News: 2008 and Earlier

2008 Global Initiative Report on world-wide campaigns to end CP
This 2008 UK Report is published by the Global Initiative to End all Corporal Punishment of Children, London, and Save the Children Sweden. It lists global progress in ending corporal punishment, National Campaigns, the Council of Europe campaign, Recommendations, Resources for reform and other international information and is an informative and user-friendly 30-page report. Our Repeal 43 Committee is described in its 6-page review of national campaigns around the world. To obtain a copy, email

Dec 29/08 More furor when Prince hits dog than when parents hit children?
UK newspapers, as well as the Globe and others around the world, publish prominent pictures of Britain’s Prince Edward appearing to strike his hunting dogs. “Hitting a dog is a pathetic, cowardly and vicious act”, says the director of Animal Aid. How often do we hear hitting a child described in the same terms? Canadian, Autumn Philips, the latest addition to the Royal Family, was also on the hunt. Perhaps she’ll have a word on the subject with her new royal relation.

Dec 21/08 Devastating picture painted of UK child protection services
The Observer, London – A child, known only as ‘Baby P’, suffered 17 months of horrendous abuse at the hands of his East London mother and her boy friends. A submission to a govt taskforce to review how the case was handled paints a devastating picture of UK protection services. Britain’s National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children has damned the govt for lack of political leadership and called for substantial law changes, including removal of ‘at risk’ children after 90 days and ending the defence for parental physical punishment. It also states that social workers are struggling to meet ‘absurdly’ high thresholds for intervening in families.

Dec 10/08 ‘Shocking’ British TV ad against child abuse upheld
BBC News – A hard-hitting TV commercial by the children’s charity, Barnardo’s, will continue to be screened, despite attracting almost 500 complaints. In it, a teenage girl is pictured behind a prison door, then at a kitchen table where a man hits her hard on the back of the head and calls her a “worthless little cow”. The next scene pictures her at school in tears before she appears in a deserted setting having just taken drugs. The scenes are repeated at increasing speed, emphasizing the sound of the slap and the girl’s sobs.

Text on the screen reads: “For thousands of children in the UK the story will keep repeating itself, until someone stops it.” A Barnardo’s spokeswoman said the vicious cycle of deprivation, exclusion, abuse and crime was the greatest threat to the UK’s most vulnerable children, adding: “We hoped viewers of the ad would be able to look beyond the challenging story and realise that this is a very real issue and that the shocking fact is that for some children the story will keep repeating itself until someone stops it.”

Dec 3/08 Childhood abuse of accused murderer Jeremy Steinke
Globe and Mail – At 25-year old Jeremy Steinke’s Alberta trial for the murder of an 8-year old boy and his parents, reporter Dawn Walton recounts his mother’s testimony that his father used to ‘whack’ him with a belt and drag him by the ears. His mother’s second husband would ‘swat’ him with a paint stick, and her third once pushed his head into a deep freezer. The mother said her son had always been bullied, once attempted to hang himself, and ‘continuously’ said ‘he wished he was dead, wished he was never born’.

Comment: This is an all-too-familiar story about childhood ‘discipline’ endured by those who later commit violent acts. It is a welcome development that journalists are increasingly noting these childhood experiences in reporting on such cases.

Dec 1/08 Edmonton foster mother appeals manslaughter of 3-year old
Globe and Mail – A 3-year old foster child was rushed to hospital with severe head injuries 2 years ago, the 34-year old foster mother saying the injuries were accidental when the boy fell from her arms and hit his head. He died the next day. The Crown argued that the woman abused the boy repeatedly in the month leading up to his death. She was charged with second-degree murder but convicted of manslaughter and will be sentenced on March 7/09. Alberta’s Minister for Children’s Services has ordered a review of the foster care system and a fatality inquiry will be called into the death. An earlier review recommended that foster parents undergo a 6-month probationary period. About 4,600 Alberta children are living with foster parents or relatives.

Nov 29/08 Brampton, Ont man pleads guilty to manslaughter of 1-year old
Toronto Star – Elijah Sibblies, a few days short of his first birthday, had 38 injuries, including abrasions inside his mouth and on his face, scalp, nose and torso when paramedics brought him to hospital. There was also evidence of brain injury caused by shaking. Garfield Sibblies, 38, was not the child’s biological father but the child carried his name. He acknowledged to police that he ‘occasionally’ physically disciplined Elijah despite his young age. Sibblies was originally charged with 2nd degree murder but pled guilty to manslaughter and will be sentenced sometime in Feb/09.

Nov 27/08 US boy charged with killing father vowed spanking limit
USA Today – Police say an 8-year old Phoenix, Ariz boy charged with homicide of his father and friend may have kept a written record of spankings by his parents, vowing that the 1,000th would be his limit. In an interview with police, the boy’s grandmother shouted out in an angry and loud tone that she knew this would happen because they (the parents) were too hard on the boy.

Nov 22/08 Mental illness in children is their most pressing single health issue
Globe and Mail – As part of its series, Canada’s Mental-Health Crisis, Erin Anderssen and André Picard report that depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder affect 13 to 22% of Canadian children. Dr. Ian Manion, Children’s Hosp, Ottawa, says he is “amazed” at how many people don’t believe that mental illness exists in children and says it is their single most-pressing health issue. At least 70% of mental illness in adults can be traced back to childhood, with many adults recalling frightening moments of sadness or anxiety.

Nov 20/08  Open Letter to MPs in Globe and Mail asks repeal of Section 43
Nov 20 is Canada’s National Child Day that annually celebrates the Nov 20,1989 adoption by the UN General Assembly of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Canada signed in 1990 and ratified in 1991. The Open Letter calls on MPs to repeal section 43 of the Criminal Code; the section that justifies physical punishment of children. The UN Committee that monitors compliance with the Convention has twice urged the federal government to repeal this 1892 provision on the grounds that it violates Article 19 of the Convention. The Open Letter is endorsed by 137 Canadian organizations and is published in the Hill Times as well as the Globe. Click for Open Letter.

Nov 19/08 Same old arguments re NZ referendum on smacking ban
Otago Daily Times, NZ – In an opinion piece by Simon Cunliffe, Assistant Editor, on the amendment to New Zealand’s Crimes Act that ended the defence to assaulting children for correction, Cunliffe writes that the debate on the law change was framed by well-organized and well-funded opponents as an invasion of individual rights and an attack on the freedom of the family. In some cases, a compliant media bought into the language of the lobbyists.

The leading opponents to reform were social conservatives such as Family First, For the Sake of our Children, and the Sensible Sentencing Trust, and their parliamentary proxy, the ‘Act New Zealand’ party. The amendment was a rallying point for the group who were offended by other progressive legislation. The “anti-smacking” law became a beachhead in an all-out attempt to unseat the Labour-led Government. Now that this govt has gone, the new National-led government will likely ignore whatever results emerge from the upcoming referendum on the new law. The same arguments are being used in the referendum. See International Developments chapter, New Zealand, for info on the referendum and other developments.

Nov/08 NZ parents using more positive discipline after smacking ban
Barnardo’s New Zealand, National Resource Centre – The research project on child discipline carried out by the University of Otago, Children’s Issues Centre, between December 2006 and July this year shows that parents are moving towards more positive disciplinary methods, says the CEO of Barnardo’s New Zealand. Recent police statistics show that the Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007 banning smacking is working well. It also shows that 70 per cent of parents who oppose the law do not understand it. That figure reinforces the urgent need for further public education and information about the law. The University of Otago has a long established tradition of research excellence.

Nov 14/11/08  Mother/husband on trial in death of 5-year old Phoenix Sinclair
Toronto Star – 5 year-old Phoenix Sinclair died alone in June/05 on a cold basement floor in a remote reserve north of Winnipeg after months of beatings while in the care of her mother, Samantha Kematch, and common-law husband, Karl McKay. McKay’s 18-year old son testified that both had regularly beaten the child, sometimes with their fists, sometimes with a metal rod. The mother told police that Phoenix was sometimes hit, choked and shot with a pellet gun and left all day in a pen in the basement for ‘misbehaving’. The child was not reported missing until 9 months after her death when her body was found near a garbage dump. The couple was charged with first-degree murder in March/06 and is now on trial in Winnipeg. The child had spent much of her life bouncing between her family and various foster homes. Child welfare workers had closed her file a few months before her death. The child welfare system is being reviewed as a result of this death.

Nov 13/08  NZ Commissioner reports on attitudes to ‘smacking’ ban
New Zealand’s Children’s Commissioner issues a report on a survey of public attitudes to New Zealand’s ‘smacking’ ban a year after it came into force. In it, a representative sample of adults was asked whether children should have the same protection from assault as adults. 89 % agreed that they should. The majority was aware of the change in the law and that it is illegal to hit children, but only a minority understood the actual provisions of the law. 43% clearly supported the new law, 28% were opposed, and the others were neutral. More effort is needed to improve understanding of the law and of positive parenting practices. Click for Report.

Nov 11/08  Montreal parents charged in death of 9-month old son
Toronto Star – A couple that disappeared after taking their baby son to the Montreal Children’s Hospital are located in Florida and will be extradited to Canada on a charge of 2nd-degree murder. An autopsy showed the baby had been abused and died from being violently shaken. The parents are refugees, age 20 and 21, and had been placed on Quebec’s list of 10 most-wanted criminals.

Nov 10/08  Labour defeat in New Zealand could affect ‘smacking’ ban
John Key, leader of NZ National Party, defeats Helen Clark’s Labour government after 9 years in office and is now the new PM. Under Labour, a private member’s bill repealed a NZ law similar to our s. 43. In a Nov 2/08 article in NZ’s Star-Times, the new PM is reported as having told a ‘Family First’ forum that he will consider changing the ban if a referendum shows strong opposition to it. But on other occasions has said he would only reverse the ban if there were compelling evidence that it was ‘not working’.

Nov 7/08  Murder charge of infant against mother dropped
Toronto Star – Mother was charged 3 years ago with 2nd- degree murder of her infant daughter after police received a call that baby had stopped breathing. The decision to withdraw the charge was made after an independent review of the case by experts in the wake of Ontario’s Goudge inquiry probing pediatric forensic pathology. The prosecutor decided there was no reasonable prospect of a conviction because the experts ‘can’t seem to agree with any degree of certainty’ on the cause of the infant’s death.

Nov 1/08  Public ed campaign needed on New Zealand ‘smacking’ ban
The Press – Research on public understanding of NZ’s ban on ‘smacking’ children, carried out by the Otago University Children’s Issues Centre, found that 70% of parents who are against the ban do not understand the new law. There seems to have been timidity and avoidance of objective information about the ban, the article states, perhaps because the government is nervous about the reaction from ‘extremely well-funded and powerful religious Right groups to any public information’. It concludes that the message that physical punishment in not a good idea is getting out to parents but there is a ‘massive need for more information and education’ about the change in the law.

