciplined’ or ‘spanked’ Emmily by hitting her with a sandal, slipper or hand on the bottom, arms and legs and that she disciplined all her children this way. She acknowledged that it was wrong to hit her children and did not know why she did so. Her eldest daughters said that all the children also hit Emmily.

Because of the distracting influence of a member of the public gallery while the mother was giving her evidence, Justice Nola Garton declared a mistrial. Crown and defence lawyers then agreed to the trial continuing in front of the judge without a jury. Judge Garton convicted Mendieta of manslaughter but not murder, as she found the mother did not intend to kill Emmily and did not recognize that the force she used was potentially fatal. In a 189-page judgment on Jan 17/11 and after pre-sentence reports, Mendieta was sentenced to 6 years in prison in Mar/11.

Emmily’s birth and toddler years
Emmily was born prematurely in Toronto in Jan/01 and remained in hospital for several months. With Mendieta’s agreement, she lived with a paternal aunt and her husband, as Mendieta had 4 other children, the father was in jail, and she couldn’t cope with another infant. The aunt and her husband were primary caregivers until July/03 when Mendieta, who was then living with another man and her 6th child, took Emmily for a 2-week visit and then refused to return her.

Mother’s background
Mendieta came to Canada at age 7 when her mother emigrated from Honduras. She left school after grade 8, testified that she was physically abused by her aunt and mother, ran away from home at age 12, and had her first child as a teenager with a man who physically abused her.

Family court application
When Mendieta did not return Emmily to the aunt with whom she had lived since birth, the aunt and her husband began family court proceedings for custody. A hearing was scheduled for Oct/03 but no court was available and the hearing was adjourned to Nov 23/03. This was the day on which Emmily died in hospital.


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