How to Support Repeal

Read this proposal and join the movement to make the end of Physical Punishment of Children a Reality.

Ending Physical Punishment of Children

A vision and proposal for a Canadian education campaign


the National Education Campaign on Ending Physical Punishment Working Group
in partnership with the Canadian Paediatric Society
Ending Physical Punishment of Children

A vision and proposal for a Canadian education campaign

the National Education Campaign on Ending Physical Punishment Working Group
in partnership with the Canadian Paediatric Society

No violence against children is justifiable; all violence against children is preventable.

– Paolo Sérgio Pinheiro, Independent Expert for the United Nations
Secretary-General’s Study on Violence against Children

In Canada—and around the world—the long-standing debate about the effectiveness and consequences of physical punishment of children has shed far more heat than light. But the debate is becoming a more civil and constructive conversation. Two things in particular have changed its tone: a growing acceptance of children as human rights holders, and research revealing physical punishment to be ineffective as discipline and harmful. We have a wealth of information on healthy child development and effective methods of discipline. Now that we know physical punishment is harmful to children, it is time for a national education campaign that matches the vigour of other harm prevention campaigns in Canada.

Physical punishment of children is a growing concern among health, education, and human rights organizations. Sport, faith, ethnic, and other community leaders are raising their voices about it. Researchers—once cautious about going beyond the simple reporting of findings of studies on physical punishment—are now urging action at the population level. Parents who have used physical punishment are reconsidering it. The voices of children and youth are finally being heard as they talk about being hit by adults. Research on the costs of child maltreatment has given us a window on the substantial economic burden imposed on Canada by the consequences of physical punishment.

A primary reason for the concern is the now compelling body of research demonstrating that physical punishment is linked to broad and enduring personal and societal harm. It poses negative lifelong consequences for children and the people they will encounter as they grow, interact with peers, attend school, work, partner, and become parents in their turn. The dimensions of harm include physical injury, impaired relationships with parents, weaker internalization of moral values, development of antisocial attitudes and aggressive behaviour, poorer cognitive development and academic achievement, mental health problems, and poorer adult physical health (see Brief Bibliography). None of these outcomes would be intended or welcomed by parents doing their best to discipline their children, unaware of the risks of hitting them.

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Recognition of the extent and degree of personal and societal harm generated by physical punishment of children has launched and is driving national and international action.
Thirty-four countries have now prohibited its use in all settings (homes, schools, alternative care). The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child—ratified by Canada and almost every nation in the world—requires ratifying countries to protect their children from all forms of violence including physical punishment. The United Nations has committed substantial resources to studying the global nature, extent, and consequences of physical punishment. The UN is calling on the nations of the world to take all the necessary measures to prevent its use and protect children from it.

In Canada, nearly 500 national, provincial/territorial, community organizations, and a number of distinguished Canadians, have endorsed the Joint Statement on Physical Punishment of Children and Youth to date. Its messages that, “The evidence is clear and compelling—physical punishment of children and youth plays no useful role in their upbringing and poses only risks to their development” and that, “parents should be strongly encouraged to develop alternative and positive approaches to discipline”, have supported the missions, values, and programs of many Canadian organizations working to eliminate physical punishment.

We envision a sustained high-quality national education campaign dedicated to eliminating physical punishment and promoting the use of positive discipline with children. Education campaigns in Canada that have changed social norms and individual behaviour related to drinking and driving, seatbelt use, exposure to second-hand smoke, shaking babies, and wearing helmets have demonstrated that public education can reduce harm at a population level. Research evidence set these harm prevention strategies in motion; sustained creative messaging then moved Canadians to change their risk behaviours.

Many Canadian organizations have developed strategies to persuade parents that hitting children is ineffective as discipline and harmful. Toronto Public Health’s “Spanking Hurts More Than You Think” campaign captured wide attention, generated public discussion, and provided a model of public education. Evaluation of the strategy found that parents who were aware of the campaign had stronger anti-spanking attitudes and were more likely to be aware of the negative effects of spanking than parents who were not aware of the campaign.

Several of the elements critical to developing a successful Canadian campaign to end physical punishment of children are already in place. There is solid research on the risks of physical punishment, and it has received extensive coverage by the national media. A wealth of information about effective parenting and discipline is widely available. And there are many Canadian and international examples of successful public health education and harm-prevention campaigns.

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The aim of this document is to seek expressions of interest, from organizations and individuals, in funding the development of a high-quality sustained national education program with two essential components: (1) information about physical punishment being ineffective for disciplinary purposes and harmful to children; and (2) encouragement of positive and effective approaches to discipline.

Experience with the thorny issue of physical punishment of children and effective harm prevention education suggests that the campaign:

1. have public education as its primary focus—not law reform or child rights;
2. roll out and evolve over several years;
3. be developed by an advertising agency with social marketing expertise;
4. support—not compete with or attempt to replace—other initiatives directed toward the well-being of children and effective parenting;
5. include measurement of public attitudes toward physical punishment before, during, and after the campaign; and
6. be supported by a respected institutional partner to provide operational guidance, and to hold and account for the receipt and expenditure of funds.