Nov 1/08  Foster father won’t be retried in death of 4-year-old
Globe and Mail – The 4-year-old boy had been hit repeatedly, thrown against walls and died of multiple blunt trauma to the head in June 2000. His foster mother confessed to beating the child and pled guilty to manslaughter. The Northern Ontario foster father was convicted of manslaughter for criminal negligence but acquitted of manslaughter for failing to provide the necessities of life. The Supreme Court of Canada, with one dissent, decided that the two verdicts can’t be reconciled and refused to order a retrial of father.

Oct 16/08  Couple charged with brutal assault on 10-month–old baby boy
The Toronto couple, Revilla and Barreda, are charged with assault causing bodily harm, aggravated assault and failing to provide necessaries of life. It is not known whether they are the parents of the 10-month old baby. The child had a skull fracture, broken collarbones and numerous broken bones in the legs and arms and the couple were arrested at the hospital. The case comes during Child Abuse Protection month in which citizens are being urged to overcome a proven reluctance to report suspected cases of abuse.

Oct 10/08  Statistics Canada  report on family violence includes children 
In its latest report on family violence based on information gathered in 2006, Statistics Canada reports 39,256 incidents of physical assaults against children and youth, almost 8000 of which were committed against children 3 to 11 years of age. Parents are the most commonly identified perpetrators. There were 60 homicides: 36 by parents, 16 by non-family members and 13 were unsolved. Incidents of physical violence are based on reports from 149 police services representing 90% of the population. They represent only a portion of the violence committed against children and youth who may be victims of other types of abuse and violence such as child maltreatment and neglect that are not reported to police. See Family Violence in Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics.

Oct 9/08  EU Commissioner asks UK to give children same protection as adults
Memorandum by Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner, Thomas Hammarberg – The Commissioner visited UK in Feb and March/08 and wrote a 19-page memorandum on his visit for the Council of Europe. In it, he expressed concern that in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the ‘reasonable force’ defence is still available to parents for common assault on children. It is also available in Scotland as a ‘justifiable assault’. He writes that children should have the same protection from assault as adults and that the government appears to have overlooked or dismissed the overwhelming response to its consultation that was in favour of banning all corporal punishment of children. Click for Memorandum.

Oct 7/08  100 UK multi-party  MPs call for free vote on spanking ban
Project NoSpank – The Daily Telegraph reports that a multi-party group of MPs who support a total ban on spanking say they will vote their conscience on the issue no matter what their parties decide. “The current law allowing so-called ‘reasonable punishment’ of children is unjust, unsafe and unclear, and must be abolished once and for all” said Labor MP, Kevin Baron, who is chairman of the multiparty group and of the Commons Health Committee. However, when the issue came up for debate on Oct 9, procedural constraints prevented it from being discussed because other matters took up the time allowed for its discussion.

Sept 25/08  Oshawa parents arrested over fractures to 5-week old daughter
Toronto Star – The baby was taken by her grandmother to an Oshawa hospital 6 months ago suffering from a fractured skull and broken bones. She was then transferred to Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children where the injuries were ruled non-accidental. The parents, age 19 and 21, face assault and negligence charges. The child is in foster care and may have permanent brain damage.

Sept 24/08 North Bay father charged with vicious beating of 6-month old
The 29-year old father from North Bay, ON is sentenced to 5 years in prison for vicious beatings of his son. By 6 months of age, the baby had been repeatedly beaten, according to an expert at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick children. The child suffered multiple fractures to the skull, collarbone, jaw, ribs, arms and legs, hemorrhaging and torn tissues in the mouth. He is now being cared for by his grandparents, and at age 2 years lags in development and is receiving ongoing physio and speech therapy. The father was convicted of assaulting his 4-year old nephew 10 years ago. The baby’s mother, age 33, faces charges.

Sept 7/08 Federal election means Senate corporal punishment bill dies
Once again, progress on ending legal support for corporal punishment is set back by a federal election. The Prime Minister’s call today for an election on Oct 14 means that Senate Bill S-209 as amended, passed June 16 and introduced in the House of Commons the same day will not be proceeded with. This was the third bill to repeal s. 43 introduced by Senator Hervieux-Payette. However, she announced during the Senate debate that she would keep introducing a bill until one is passed. We expect she will do so in the new Parliament and either introduce a new bill or the amended Bill S-209. Click Senate Bills to Repeal S. 43 for Senate debate, committee hearings and Bill S-209 as amended.

Sept 4/08 Alberta father charged with assault on infant son
Globe and Mail – Lethbridge father, age 20, charged with assault causing bodily harm to his 2-month old son and failing to provide him with the necessaries of life. The police investigated when the baby was taken to hospital 2 days after his leg was broken.

Aug 20/08 United States – Corporal punishment common in the South
Ottawa Citizen – More than 200,000 children were hit as punishment – mostly with a paddle on the bottom – in U.S. schools last year, a report released today says. In 13 states in the U.S. South where corporal punishment is most common, black girls are twice as likely to be hit as white girls, says the study, compiled by Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Aug 18/08 US study finds parents who spank with object more likely to abuse
Kansas City Star – A study released Tuesday by doctors at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill finds that parents who spank their children with an object – such as a belt, switch or paddle – are nine times more likely to abuse their child through more severe means. Also, parents are much more likely to beat, burn or shake their children if they spank frequently, according to the study which is being published by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.

It’s the latest finding in a growing body of research suggesting parents should use their voice, not their hands or household tools, to keep children in line. This study rests on anonymous admissions of 1,435 mothers of children from North and South Carolina randomly selected to share details of the discipline they and other caregivers use in the privacy of their own home.

Rates of abuse, the researchers found, are alarmingly high, even in a survey dependent on parents owning up to behavior that could cost them the right to raise their children. Twelve percent of mothers who reported spanking a child’s bottom with an object also admitted engaging in behavior researchers classified as physical abuse. Also, 12 percent of those who spanked 50 or more times in the last year admitted abuse such as beating, burning, shaking or hitting the child with an object about their body.

Aug/08 Some Christian advice on when/where/how to hit toddlers
A US Gospel website that gives spanking advice “in the name of Jesus” shows how far some will go in their quest to raise submissive children. Those who think spanking should continue to be legal should consider the implications of the following: We recommend zero tolerance for disobedience and didn’t permit our young children to say “no” to us. Make it clear from the start that this brings an automatic spanking. We recommend starting around eighteen months of age. It worked well for us to use a thin wooden spoon. We would pull the pants down in the back and spank one, two, or three times on the bare bottom. We would often tell them to get the spanking spoon and go upstairs to their room. If they didn’t relent and surrender, we would tell them they were going to get another spanking and then administer it in the same way. If necessary, this process would go on through numerous cycles, lasting forty minutes or more.

Aug 6/08 Woman/boyfriend charged in death of 7-year old Toronto girl
Globe and Mail – 7-year old Katelynn Samson is found dead in the apartment of Donna Irving, 29, and her boyfriend Warren Johnson, 46. Police say the child had been assaulted throughout her entire body on an on-going basis, did not have a bed to sleep in, and that Irving had a record of violent crimes. She and boyfriend are charged with second-degree murder. On Sept 6, the Globe reported that charges have been raised to first-degree murder because the child had been confined during the beating.

Background: Subsequent press reports indicate that Katelynn’s mother was undergoing treatments for drug addiction, Katelynn had behavioural and learning difficulties, and Irving and Katelynn’s mother were friends. But how Katelynn came into the care of Irving and Johnson and what role the Toronto CAS and Native Child and Family Services played is not clear because of confidentially restrictions. Presumably, the two children’s aid organizations were approached and the mother agreed voluntarily to give custody to Irving and Johnson. This transfer of custody was made a year ago by application to a Family Court judge under Ontario’s Children’s Law Reform Act and finalized in June. Under this Act, the judge hearing the custody application can request the Office of the Children’s Lawyer to represent the child and make a clinical investigation of the potential custodians. According to MPP Peter Kormos, the judge failed to probe the circumstances of the case or request appointment of the Children’s Lawyer. He has filed a complaint against the judge. The Ontario government has announced its intention to examine how child custody cases are dealt with and will review child protection laws to see what changes need to be made.

Aug 14/08 Teens charged with assault for paddling youngsters in hazing ritual
Globe and Mail – 14 Edmonton area teenagers are charged with assault for paddling younger children with hockey sticks and cricket bats in a hazing ritual at a Catholic school. The children’s injuries ranged from reddening to bruises and bleeding. The Chair of the school board said he hoped these charges would convey that such incidents are assaults and not a fun, hazing ritual.

July 29/08 Canadian professor lauds NZ ban on corporal punishment
Otago Daily Times, New Zealand – University of Manitoba Associate Prof, Joan Durrant, says New Zealand is a world leader in eliminating violence against children and more countries should follow its “courageous move”. Speaking at the Children’s Issues Centre national seminar in Dunedin, NZ, Prof Durrant said other British countries had focused on the protection of adults rather than the protection of children. New Zealand does not attempt to define “reasonable” corporal punishment. Instead, it prohibits it. In Canada, we have not yet made the message clear. Professor Durrant is a children’s clinical psychologist.

July 16/08 Teacher/principal get absolute discharge for strapping schoolboys
Canoe News – Principal and teacher at Old Colony Christian school in the Aylmer area of Ontario pled guilty in March to assault with a weapon for strapping 7 schoolboys for routine horseplay. See News/Archive items of Feb 16 and March 27/08 for circumstances. The school policy, approved by parents, allows discipline with an object.

In 2004, the Supreme Court of Canada banned corporal punishment of school pupils and banned the use of an object for punishing any child. Their counsel told the court the two are law-abiding citizens who simply did not know they were “coming close to breaking the law”. In granting an absolute discharge, Judge John Getliffe said he managed to survive the strap and recognized the intent was “for our own good and out of love”. Absolute discharges mean that neither will have a criminal record. The school has now abandoned the policy.

Comment: Judges should refrain from minimizing the harm of corporal punishment by referring to their own childhood acceptance of strapping as being for their own good and done out of love. The Supreme Court has made it clear that corporal punishment in schools is no longer allowed by s. 43 and that hitting any child with an object is now a criminal offence. Intent and suppositions that strapping is done “out of love” are irrelevant.

