Judicial Attitudes to Corporal Punishment

The attitudes of Canadian courts toward the corporal punishment of children is indicated by the comments of judges in acquitting parents and teachers of assault under section 43.

Comment from 1927 and 1951

Anatomy specially designed for punishment

A Saskatchewan court in R. v. Metcalfe (1927) acquitted a school principal for striking a 10 year old girl on the buttocks with sufficient force to leave black and blue welts …on that part of her anatomy which seems to have been specially designed by nature for the receipt of corporal punishment.

Hitting with iron bar and kicking to the ground go too far

The court in the Metcalfecase could find no decision in which a teacher had been found guilty of assault unless the assault was with a dangerous weapon such as an iron bar etc. or where the pupil is kicked to the ground or otherwise ill treated. Legal scholars from earlier centuries were quoted on the salutary effects of corporal punishment.

Contusions and bruises not unreasonable

The Quebec Court of Appeal in Campeau v. The King (1951) explained section 43 by stating: That the punishment naturally may cause pain hardly needs to be stated; otherwise its whole purpose would be lost…the mere fact that the children disciplined suffered contusions and bruises is not in itself proof of exercise of undue force.>

Comment from 1990 to 2001

The following comments were made by judges in recent acquittals of parents and teachers when attempting to determine the meaning of “reasonable” in section 43.

Punishment causing bruises is not necessarily excessive
R. v. Wheeler, Yukon, 1990

Striking with a belt is perhaps a little distastefulbut is authorized by law
R. v. L.A.K., Newfoundland, 1992

Kicking and hitting an eight year old is well within the range of generally accepted punishment – mild compared to what I received as a child
R.v. K. (M), Manitoba, 1993

One blow only – no permanent injury
R. v. Condon, Newfoundland, 1993, (teacher)

Teacher’s action may be disgraceful but it was not excessive
R. v. Bouillon, Quebec, 1993 (teacher)

Life and limb not endangered by using a belt
R. v. Atkinson, Manitoba, 1994

Slap to head not per se excessive force
R. v. D.W., Alberta, 1995

A hard body blow was necessary for a submissive response
R. v. Pickard, Quebec, 1995

Community standards may not be relevant in judging force
R. v. Peterson, Ontario, 1995

Reasonable standard of force is elusive
R. v. J. (O), Ontario, 1996

Instilling respect even through fear is acceptable
R. v. Wetmore, New Brunswick, 1996 (teacher)

Injured dignity has corrective potential
R. v. Spenard, Ontario, 1996 (teacher)

Raising welts does not amount to bodily harm
R. v. N.S., Ontario, 1999

Slap had a salutary effect on behaviour
R. v. Park, Newfoundland, 1999 (teacher)

Section 43 does not restrict discipline to what is appropriate or proportional or that it must be a last resort
R. v. Bell, Ontario, 2001

Case law recognizes and Parliament apparently sees using a belt as acceptable punishment, (judge expressed his personal view that using a belt is always unreasonable)
R. v. C. (G), Newfoundland, 2001

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