The next steps in moving this plan forward will be:

7. the development of a case statement that translates this vision and proposal into a detailed operational strategy that includes securing funding for the described sustained high-quality national education campaign; and
8. securing seed funding (estimated at $30,000) for the development of an operational strategy. Donations will be receipted, held, and expenditures accounted for by the Canadian Paediatric Society.

The role of our Working Group will be:

9. securing seed funding and finding the expertise required to develop a case statement, with guidance from the Canadian Paediatric Society; and
10. providing support to the creative process with regard to the content, tone, and parameters of the education campaign.

National Education Campaign on Ending Physical Punishment Working Group
Ron Ensom, M.S.W., RSW; Ensom & Associates
Kathy Lynn, B.A., CCFE; Parenting Today Productions Inc.
Dia Mamatis, M.A.; Health Promotion Consultant
Ailsa Watkinson, M.Ed, Ph.D; Professor, Faculty of Social Work, University of Regina

October 24, 2013

Brief Bibliography *

Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children.

Joint Statement on Physical Punishment of Children and Youth.

Physical punishment of children: lessons from 20 years of research: Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Positive Discipline in Everyday Parenting.

Report on Physical Punishment in the United States: What Research Tells Us About Its Effects on Children.

Spanking and Child Development: We Know Enough Now to Stop Hitting Our Children. Child Development Perspectives. Article is available upon request of Working Group.

The Economic Costs and Consequences of Child Abuse in Canada; Report to the Law Commission of Canada, 2003.

This hurts Me More Than It Hurts You: In Words and Pictures, Children Share How Spanking Hurts and What To Do Instead; N. Block & M. Gomez, Centre for Effective Discipline.

UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, General Comment No. 8 (2006), The right of the child to protection from corporal punishment and other cruel or degrading forms of punishment.

World Report on Violence against Children. pp. 18, 52.


* additional information is available upon request
Contact Ministers, Senators and MPs I Contact
| Contact Media
l Organize Events l Circulate
l Rules for Petitions

Contact Ministers, Senators and MPs

Write or email:

The Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper, Prime Minister,

The Hon. Peter Mackay, Minister of Justice and Attorney General,

Copy your letter to your MP and leaders of the opposition parties:

The Hon. Thomas Mulcair, Leader, NDP Party Canada,

The Hon.Justin Trudeau, Leader, Liberal Party Canada,

The Hon. Elizabeth May, Leader, Green Party Canada,

Name, M.P.

House of Commons (or Senate)

Ottawa, K1A 0A6

Postage stamps not required

If your organization writes or emails federal ministers advocating repeal, please let us know so we can add the organization’s name to the Supporting Organizations chapter of our website.

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Contact Organizations/ Individuals

Contact organizations you think should support repeal. Ask them
to do so. If they want more information, refer them to our web
site. Letters from individuals are also important. They can
bring a personal perspective to the issue that captures attention.

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Contact Media

Write letters to newspapers

Reference your letter to a recent news report dealing with
children’s issues or related issues. Check editorial pages
for information on length and contact addresses. See News/Archives
for a selection of published letters to editors.

Participate in TV and radio phone-in shows

Speak out and add your voice to show your support for repeal.

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Organize Events

Events that identify the need for repeal can draw public attention
and support. The following are some that have been held in the
last few years

  • workshops and debates on section 43
  • workshops on alternatives to corporal punishment
  • spank-out days – click our link to for information and ideas
  • creative events highlighting the issue

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Circulate Petition

Obtain signatures on a petition and take it to your MP. The
petition must be in a specific form and follow certain rules.
The parliamentary Clerk of Petitions has approved the form of
our petition. Click here
to download PDF version of Petition.

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Rules for Petitions

Petitions must be in a specific form established by Parliament.
The format of the above petition has been approved by the parliamentary
Clerk of Petitions.

  1. You must obtain a minimum of 25 signatures showing
    the home address either in full or the city and province
    of the persons signing. They do not have to be constituents
    of the MP presenting the petition.
  2. There are spaces for 30 signatures on the petition. If
    you wish to obtain more signatures, each new sheet must
    show the subject matter of the petition.
  3. MPs may be requested to present a petition (whether they
    agree with it or not) but are not required to do so. It
    may be presented by your local MP or any other MP.
  4. An MP may present the petition by making a brief statement
    about it in the House, in which case the statement is reproduced
    in Hansard, the written proceedings of the House, or by
    filing it with the Clerk of the House. Ask the MP to
    present it in the House.

  5. The MP is not allowed to read the petition and no speech
    may be made but ask the MP to at least state that section
    43 allows corporal punishment of children by teachers, parents
    and those in the place of parents, that the petition asks
    for repeal, and a brief statement as to why repeal is requested.
  6. A petition may be presented whenever an MP chooses. Ask
    your MP to send you a copy of Hansard showing his/her presentation
    of the petition. Follow up if you don’t hear within a month
    of so. Please send a copy of the Hansard excerpt to the
    Repeal 43 Committee.
  7. The Minister of Justice must table a response in the House
    within 45 days. Ask your MP to send you the response and
    forward copy to us.
  8. When we receive a copy of the Minister’s response, we
    will consider a reply and send a copy to you, the presenting
    MP, and the Minister.

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