July 7/08 US study finds pediatricians can help prevent violence
Newswise Medical News – A study at Vanderbilt University Medical Center finds that pediatricians can help prevent future violent behaviors in their patients with a brief, one-time office intervention during a routine exam, according to a new study published in the July issue of Pediatrics. The research was based on changing factors previously shown to impact the risk of future violent behavior, such as excessive media time (computer games and television often depicting violence), access to unsafely stored firearms and corporal punishment.

July/08 Newcomers to Canada advised that hitting children is illegal
A Citizenship and Immigration Canada pamphlet A Newcomer’s Introduction to Canada recently came to our attention. Among other things, the July/07 revision of the pamphlet advises people coming to Canada that It is against the law to hit your spouse or children, either in the home or in public. We commend the minister and department for including this information.

June 30/08 28% of children have cognitive/behavioural problems at age 6
Doug Willms, Research Chairman, University of New Brunswick, and author of Vulnerable Children, says 28.6 % of Canadian children exhibit cognitive or behavioral problems at age 6 and are not yet ready to learn. Many of these children live in well-to-do households. In answering the question of why this should be, Dr. Willms said that what matters most is the family environment of the child and good parenting skills of the family.

June 27/08 New Zealand petition to re-instate ‘smacking’ may not proceed
The Press, Christchurch, NZ – PM Helen Clarke says because of logistical difficulties, the petition to reverse New Zealand’s recent ban on corporal punishment of children probably cannot be voted on at the same time as the general election expected in November. In its editorial, The Press urges the PM to overcome these difficulties and hold the referendum “Now that the ban is in force and the predictions of dire consequences have shown to be false, the case for it has become even stronger. The referendum should be taken as an opportunity to show the diehards for the reactionaries they are.” Click International Developments, New Zealand for more information.

June 25/08 Costa Rica bans corporal punishment of children
CRIN – Costa Rica’s Legislative Assembly passes a law prohibiting corporal punishment of children as a method of discipline by parents and guardians. The parliamentarian who proposed the law, expressed satisfaction: “This move is not denying parents the power to discipline their children, but just saying they must do this without violence. It is not a case of not using discipline, but of re-educating ourselves in establishing boundaries. These boundaries must be set without humiliation, without smacking and without anger if we want to raise respectful, responsible and confident young people”, said the parliamentarian. Click International Developments, Other Countries for list of 25 countries that have banned corporal punishment.

June 25/08 Ontario abuse expert calls for federal ban on spanking children
Times Colonist – In an interview following his address to the Canadian Pediatric Society in Victoria, BC, Ron Ensom said that s. 43 of the Criminal Code leaves children unprotected against physical assault by their parents and should be repealed. The bill passed by the Senate allowing “reasonable force other than corporal punishment” is confusing and muddies the issue, he said.

June 24/25/08 House arrest for Winnipeg soldier who broke babies’ bones
Toronto Star – A Winnipeg soldier who squeezed his infant triples so hard that he broke their bones is sentenced to 19 months house arrest and psychological counseling. He said he was trying to stop them from crying and didn’t mean to hurt them.

June 23-July 3/08 Senate ban on corporal punishment prompts letters to editors
Letters from Canada and the US commend the Senate for passing Bill S-209 banning corporal punishment of children. Click Articles/Letters 1990 – 2008 to read them.

June 23/08 New Zealand police report on effect of corporal punishment ban
EPOCH, NZ – During the first three months of the current police review on the effect of NZ’s recent ban on corporal punishment, police reported an increase in the number of smacking events attended. The number decreased during the second 3-month period to levels similar to pre-enactment levels. They will continue to carry out six monthly comparisons from the next review period.

June 21/08 Good editorial on a controversial Quebec discipline decision
Globe and Mail – On June 19, Quebec Superior Court Judge Suzanne Tessier ruled that the father of a 12 year-old girl could not discipline her by barring her from a 3-day school trip to mark her graduation from elementary school. He had forbidden the trip as punishment for posting inappropriate photos of herself on an internet dating site. The decision created a public and media uproar on the basis that it undercut the father’s authority over his daughter.

In its editorial, the Globe reported that the parents had been divorced for 10 years, had been before the court “for quite some time”, during which the girl had been represented by a government-appointed lawyer, the father had custody of his daughter but, she contended, had expelled her from his house and since May she has lived with her mother. In Quebec law, separated parents share important decisions about children and in some circumstances, minors can initiate court proceedings re the exercise of parental authority. The mother had given permission for the trip and the daughter herself applied to the court claiming that the father’s refusal of permission was excessive punishment. The Globe editorial concludes that the father’s refusal seems unjust and that Judge Tessier appears to have had the girl’s interests at heart in reaching her decision.

June 20/08 Autistic boy suffocates from restraint device in Quebec school
Toronto Star – A 9- year old autistic boy dies in hospital a day after being rolled in a weighted blanket at a Quebec school for the disabled. The 50 lb boy, who had been admonished for excessive ‘vocalizing’, was left in the blanket for nearly 20 minutes before being found unconscious. A coroner’s inquest slammed the guidelines for allowing such blankets. The lawyer for the boy’s parents wants the minister of education to set up a ‘legal framework’ to establish how restraints should be used in schools.

June 18/28/08 Charges against brother/father raised to first-degree murder
Globe and Mail – The charges against Mississauga, Ontario father of 16 year-old Aqsa Parvez and her 27 year-old brother are raised to first-degree murder, implying her death was planned by both for failing to wear a hijab, the Muslim head scarf. See Dec 13/07 News item for circumstances.

June 17/08 Senate passes bill banning corporal punishment of children
Toronto Star – The bill, as originally tabled by Senator Hervieux-Payette, would have repealed s. 43 but was amended by a senate committee to ban corporal punishment but retain the power of parents to use ‘reasonable force other than corporal punishment’ to prevent or minimize harm, or conduct of a criminal nature, or excessively offensive or disruptive behaviour. The bill passed without fanfare with some senators dissenting. Liberal MP Marlene Jennings will now introduce it in the House of Commons. She said it is time to abandon the use of force as a way to correct a child’s behaviour and that virtually all experts in child development agree. See Senate Bills to Repeal S. 43 for history of bill and comment. Click Bill S-209 for bill as amended and passed.

June 15/08 Mother charged with murder of 12-year old daughter
Toronto Star – A 33 year-old Nova Scotia mother is charged with first-degree murder after the body of her 12-year old daughter was found on a riverbank near Bridgewater, N.S. The mother reported her daughter missing in January/08 after an argument and appealed to the public for help at an emotional news conference. Police have not yet released details on how the child died.

June 15/08 In-home counseling for beating ordered for BC couple
The Province – An Aldergrove couple are ordered to receive in-home counseling twice a week after their 7-year-old told a teacher they beat him for misbehaving in school. The mother and husband used a wooden spoon or belt on the child for discipline three or four times as a last resort, mother said, but used the spoon only when the boy was wearing pants and her husband used a belt once on his bare bottom.

June 13/08 UK commissioners urge ban on physical punishment by parents
Guardian Weekly – Children’s commissioners from the UK present a report to the UN saying that in Britain, there are serious violations of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, including the lack of protection against physical punishment in the home. They continue to urge a ban on physical punishment.

June 13/08 MP Margaret Mitchell recalls Commons laughter re wife abuse
Toronto Star – In an interview with 82 year-old MP Margaret Mitchell, the former MP recalled how in 1982 she started a ruckus in the House of Commons when she said that 1 in 10 Canadian husbands regularly beat their wives. Male MPs erupted in laughter and shouting. She furiously replied: “This is no laughing matter.” The former NDP Vancouver MP said she had no idea she would get this response and that her statement helped to bring the question of domestic abuse into the open. Police did not check out abuse then – it was a silent topic, she said.

Comment: When media interviews began in the 1990s about repealing s. 43 to end legal approval of ‘correctional’ assaults on children, a somewhat similar response came from some newspaper columnists who trivialized them as though hitting and spanking children were somehow amusing. 14 years later, we read fewer such comments.

June 12/08 PM apologizes for abuse/cultural loss in Indian residential schools
Toronto Star – Prime Minister Harper apologizes in the House of Commons to former students of Indian residential schools for removing them from their families and placing them in schools operated by churches. In addition to losing their families, language and culture, these children were often subjected to physical and sexual abuse and neglect by the staff of these Christian schools.

June 11/08 Alberta changing foster care rules in wake of murder charge
Globe and Mail – An expert panel has reviewed Alberta’s foster care rules and made several recommendations following the death of a 3-year old boy whose foster mother has been charged with second-degree murder and assault causing bodily harm. Among others, the panel recommends that foster parents be scrutinized more closely and undergo a 6-month probationary period. New Democrat MPP says that the training given foster parents is inadequate, especially since they are dealing with complex special needs children. Others say the real problem is the shortage of people willing to take in children. See Jan 30/07 News/Archives item for information on the child’s death.

June 9/08 UK poll shows 52% say corporal punishment should be illegal – A UN dossier on human rights abuses of children in the UK cites the
lack of protection against physical punishment in the home. So the Guardian asked its readers ‘Should the government now make corporal chastisement of children illegal?
52.4 % answered ‘Yes”; 47.6% said ‘no’.

June 3-5/08 Uncle slapped and kicked 3 year-old months before her death
Toronto Star – At the Brampton, Ontario man’s trial for second-degree murder, the child’s mother told jurors the child’s uncle often slapped her and dragged her by the feet downstairs and kicked her months before her painful death. A pediatric pathologist told the court the child’s spine had been broken several weeks before the second fracture that ended her life. See May 29 News/Archives for other information.

May 30/08  Father charged with murdering infant while on bail
Toronto Star -  Hamilton father, Terry Legacy, age 26, charged with 2nd degree murder in death of his 6-week-old son. At the time, Legacy was on bail in connection with aggravated assault (a broken hip) on his girlfriend’s child by another relationship. The girlfriend is the mother of his deceased son. The injury to the girlfriend’s child was initially ruled accidental but Legacy was charged after the death of his son.

May 29/08  Council of Europe says ‘Spare the rod’
The Economist – “As part of their daily lives, children across Europe and the world continue to be spanked, slapped, hit, smacked, shaken, kicked, pinched, punched, caned, flogged, belted, beaten and battered in the name of discipline, mainly by adults whom they depend on.” But in some places, says the Council, it happens less than before, and there is a chance to stop it altogether. Its campaign to abolish physical punishment is to be launched in Croatia in mid-June with debates, puppet shows, television spots, pamphlets in many languages and stirring calls to “raise your hand against smacking”. A consensus against hitting children is clearly gathering momentum in the developed, law-governed parts of the world. Also growing is the belief that a light parental cuff and serious forms of child abuse are points, albeit quite far apart, on the same spectrum.

May 29/08  Uncle pleads not guilty to murdering 3-year-old niece
Toronto Star – Brampton, Ont man, Davinder Singh, pleads not guilty to 2nd degree murder of 3 ½ year-old niece who died in June/05 of internal bleeding from a broken back and torn aorta. The uncle, age 40, claims his niece died accidentally by falling head first into a wading pool. Prosecutors say he has a history of abusing the child.

May 14- 15/08  Senate committee begins new hearings on bill to repeal s. 43
The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs (LCAC) begins hearings on Senator Hervieux-Payette’s Private Member’ Bill S-209 to repeal s. 43. Senator Joan Fraser, Chair, opens hearings by noting that this is the same bill that was considered by LCAC as Bill S-21 in 2005 and as Bill S-207 by the Senate Committee on Human Rights in 2007. Hearings on S-21 ended because of the federal election and those on S-207 were completed but failed to reach 3rd reading because of summer recess.

After Senator Hervieux-Payette spoke to Bill S-209, the Committee heard from a representative of the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers who opposed the bill. For more information, see Senate Bills to Repeal S. 43, Committee Hearings on Bill S-209. More witnesses will be heard in June.

2008  New book on New Zealand’s ban on physical punishment of children
This excellent paperback, Unreasonable Force; New Zealand’s journey towards banning the physical punishment of children, traces New Zealand’s successful struggle to end its equivalent of our s. 43. Written by 3 principle activists who spearheaded this movement for legal reform, and published by Save the Children New Zealand, it is a clear, readable and useful account of the efforts and compromises made by all parties involved. We highly recommend it to everyone concerned about s. 43. See Research chapter for more information.

May/08  A World without Spanking
Today’s Parent – Writer, John Hoffman, visits Sweden to report on attitudes to spanking 50 years after Sweden ended its defence to correctional assaults on children 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 help and support for families – 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. For full article, see Articles/Letters section of this chapter.

April 30/08  Punitive parenting a factor in teen violence and aggression
Toronto Sun – New studies by the Canadian Institute of Health Information show that one in two boys between the ages of 12 and 15 is violent or aggressive. Punitive parenting, rejection by parents, and plain ‘bad parenting’ are the factors noted by the Institute as feeding into high levels of youth violence and delinquency. In contrast, 2/3 of young people who said their parents are proud and supportive don’t indulge in aggressive acts.

April 30  Children’s Rights Council reminds parents not to spank –  On Spank Out Day, Children’s Rights Council’s president, Grant Wilson, says people need to be reminded not to spank their kids. “We’d like to see parent educators be an extension of the health services provided by the province. This would help parents get a really terrific start at using the principles of democratic parenting…
Section 43 of the criminal code allows hitting of children as a form of correction. Other countries don’t. The Supreme Court can call it correcting but it’s beating somebody up to get them to submit to your world.”

April 26/08  Windsor Essex CAS holds No Spank Day Family Event
Windsor Star – The child abuse prevention committee of the Windsor-Essex Children’s Aid Society puts on a weekend event with face painting and crafts for kids and information for the parents. “We’re finding that if we do a parenting event, and talk to parents about positive discipline and discourage the use of corporal punishment, that they’re more open and willing to listen to us than if we were out picketing against spanking,” said Tina Gatt, CAS manager of Public Relations and Prevention.

April 17/08  Couple accused of assaulting baby daughter
Toronto Star – A Brampton, Ont couple will stand trial in Jan/09 for assaulting their 1-year-old daughter. Doctors found 28 fractures allegedly suffered between Sept-Nov/06. The child is now in CAS custody with supervised visits by the parents.

April 16/08  Toronto father pleads guilty to delaying child’s medical treatment
Toronto Star – In Oct/05, his 15-month-old son had a seizure and lost consciousness. The parents doused him with water until he revived but delayed 14 hours before taking their vomiting, crying child to hospital where he was diagnosed with a skull fracture and bleeding of the brain. The father told police the child’s injuries probably caused by falling off a table or hitting his head on the side of crib. Parents were charged with criminal negligence causing bodily harm. The child now walks with a limp, has a shunt in his brain and will continue needing physiotherapy. No details on sentence available.

April 8/08  Rabbi wanted for ghastly child abuse hiding in Canada
Globe and Mail – Israeli police have issued a warrant for the arrest of a radical Israeli rabbi described as the ‘spiritual mentor’ of a group involved in the systematic, horrendous abuse of young children. Gruesome stories of children being burned, beaten, and tortured in order to ‘correct’ their behaviour and beat ‘devils’ out of them have filled Israeli media for several days.

April 7/08  US politician tries again to limit hitting young children
The Sacramento Bee –Sally Lieber, a California Assemblywoman, ‘isn’t one to let a little nationwide jeering and hooting get her down. The Democrat who authored a measure last year to ban parental spanking, only to see it become the target of late-night TV ridicule and outrage from various conservative groups – then ultimately be killed by Committee – is back with another effort to rein in corporal punishment.’ Her bill would among other things make it unlawful to hit a child under the age of 3 with a fist or implement or a ‘whack’ on the face or head.

April 4/08  Man charged with murder in death of 5-year-old girl
Toronto Star – A Cornwall, Ont man is charged with murder after the body of a 5-year-old girl was found in a Cornwall home. The child’s body showed obvious signs of trauma when her mother called police. The accused is described as a ‘remote acquaintance’ of the mother and police do not believe the child was sexually assaulted.

Mar 31-Ap 2/08  Quick-thinking Ontario 6-year-old saves family
Globe and Mail –  Six-year-old, George Denniss, saved his parents and baby sister after they fell through ice on a frozen pond. The child ran almost half a kilometer home, called 911, and police arrived in time to save all. A year and a half ago, the mother had taught the child how to dial 911 in an emergency. He remembered. Instead of running to his parents, young George ran home and placed the call.

Comment: We doubt that George, at age 5, had been spanked in order to instill this lesson in his mind. As Dr. Robert Fathman, EPOCH USA, likes to put it: ‘Good discipline is instilled in the mind, not the behind.’

April 1-2/08  Father cleared of assaulting teen daughter in R. v Swan case
Globe and Mail – When his 15-year-old daughter sneaked out of the house to meet her drug-dealing boyfriend, her father, Barry Swan, went to look for her, grabbed her by the shirt and shoved her into his truck to take her home. Once there, she left again and parents called police. Father charged with assault for grabbing shirt and choking. He argued that s. 43 gave him the right to use reasonable force to correct child but was convicted on basis that s. 43 doesn’t apply to teenagers.

On appeal to the Ont Superior Court, conviction was overturned; the Court holding that s. 43 applies to teenagers where the force is used for restraint or control. Since the father’s arrest, he has had counseling, the daughter is back home and things ‘are going somewhat better’. The Crown has not yet decided whether to appeal. See The Law, Judicial Interpretation of Supreme Court of Canada Decision for further information and comment on decision.

Mar 27/08  Schoolteacher and principal plead guilty to assaulting boys
Sun Media – Principal and teacher of the Old Colony Christian School near Aylmer, Ont plead guilty to 7 counts of assault with a weapon for hitting seven boys, ages 9 and 10, with a belt on the buttocks over their clothes. The boys were hit for such things as leaving school property at lunchtime and spinning a friend around at recess.

All parents knew that corporal punishment could be used and the strapping was done in accordance with school policy. Their lawyer argued accused had ‘no thought of violence’ in striking the boys and that the Supreme Court’s 2004 decisions had left the issue  ‘frighteningly vague’. Parties will be sentenced July15. Their lawyer is confident they will be given a discharge and ‘will not walk away with a criminal record’.

Comment: The Supreme Court decision may indeed be ‘frighteningly vague’ on much of its interpretation of s. 43. It was, however, clear on disallowing objects to be used for hitting children – although what objects constitute a ‘weapon’ may be open to question.

Mar 27/08   Boyfriend gets conditional sentence for breaking infant’s ribs
Toronto Star ­– A 33-year-old Halifax man living with the baby’s mother, squeezed her 2-month old infant in an attempt to stop his crying and broke 6 ribs. He is given an 18-month conditional sentence with 9-months house arrest and a year’s probation.

March 26/08  Violence against Jamaican children/women “appears normal”
The Gleaner – A survey of students conducted and published in 2005 by the University of the West Indies’ Centre for Gender Development Studies showed that most students thought physical discipline of children could only be considered violence based on the level of severity and how it was administered. Many seemed to think violence is an integral part of society and can only be stopped by divine intervention. Violence against women was also deemed acceptable. “This is a sign which indicates that violence is ingrained in their psyche,” said Professor Barbara Bailey of the Centre. According to her, violence is so prevalent in many of the households, communities and schools that it appears normal.

Mar 13/08 Senate Bill S-209 to repeal S. 43 again referred to committee
Conservative Senator Raynell Andreychuk joins those who do not believe in corporal punishment but is concerned about what defences, absent s. 43, would be available to parents and teachers who use force to restrain children. ‘We looked at the issues from a human rights issue point of view, from a child’s perspective and from a Convention issue point of view. It is now appropriate that we not revisit the corporal punishment issue but that we look at the consequence and the intent of repealing section 43 in its full extent, which was not the mandate of our committee.’ She therefore moves that the Bill be sent to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs to study these issues. The motion is agreed to, on division. See Senate Bills to Repeal S. 43 for more information.

March 7/08  New Zealand father to stand trial under new ban on cp
Nelson Mail – In hearings before the trial, a woman who shared a flat with father, Rowan Flynn, gives further evidence of his assaults on his 11-year-old son. These assaults included repeated hitting with a stick. The father had previously told the Nelson Mail that he believed it was his right as a parent to ‘smack’ his son. See Dec 7/07 News/Archives item for other information.

Mar 5-6/08  Father charged with attempted murder of 14-year old daughter
Globe and Mail – Alliston, Ont father, Kamal Khanna, is charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon. His daughter was stabbed repeatedly and is in critical condition. No other details are available.

Mar 4/08 Senator Cochrane calls Bill S-209 ‘political spin’
Conservative Senator Ethel Cochrane resumes debate on 2nd reading of Bill S-209 to repeal s. 43 by first commending Liberal Senator Hervieux-Payette (sponsor of Bill) for bringing forward the issue of preventing violence against children as ‘a goal we all share’ and then calling her bill a ‘knee-jerk reaction’, ‘exercise in political spin’, and ‘political tinkering… designed to side step the real issues’ re violence against children. She does not identify what she believes these issues are and opposes S-209 on the grounds that the Supreme Court held it constitutional and repeal would result in criminal charges for restraining, protecting or disciplining children.

Comment: It’s odd, to say the least, to call a bill to repeal s. 43 ‘political spin’ etc when repeal was recently recommended by two Senate Committees, when more than 196 Canadian organizations and the UN Committee that monitors the UNCRC advocate repeal, and when 24 countries consider legal approval of corporal punishment so harmful they have changed their laws and banned it. See Senate Bills to Repeal S. 43 for more information.

Mar 1/08   Chief Justice McLachlin on the constitution and ‘bad laws’
Globe and Mail – The Supreme Court of Canada rejected a constitutional challenge to mandatory minimum sentences and decided that judges could not use a constitutional exemption to impose a 2-year sentence when the Criminal Code mandated a minimum of 4 years.  In rejecting the challenge, Chief Justice McLachlin said: “Bad law, fixed up on a case-by-case basis by the courts, does not accord with the role and responsibility of Parliament to enact constitutional laws for the people of Canada.”

Comment: This statement could also be applied to the Supreme Court’s 2004 decision upholding s. 43 – and written by the Chief Justice – in which courts are now, in effect, expected to fix up s. 43 ‘on a case-by-case basis’ using criteria that one lawyer recently referred to as ‘frighteningly vague’.

Feb 28/08 Spanked children more likely to have sexual problems
USA Today – Children whose parents spank or inflict other corporal punishment on them are more likely to have sexual problems later in life, according to research presented today to the American Psychological Assn by Murray Straus, Co-director of the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire-Durham. Four studies by Dr. Straus suggest that such children have a greater chance of physically or verbally coercing a sexual partner, engaging in risky sexual behavior or engaging in masochistic sex, including sexual arousal by spanking. His work on violence in families is regarded as landmark research. See Research for more information.

Feb 27/08 5th grade pupil dies in Pakistan after alleged beating by teacher
The News, Karachi – A press statement by Pakistan’s Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child condemns a brutal beating by a child’s teacher at a government primary school as the cause of the child’s death in hospital the next day. It said the teacher has a past record of inflicting corporal punishment on students and accused the authorities of being apathetic in implementing the ban on such punishment. Thus far, police have taken no action.

Feb 23/08 New Zealand petition goes to parliament for certification
Radio New Zealand – There are over 320,000 signatures on a NZ petition to reinstate the law that allows hitting children for discipline; a law that was repealed last June. The petition now goes to the clerk of parliament and will take about 2 months to certify. The government and its coalition partner, the National Party, see no evidence to reverse the June decision. See International Developments, New Zealand for more information.

Feb 16/08 Schoolteacher and principal facing assault charges
Toronto Star – A schoolteacher and principal at Old Colony Christian School in Aylmer, Ontario are charged with assault with a weapon after police allege several incidents of corporal punishment of 9 – 10 year old children. The school is a private school in an agricultural community. School boards determine the use of corporal punishment in Ontario schools and there is no province-wide legislation banning the practice. Click here for letter to editor on need for such a ban.

Feb 15/08 UK Labour MPs urge govt to hold free vote on cp ban
The Guardian – 50 senior Labour MPs ask colleagues to support a free vote on banning all parental corporal punishment saying it is a moral issue and should not be subject to a govt whip. MP Greg Pope said: ‘It is simply wrong that a form of violence that would lead to criminal charges if it was inflicted on an adult is lawful so long as a child is the victim.’ The MPs argue a free vote would satisfy the concerns of opponents of smacking, and allow ministers to put some distance between themselves and the issue. They expect to secure support from more than 100 Labour MPs.

Feb 7/08 Manitoba father raises s. 43 defence in death of 4-year-old
A father who shook and threw his 4-year-old daughter on a bed when she refused to go to sleep is convicted of manslaughter. The force of the throw caused the child to bounce off the bed, hit the wall and fall onto the floor. As a result, the child later died.

The father appealed his conviction to the Manitoba Court of Appeal arguing that s. 43 is a valid defence because the child was ‘misbehaving’ and the force used was reasonable and intended to control or express disapproval of child’s conduct. It was therefore a lawful assault and could not be the basis for a manslaughter conviction. His appeal was rejected. See The Law, Judicial Interpretation of Supreme Court of Canada Decision for the Court’s reasons and for other decisions on s. 43.

Feb/08 UK Public Policy Institute recommends corporal punishment ban
In this wide-ranging 92 page report Make Me a Criminal: Preventing Youth Crime, the UK Institute for Public Policy Research argues for a more therapeutic and family based approach to youth offending. On page 7, it recommends banning corporal punishment of children as the third of several primary and secondary prevention recommendations. The other primary prevention recommendations are tackling child poverty and providing better support for families. Evidence from more than 40 years of research, it says, shows that hitting children increases the chances of aggression, anti-social and criminal behaviour. The Institute is the UK’s leading progressive think tank.

Feb/08 CP in US African-American community is a legacy of slavery
In a presentation for Black History Month, Jordan Riak, Founder and Executive Director, Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education (PTAVE), writes: ‘Until children receive full protection against being assaulted and battered, the legacy of the plantation era lingers. This should have a special meaning for parents who are the descendents of slaves. The field boss’s whip reaches across the generations in the form of spanking, beating, switching, paddling, belting — or whatever else one wants to call it. That message has its psychological roots in slavery.’ Click here for full presentation.

Feb/08 SpankOut Day April 30 in US, Canada and other countries
SpankOut Day is an innovative US initiative designed to persuade parents and educators to stop using corporal punishment as a method of disciplining children. It began in 1998 and has since been adopted by groups in Canada and elsewhere as a day on which to organize events bringing attention to the dangers of corporal punishment and commending parents who use non-violent methods of discipline. For information and suggestions on how to mark the Day, see

Jan 30/08  Abused baby abandoned in Toronto parking garage 
CBC News – A baby girl, about 8 months old, is found abandoned in the frigid stairwell of a Toronto parking garage. Police say she was bleeding from the mouth and showed signs of obvious trauma. The baby was spotted by a passer-by, was taken to hospital, and is now in foster care.

Jan 30/08  Some 2007 decisions re S. 43 noted on Law chapter
See The Law, Judicial Interpretation of Supreme Court of Canada Decision for assault charges against daycare teacher and parents.

Jan 27/08  Referendum likely on New Zealand ‘smacking’ ban
Glisborne Herald, NZ – Opponents of New Zealand’s May/07 ban on corporal punishment have inaugurated a petition for a referendum on the ban. If the petition is signed by 10% of registered electors, the referendum will be held during the elections expected this year. The principal organizer of the petition is a former opposition MP. For more information, see International Developments, New Zealand.

Jan 24/08  Norwegian Bishops challenge Biblical meaning of ‘chastisement’ – The Bishops’ Conference of Norway has adopted a proposal by the Norwegian Ombudsman for Children to replace the word ‘chastisement’ in new translations of the Bible on the basis that such language is wrongly used to justify corporal punishment of children. The Bishops stated: ‘Today this word is unsuitable for reflecting what is involved when the Bible speaks of parents’ responsibility to raise and guide their children’.

Jan 22/08  Most Council of Europe members commit to banning cp
Council of Europe – Thomas Hammarberg, the Council’s Commissioner for Human Rights announces that a majority of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe have committed to ending corporal punishment of children. Full prohibition in law, he says, has so far been adopted by 18 member states and at least 7 others have publicly pledged to do the same in the near future. If they do, Europe will be more than halfway to universal prohibition. The announcement is a follow-up to the Council’s 2004 call for a Europe-wide ban of corporal punishment.

Jan 18/08  Edmonton foster mother charged in death of 3-year-old 
Globe and Mail – A 32-year-old foster mother who has 2 children of her own was charged in Jan/07 with 2nd degree murder after a 3-year-old boy died of severe head injuries while in her care. The foster mother will stand trial for the murder of the child.

Jan 16/08  Saskatoon woman charged in death of 7-month-old girl
Toronto Star – Woman, age 26, charged with 2nd degree murder in death of baby girl who was brought to hospital in Sept with what police described as suspicious injuries. She died 2 days later. A preliminary autopsy indicated blunt force trauma to the head.

Jan 10/08  MP accused of ‘callous response’ to beating of children in India
Globe and Mail – While on an official visit to Punjab state, India, Liberal MP Ruby Dhalla’s purse was stolen by 2 children. The children, around age 9, snatched the purse at a public event when the MP’s back was turned. They were quickly apprehended and, according to The Times of India, ‘beaten black and blue’ by the police before being taken to jail. The Times reported that Ms. Dhallas’s initial response was ‘I cannot control what the police do…I hope these young kids learn from this incident’. It characterized her response as ‘shockingly callous’. Ms. Dhalla replied that media reports were blown out of proportion and that the children were not beaten black and blue. She said they were not bruised and asked that they be released from jail.

Jan 9/08  Ontario mother charged with aggravated assault on 3-year-old son
Toronto Star – The child suffered severe burns to his hands in Oct/07 when they were dipped into boiling water. Doctors at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children say he will require extensive physiotherapy until he is about 18 years old. His 22-year-old Belleville, mother is charged after a 2-month police investigation.

Dec 20/07  NZ police review their approach to ‘smacking’ ban
Deputy Police Commissioner, New Zealand – A police review finds no increase in the number of smacking events police attended during the 3 months since NZ banned corporal punishment The Deputy Commissioner says claims that the repeal of NZ’s reasonable force defence would lead to the prosecution of parents and removal of children from their homes for minor acts of physical discipline have proved unfounded. See International Developments, New Zealand for more information.

Dec 20/07   Spain 24th country to ban physical punishment of children
Reuters – Over opposition by the conservative Popular Party, the Spanish parliament  amends its Civil Code to make it clear that the physical and psychological integrity of children must be respected. Until this change, Art. 154 of the Code allowed parents to ‘administer punishment to their children reasonably and in moderation’. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child had called for removal of this provision.

Dec 18/07  Chile bans corporal punishment of children – At the request of Michelle Bachelet, President of Chile, the Chilean Senate Committee on Justice unanimously agrees to amend Art. 234 of Chile’s Civil Code. The amendment removes the provision that allows parents to punish their children as long as it does not amount to ‘abuse’.

The Code now states that correction excludes all forms of physical punishment. Other amendments authorize Family Courts to be notified of any physical punishment and take preventive measures to protect children. The Minister of Justice welcomed the Committee’s decision and is developing a ‘Treat Children Well’ campaign to make the public aware of this change in the law.

Dec 13/07  Ontario father charged with murder of teen-age daughter
Globe and Mail – Muhammad Parvez, a 57-year-old cab driver from Mississauga, Ont is charged with murder in the strangulation death of his 16-year-old daughter, Aqsa. The daughter died in hospital on the night of Dec 12 after a man called police to say he had killed his daughter. Prosecutors will decide later whether the circumstances warrant a charge of 1st or 2nd degree murder. The man’s 26-year-old son has been charged with obstructing police in their investigation. The father is in custody pending his next court appearance.

Aqsa’s school friends say she argued with her father, a devout Muslim, about having to wear the hijab headscarf and had been sleeping at the homes of friends to avoid her family. The case has drawn international attention and sparked a debate about the role of Islam in the West. The Imam at the Islamic Fdn of Toronto maintains that it is not just about Islam but also about parenting issues and anger management. Two weeks previously, he had held a parenting issues event for his congregation that included representatives from Children’s Aid and govt agencies.

Dec 10/07  Venezuela bans corporal punishment of children – The new law defines corporal punishment as the use of force with the intention of causing any degree of physical pain or discomfort to correct, control or change the behaviour of children and young people. It is the culmination of a campaign stressing that corporal punishment is a violation of the human rights of children.

The law now states that all children and young people have a right to be treated well; that parents and teachers should use non-violent methods of education and discipline; and that all forms of physical and humiliating punishment are prohibited. It also obliges the state and society to ensure that policies, programs and protection measures are in place to abolish all forms of physical and humiliating punishment of children and young people.

Dec 12/07 Senator Cochrane to reply to 2nd reading speech on Bill S-209
Hansard – Senator Gerald Comeau, Deputy Leader of Govt, asks the Senate to reserve 45 minutes for Senator Ethel Cochrane to reply to Senator Hervieux-Payette’s Nov 14 speech that began 2nd reading debate on Bill S-209. Senators agree. Senate rules give Senator Cochrane 5 more weeks (when Senate in session) to reply. This means that unless she does so before the Christmas recess, her reply would be sometime in Feb/08. Senator Cochrane spoke against Senator Hervieux-Payette’s previous bill to repeal s. 43 (Bill S-207). See Senate Bill to Repeal S. 43 chapter, June 26/06 items, for her remarks and our comment.

Dec 12/07 Senator Poy speaks in support of Bill S-209
Hansard – Senator Vivienne Poy reminds senators of the work done by the Senate Cmttee on Human Rights in examining Canada’s international obligations with respect to children’s rights; its conclusion that section 43 violates the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child; and that Art. 19 of the Convention mandates the protection of children from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse. Click here for full speech.

A statement by Senator Lorna Milne the next day pursues the international obligations theme; noting that while Canada ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, ‘we are disrespecting the terms of this convention by maintaining section 43 of the Criminal Code’. She also refers to the Supreme Court decision Canadian Foundation for Children, Youth and the Law v. Canada, saying that limiting legal approval of hitting children by restricting hitting to certain ages, degrees of force and parts of the body is not a viable solution to the problems posed by s. 43. See Senate Bill to Repeal S. 43 for link to statement and other information.

Dec 7/07 New Zealand father pleads not guilty in test of NZ law reform
Nelson Mail – A father, Rowan Flynn, is charged with 2 counts of assault on 11-year-old son by hitting him 5 times on the bottom with a wooden spoon and for ‘clipping’ him on the face about a week later. The son called police. The 52-year-old father says the boy was disobedient and that as a father, he believes very strongly in ‘smacking’ as a form of discipline. ‘I’m a Christian and believe it’s what I’ve been commanded to do.’ He says he is prepared to go to jail for his ‘right as a parent and a Christian to hit his child’. The son had been living with him after the parents separated. See International Developments chapter, New Zealand, for other information.

Dec 3/07 Prof. Murray Straus supports Massachusetts bill to ban spanking
Centre for Effective Discipline – There has been intense public scrutiny of a bill in the Mass. Legislature that would ban spanking children. Professor Murray Straus, co-director of the Family Research Laboratory and professor of sociology at the University of New Hampshire agrees with the bill. A top researcher in his field, Straus has studied spanking by examining large and representative samples of American parents since 1969.

Straus says spanking is not effective as discipline and that the harm it causes is reason enough to abandon it. ‘One review of 119 studies found a 93 percent agreement in the results, showing the harmful effects of spanking. There is nothing else in child research where the results are so consistent and yet are ignored. There is a cultural myth that spanking may sometimes be necessary’.

Nov 27/07 27 No jail for day care operator in violent shaking of baby
Toronto Star – A Quebec day-care operator who violently shook a 6-month-old baby girl causing 2 brain hemorrhages is sentenced to 20 months to be served in the community. The baby spent 1 month in hospital as a result of the assaults. The 45-year-old woman had operated a centre in her home near Montreal for more than a decade.

Nov 27/07 UN appoints Special Rep on Violence against Children
Child Rights Information Network – The appointment follows the release last year of the UN Secretary-General’s Study on Violence Against Children. More than 1,000 non-governmental organizations from 134 countries signed a petition calling for the appointment of the Special Representative. However, the NGO Advisory Council expressed deep regret that the resolution had once again failed to explicitly identify corporal punishment among the many forms of violence that states are urged to prohibit and eliminate. This is a key recommendation made both by UN Secretary-General’s Study on Violence Against Children and the Committee on the Rights of the Child. The only country voting against the resolution was the United States.

Nov 27/07 New Zealand Press editorial supports smacking conviction
NZ TV3 News –Hitting back: The pro-smacking lobby continues to use hysteria and selective facts to drag the country back to a place which belongs in the past, says The Press, in this editorial criticism of the NZ pro-smacking lobby. Click here for editorial.

Nov 26/07 New Zealand Herald editorial supports smacking conviction
NZ Herald – Smacking law is working and critics need to accept the fact: Good parents do not bruise kids: The first conviction under the Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007, says the editorial, has probably realized the worst fear of those who opposed it: that, far from bringing an end to orderly family life as we know it, the law would be applied with wisdom and common sense and people would be stopped doing something they ought not do.

Nov 22/07 New Zealand father pleads guilty in first test of NZ law reform
NZ TV3 News – The first parent prosecuted after New Zealand removed its ‘reasonable force’ defence pleads guilty to assaulting his 8-year-old son and is given a 9-month supervision order requiring parenting and anger management classes. The father became angry after being told his son had caused problems at school, grabbed him by the shoulder, flipped him over his knee and ‘smacked’ him on the bottom 3 times with his open hand. The assault left bruises and was reported by the man’s wife.

Nov 21/07 Uruguay ends ‘moderate’ physical correction of children
Prensa Latina, Montevideo – Uruguay abolishes article 261 of its Civil Law that empowers parents to ‘moderately’ correct their children. The main opposition to change came from the National Party on the grounds that children have always been smacked throughout the world for ‘good guidance’. The change in the law does not foresee sanctions if violated and will not come into force until enacted by the Executive Power of the government.

Nov 20/07 National Child Day statement by Senator Hervieux-Payette
Hansard – Honourable Senators: In 2004, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario put together a coalition of national organizations concerned about child welfare. The coalition’s purpose is to ban corporal punishment. Over 270 organizations have signed a Joint Statement on Physical Punishment of Children and Youth. They believe the government should ban outright the use of corporal punishment as a way to discipline children. All these organizations believe that respect for the fundamental rights of children means banning corporal punishment. I urge you to offer them your full support to protect children’s rights.

Nov 20/07 National Child Day question by Senator Munson
Hansard – Question to Senator LeBreton, Leader of Govt in the Senate: The president of UNICEF Canada says there is no national focus on the child in Canada. Our report Children: The Silenced Citizens recommends a national children’s commissioner. Is the government ready to implement that key recommendation by our Senate committee? Senator LeBreton: The government is well aware of the committee’s recommendation and has responded to the report but has not addressed that particular issue.

Nov 20/07 National Child Day question by Senator Hervieux-Payette
Hansard – Knowing that Canada is violating children’s rights to life and security by maintaining section 43 of the Criminal Code, can the Leader of the Government in the Senate tell us when her government plans to amend the legislation and comply with the convention? Senator LeBreton: If the Senator is specifically asking about her bill, we will let the bill make its way through Parliament before commenting on it.

Nov 15/07 Sask Child Advocate says ‘paper rights’ not good enough
Star Phoenix – In an opinion piece for National Child Day, Marv Bernstein, Saskatchewan Children’s Advocate, says children’s rights must go beyond words on paper. It is now 18 years since Canada ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, he writes, so Canadian youth who reach 18 as of Nov 20 are the first generation born with rights under this Convention. However, ‘these rights have not been sufficiently implemented and have been relegated to mere ‘paper rights’. The piece also appeared in the Regina Post and Click here to read.

Nov 15/07 Murder convictions/sentences of Farah Khan parents upheld
Globe and Mail – The Ontario Court of Appeal upholds the murder convictions and sentences of the parents of 5-year-old Farah Khan who was beaten to death and her body dismembered in 1999. See April 22/04 News/Archives item re this case.

Nov 14/7 Govt responds to Senate Human Rights Report on UN Convention
Hansard – The federal government responds to the Senate Committee on Human Rights Report Children: The silenced Citizens. This report deals with a wide range of issues re implementing Canada’s obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, including a recommendation that s. 43 be repealed by April 2009 and that the Department of Justice study existing common law defences to assault. The govt responds with 2 paragraphs on page 16 stating that it has published 3 booklets on positive parenting and that in 2004 the Supreme Court found s. 43 consistent with the Charter and the Convention. No reference is made to studying common law defences to assault. The 29-page govt Response can be read on the Parliamentary website.

Nov 14/07 Senate begins 2nd reading of Bill S-209 to repeal s. 43
Hansard – Senator Hervieux-Payette moves 2nd reading of her Bill S-209 to repeal s. 43. She refers to international commitments, research, defences to assault and other key issues. Click here for full speech.

Nov 13/07 Open Letter to Senators re National Child Day and Bill S-209
Over 130 Canadian organizations endorse an Open Letter to Senators urging them to mark this year’s Nov 20 National Child Day by voting for Bill S-209 to repeal S. 43. Toronto Public Health and the Repeal 43 Committee sponsored the letter. It lists national, provincial and local organizations concerned about the rights and protection of children and was sent by post and email to all senators. In addition to listed organizations, the SCAN program at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children and The Regional Municipality of Peel, Ontario, also announced support for the Open Letter. National Child Day celebrates the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child adopted by the General Assembly in 1989.Click here for Open Letter (English and French).

Nov 13/07 Montreal man pleads guilty to beating 3-month-old baby
Globe and Mail – A 19-year-old Montreal man pleads guilty to 2 counts of aggravated assault on a 3-month-old baby boy. The baby was beaten and choked and could have permanent brain damage as a result.

Nov 12/07 Corporal punishment predicts early childhood behaviour problems
EPOCH USA – A study reported in the Sept/07 vol 21 of the American Psychological Assn. Journal of Family Psychology indicates that parental corporal punishment uniquely contributes to negative behavioural adjustment in young children. Click here for this 9-page report.

Nov 12/07 Public hearings begin into pediatric forensic pathology system
Toronto Star – The public hearings part of the inquiry into Ontario’s pediatric forensic pathology system begins in Toronto. Led by Ontario Court of Appeal Judge Stephen Goudge, the inquiry was sparked by a review of 45 child deaths in which Ontario pathologist, Dr. Charles Smith, conducted autopsies. The review found that Dr. Smith made questionable findings of foul play in the deaths of a number of children. It is expected that more than 30 witnesses, including Dr. Smith, will be called and recommendations made in April.

Nov 9/07 Supreme Court orders new trial in death of Trotta infant
Toronto Star – The Supreme Court of Canada orders a new trial for the parents of 8- month-old Paolo Trotta on all charges ranging from criminal negligence to murder in the child’s 1993 death. At the time, the cause of death was dismissed as SIDS but reconsidered on exhumation after their other child was brought to hospital with a broken thigh and bruises on the buttocks.

In the parent’s appeal, the Crown conceded that pathologist, Dr. Charles Smith, may have made errors but contended there was ample evidence that ‘horrendous abuse’ caused the baby’s death. The Court held that even without the faulty forensic analysis, there was evidence from which a properly instructed jury could support the convictions. The Crown intends to re-prosecute on all charges. Some background from press reports at the time is given below.

Marco Trotta, the baby’s father, was convicted in 1998 of 2nd degree murder and his wife, Anisa, of criminal negligence and failing to provide the necessities of life. The court found she was aware of the abuse and elected to do nothing. The father has served 9 years of a life sentence and the mother has completed her 5-year sentence. They were age 29 and 25 at the time of the death.

In May and June/98, the Toronto Sun and Toronto Star reported testimony by the maternal grand-mother that she frequently asked her daughter about bruises on the baby’s face; a witness explained the mother covered-up for the father because she ‘worshipped’ him; another described the ‘fanatical cleanliness’ of the father; and neighbours told of hearing his foul tempered shouting when the baby cried.

On June 27/98, the Star reported the trial judge’s findings that the infant had suffered a continuous barrage of assaults by the father until death; including slaps to the head, beatings, broken limbs and bites – all in an apparent attempt to show the baby who was boss or to deliver ‘macho-type’ discipline. He convicted both parents.

Nov/07 Repeal of corporal punishment law victory for New Zealand children
EPOCH Fall Newsletter – Beth Woods, spokesperson for EPOCH – New Zealand, praises the NZ Parliament for repealing s. 59 of its Crimes Act. Although a majority of the public did not initially support repeal, support grew as debate progressed in Parliament. An example was an ecumenical service at the Anglican Cathedral shortly before the vote was held. It was attended by senior clerics from different Christian churches, the Prime Minister, Helen Clark and many MPs. The strongest opposition came from vocal, well-organized groups whose religious convictions include physically punishing children.

Oct 26/07 Boyfriend in ‘house of horrors’ abuse appeals 8-year sentence
Globe and Mail – The man convicted in the ‘house of horrors’ physical and sexual assault of his girlfriend’s 4-year-old daughter (see Sept 27/07 news item) appeals his 8-year prison sentence. The Crown, which had sought up to 15 years in prison, is cross appealing for a sentence longer than 8 years.

Oct 25/07 General Dallaire puts corporal punishment in global peace context 
Globe and Mail – General (now Senator) Roméo Dallaire is quoted by columnist Lawrence Martin as telling peace and disarmament crusaders that ‘Just as corporal punishment is not an acceptable way of disciplining children, violence and physical aggression are not an acceptable way of resolving disputes between nations.’ The occasion was the launch of Douglas Roche’s new book Global Conscience. Mr. Roche is the former Progressive Conservative MP for Edmonton, Canada’s disarmament ambassador, and senator who retired in 2004.

Oct 24/07 Chief Justice McLachlin says Canada must address child abuse
CBC News – The abuse of Canadian children undermines the future of the country, says Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Beverley McLachlin, in an address to the Muriel McQueen Fergusson Fdn., a charity that funds research into domestic violence. ‘What is needed is a hard-headed look at why child abuse continues and what can be done to stop it… Canada must seek out the causes of abuse and understand them, if children are to be protected’, she said.

Comment: In her 14-page speech, the Chief Justice singles out poverty, bullying, humiliation, aggression, custody fights and sexual abuse as examples of the abuse of children. She says we must prevent child abuse and recognize its causes and asks: What can be done about it? More particularly, what has the law done and what more can it do?The CJ says the criminal law has been altered to see children as being fully human and possessed of human dignity and rights. As examples, she cites more vigorous police pursuit of child abusers, better methods for allowing children to testify in court, relaxation of hearsay evidence rules and the hearing of victim impact statements. Although the law no longer views children as the property of their parents, she believes our attitudes too often place the interests of the parents above those of the child.The CJ’s comments are more than a little ironic given the decision she wrote for the majority of the Supreme Court in the 2004 constitutional challenge to s. 43. This s. 43 defence to ‘correctional’ assaults on children by parents and persons acting as parents was challenged on the very basis that it humiliates children and violates their rights and dignity. In addition, research was submitted to the Court showing the connection between hitting as discipline and physical abuse.Instead of ending this defence, the majority of the Court elected to continue it in a reinterpreted version. The opportunity to prevent much of the abuse and bullying the CJ condemns was therefore lost. The decision was not mentioned in the written version of her speech. Click here to read it.

Oct 23/07 Sentence hearing for 12-year-old girl who killed family members
Globe and Mail – At a sentence hearing for the Alberta girl convicted of 1st degree murder of her father, mother and 8-year-old brother, the Crown prosecutor describes her as suffering from a host of mental afflictions, including conduct order. According to expert evidence, factors contributing to conduct disorder can include child abuse and traumatic experiences and often first present themselves as defiance in middle childhood. Described as highly intelligent, the Crown seeks a 10-year sentence that will include Intensive Rehabilitative Custody by psychiatrists, psychologists and caseworkers. After release, she will qualify for up to $100.000 per year in additional therapeutic resources.

Oct 17/07 New Senate Bill S-209 introduced to repeal Section 43
Senator Hervieux-Payette’s Bill S-207 to repeal s. 43 died when the government prorogued Parliament in Sept/07. When Parliament resumed on Oct 16, the Senator introduced her new Bill S-209 with the same purpose and identical wording as her previous one. The Senate was in adjournment for 2 weeks since resuming in Oct and the bill has not yet come up for 2nd reading. Click here for new Bill.

Oct 4/07 Portugal amends criminal law to ban corporal punishment
Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children, London – Portugal amends its Penal Code to make it an offence to inflict corporal punishment on a child. The new law came into force Sept 15/07 and ends the uncertainty created by Portugal’s Supreme Court decisions in 1994 and 2006.

Oct 1/07 New abuse claim against Christian Brother at BC schools
A 40-year-old BC man files a civil claim against the Christian Brothers and Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver arising out of alleged physical and sexual abuse at 2 schools in Burnaby, BC. The Christian Brother, Edward English, had taught at both schools when the plaintiff was in grades 7 and 8 in 1978-80. He alleges repeated sexual and physical abuse, including beatings on the bare buttocks with a leather belt. He states he has attempted suicide, suffers from addiction, depression and cannot keep a job. English also taught at Mount Cashel in Newfoundland and in 1991 was sentenced to prison for abuse of boys at that school.

Oct 1/07  Child abuse a major  problem in Ontario
OACAS News Release – Child Abuse Prevention Month Begins today. In 2006/2007, the Ontario Assn. of Children’s Aid Societies received more than 160,000 calls about child protection concerns from citizens, neighbours, health professionals, teachers or police officers. This is a 25% increase over 2000/2001. The number of children and families receiving services from CASs keeps increasing, indicating that Ontario must continue to take the necessary steps to end child abuse and neglect. ‘Our children are precious and the most vulnerable citizens of our society, they deserve a life free of fear and violence,’ said Jeanette Lewis, Executive Director, OACAS.

Sept 29/07  Quebec teacher investigated for threatening pupils
Globe and Mail – Several pupils allege their music teacher in a Quebec grade school lost his temper and threatened to harm and even kill them. The children are afraid to return to class and police are investigating.

Sept 27/07  Man sentenced to 8 years for abuse of girlfriend’s 4-year-old
Globe and Mail – A 26-year-old Edmonton man is sentenced to 8 years for sexual assault, assault with weapon, common assault, threats and unlawful confinement of girlfriend’s 4-year-old daughter. Witnesses testified the child lived in a ‘house of horrors’. A Sept 25 report from the Toronto Star states the child is so traumatized she cannot sleep, learn or form normal emotional relationships. The former girlfriend is sentenced to 2 years house arrest for common assault and causing a child to be in need of protective custody.

Sept 26/07  Father sentenced to 12 years in death/injury of shaken infants
Toronto Star – Quebec father sentenced to 12 years for shaking 2 infant boys, including his own son who died from the trauma. The other infant suffered a brain hemorrhage and broken leg.

Sept 22/07  Police inquire into abuse at Grenville Christian College
Globe and Mail – Ontario police are studying allegations by former students who claim they were abused and assaulted at this Anglican college in Brockville. The college accepted children from the age of 6 and recently closed because of declining enrolment. The students allege physical, sexual and psychological abuse dating back to the 1980s. Former headmasters deny any wrongdoing.

In an Aug 31 Globe article, students described the school as a bizarre environment in which they were ordered from their beds in the middle of the night to sit in the dark while teachers and staff shone lights at them and repeatedly accused them of ‘being sinners’. The school is associated with a US organization labeled a cult by American media. The bishop of the diocese in which the college is located said he had been aware of ‘controversy around styles of leadership’ but that he wouldn’t ‘blow a whistle on them’, and that complaints made were not serious enough to warrant investigation.

Sept 19/07  Mother charged with murder in toddler’s death
Toronto Star – Toronto mother, age 22, charged with 2nd degree murder in death of her 18-month-old son who died in hospital.  The child showed obvious signs of trauma. An autopsy concluded the injuries were ‘submersion-type burns’.

Sept 18/07  Soldier father charged with assaulting infant triplets
Globe and Mail – A 24-year-old father, based in a military housing complex in Winnipeg, is charged with assault causing bodily harm to his premature, infant sons. Father has served in Afganistan and has been troubled with sleeping problems since his return. In-laws say they have repeatedly asked for help for the parents who also have a 2-year-old son and were reaching a ‘breaking point’. They say no help was given.

Sept 18/07  Father accused of scalding 2-year-old daughter
Toronto Star – Toronto father pleads not guilty to aggravated assault, assault causing bodily harm and assault with a weapon for the bathtub scalding of his 2-year-old daughter. He testified the scalding was an accident when he left child in tub while answering telephone and was too confused to call an ambulance or take her to hospital.

Sept 14/07  Father charged with murder in death of infant daughter
Globe and Mail – Manitoba father, age 20, charged with 2nd degree murder in death of 1-month-old daughter. The child died from injuries suffered at her home in Thompson.

Sept 13/07  Parents charged with aggravated assault on 5-month-old
Toronto Star – Toronto parents, both in their thirties, are charged with beating their 5-month-old daughter. Police allege the infant had been severely beaten since birth and had 27 fractures when treated in hospital.

Sept 13/07  Chimp research shows importance of supportive mothers
Toronto Star – After 20 years of research on chimpanzees, ethnologist Jane Goodall, concludes it is increasingly clear that young chimps have a much better start in life if mothers are affectionate, protective, playful, patient and supportive than if punitive and harsh. Saying her studies offer insights into humans as well, she told reporter John Goddard that seeing the grim situations some children endure in their early years makes it easier to understand their later dysfunctional behaviour.

Sept 5/07  Daycare worker charged with assaulting 3-year-old boy
Globe and Mail – Toronto daycare worker, age 54, charged with assault for ‘forceful grabbing’ of 3-year-old boy. She has worked at the centre for almost 20 years and police suspect there may be other victims. Police say hitting or spanking is not involved.

Sept 3/07  Mother charged with murder in death of 3-year-old daughter
Toronto Star – Toronto unemployed, single mother is charged with 2nd degree murder in death of  3-year-old daughter. There was ‘visible trauma’ to the child’s body and an autopsy showed she died from ‘pressure on the neck and chest’. Police were alerted by landlord because of a burning smell from apartment. The  32-year-old mother had no history of  involvement with CAS or police. Neighbours described the little girl as very bright and cheerful.

Sept 3/07  UK inquiry held into restraint technique used on 14-year-old
A 14-year-old boy hanged himself some hours after being restrained by staff in a privately run training centre in Durham, England. A ‘nose distraction technique’ in which the boy was struck on the face left him covered in blood. He had a history of mental health problems, drink and drug abuse, suicidal tendencies and self-harming. On being forcibly returned returned to his room, he struck out at staff who then struck him at the base of the nose. An inquiry into his death calls for an urgent review of restraint techniques that involve punching children.

Sept/07  UNICEF Canada calls for national Children’s Commissioner
UNICEF Canada supports the recommendations of the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights in its report, Children: The Silenced Citizens and believes a nationalChildren’s Commissioner is crucial to focus national responsibility and accountability for the implementation of the UN Convention in Canada’s federal system. This has been a recurring recommendation of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and is a primary recommendation of the UN Secretary General’s Report on Violence Against Children.

Aug 31/07  Senate  debate on bill to repeal s. 43 will resume in Sept/Oct
The debate on Bill S-207 will resume some time after Parliament returns from summer recess.

Aug 27/07  Couple charged with assault on 9-year-old girl
Toronto Star – Police allege the child’s hands were deliberately burned when the couple, both in their thirties, pushed the child’s hands against a pot of boiling water. The incident occurred when the girl was visiting her mother and mother’s boyfriend. Both are charged with assault with a weapon.

Aug 1/07  Caregiver charged with manslaughter in death of 2-year-old
Globe and Mail – A 52-year-old Winnipeg woman is charged with manslaughter in the death of a 2-year-old boy she had been caring for (along with 2 other children) in her home. She claimed the 2-year-old had fallen down stairs in July. He died the day after the fall. The charge was based on autopsy results.

July 28/07  Supreme Court of Canada affirms child’s interests are paramount
Globe and Mail editorial – The Supreme Court of Canada rules unanimously that in decisions under provincial child protection laws, the child’s interests must come first even though addressing the needs of the child may result in indirect harm to the family.

The case arises from a $40 million lawsuit brought by the child’s parents and other family members. The 14-year-old daughter had written a story at school alleging her parents had physically and sexually abused her. The parents claimed this was a delusion and no criminal charges were laid. After a year in treatment facilities, the girl consented to become a Crown ward. The editorial says the SCC dismissal of the parent’s action clears up the confusion as to whose interests are paramount in child protection cases. ‘If this wasn’t obvious before, it should be now’, it concludes.

The editorial also states that preventing or successfully treating a single case of conduct disorder – which may include violence, vandalism, truancy or running away from home – is estimated to save $1.7 million in lifetime costs of special education, justice and mental health.

Comment: This July 27/07 Ontario judgment, Syl Apps Secure Treatment Centre v. B. D., can be read on the SCC website. The family claimed that treating the daughter as if she had been abused was negligent and caused her to stay away from her family, thereby depriving the family of a relationship with her. The judgment makes it clear that the Ontario Child and Family Services Act is designed to protect the best interests of the child, not those of the family.

July 27/07  Canadian Paediatric Society warns of children’s mental health problems
Toronto Star – The Canadian Paediatric Society reports that about 14% of children and youth under age 20 – over 1 million in number – suffer from mental health conditions that affect their lives and that there is a potential shortage of doctors to treat them. It estimates that these conditions will increase over the next decade. It also asks for a national injury prevention strategy to correct the current ‘patchwork’ of policies. A 2007 UNICEF study ranks Canada 14th out of 26 OECD countries in deaths from accidents and injuries among children and youth. The Report was released June 29/07 and is noted below.

July 6/07  Alberta judge wants to bring back whipping for convicts
Globe and Mail – In sentencing a man to prison for raping his former girlfriend in front of their 2-year-old son, Provincial Court Judge, Michael Stevens-Guille, laments the demise of corporal punishment for convicts and says that if he had his way, he would bring back whipping as punishment.

July 4/07  New trial ordered for aggravated assault on baby boy
Toronto Star – The Ontario Court of Appeal orders a new trial for a mother convicted of aggravated assault in 2005 on her newborn, premature son. The Court corrected the trial judge who had found the mother guilty for failing to protect the baby from assaults by the baby’s father. It was not enough, said the Court, that she had ‘stood by’ while the child was being assaulted. The Crown must prove that she intended to assist or encourage the assault.

June 29/07  Man convicted of assault for violently shaking baby girl
Toronto Star – A 32-year-old man who shook and severely injured his girlfriend’s 7-month-old baby girl in 2005 is convicted of aggravated assault endangering life. The man and baby were waiting in a van for the mother when he shook the baby to keep her quiet while he talked on the phone. The baby is now at the lower end of development as a result of the assault.

June 29/07  Pediatricians call for federal and provincial Child and Youth Commissioners
Globe and Mail – A 28-page report by the Canadian Paediatric Society titled ‘Are we Doing Enough?’ calls for an independent federal Child and Youth Commissioner to ensure that the voice of children is heard in legislative and policy matters. ‘In the absence of advocacy, the needs of children will be lost in a tidal wave of adult concerns’, the CPS president stated. Currently, only some provinces have child advocates and these are principally focused on children in state care. All provinces should have child commissioners with a wide mandate.

June 29/07  Spanking paddles advertised free on Fox network
PTAVE website – Joe Salvati, Pittsburgh, USA, thinks hitting children with a paddle is God’s way of disciplining them. He says God visited him while taking a shower and instructed him to make paddles available for this purpose and that he will continue to do so until God tells him to stop. Fox TV Inc. was so impressed that it gave him free advertising. Apparently, such products are commonly sold in gift shops and novelty stores in the US and are marketed by mail order.

June 19/07  Senate committee reports bill to repeal s. 43 for 3rd reading
Senator Hervieux-Payette’s bill to repeal s. 43 is reported by the Senate Committee on Human Rights to the Senate for 3rd and final reading without amendment or observations. Parliament resumes in Sept or October and it is possible that 3rd reading of the bill may take place then. See Senate Bill to Repeal S. 43 chapter for further information.

June 15/07  Police seek witnesses to violent shaking of child in store
Toronto Star – Police charge a father with assault after he was seen violently shaking a child in a Halton, Ont. Wall-Mart. He swore at the child and cursed a woman who witnessed the incident.

June 15/07 Brazil launches national campaign against physical punishment
The campaign, ‘Don’t hit, educate!’, is launched at the Presidential Palace by a network of Brazilian NGOs and attended by the country’s president, Lula da Silva, the Minister of Human Rights, other dignitaries and 100 children. The campaign host told the children “When an adult raises a hand to you, say ‘I’m just a child, let’s talk.”

June 4-18/07  Senate HR C’ttee holds hearings on Bill S-207 to repeal s. 43
The Senate Committee on Human Rights heard 8 witnesses on Senator Hervieux-Payette’s Bill S-207 to repeal s. 43. Five presented in favour of the Bill and 3 against. Click Committee Hearings on Bill S-207 for main points made by witnesses.

May 29/07 Provinces in South Africa pass spanking ban
The National Council of Provinces (similar to our Senate) passes a bill to ban corporal punishment and abolish the ‘reasonable chastisement’ defence. The bill requires that offenders be sent to ‘an early intervention service’ such as a parenting program. The bill must now go to the National Assembly and President Thabo Mbeki for approval.

May 16/07 National survey shows scant knowledge of SCC limits on physical punishment 
Toronto Public Health releases results of 2006 survey on public knowledge of the law allowing physical punishment of children and, in particular, of the limits placed on this law by the Jan/04 judgment of the Supreme Court of Canada. This national survey of 2450 adults showed that only 19% were aware of this SCC judgment and only a small minority of these were aware of all the limits on punishment placed by the Court. For complete information on TPH survey click

Comment: Given that the media mainly reported the SCC decision as ‘spanking law upheld’, and that the public does not generally read 90-page legal decisions (this one included 3 dissents), the survey findings are not surprising. It is also not surprising that the federal government has made no attempt to educate the public on these SCC limits. Doing so would have the unintended consequence of publicizing the fact that spanking and hitting young children are still legal in Canada. Since Health Canada advises parents that that ‘it’s never okay to spank children. It’s a bad idea and it doesn’t work’, the government would in effect be promoting a practice it is trying to discourage.

May 16/07  New Zealand repeals ‘reasonable force’ defence!
With the support of almost all opposition MPs, New Zealand’s Green Party MP, Sue Bradford, has succeeded in ending legal approval of corporal punishment of New Zealand children. Her private members’ bill to repeal section 59 of its Crimes Act passed third reading May 16 with amendments by a vote of 113 to 7. Section 59 is a defence to assaults on children similar to s. 43 of our Criminal Code.

The opposition conservative National Party initially opposed the bill but supported it with amendments allowing reasonable force for control but not for ‘correction’ and affirming that police have discretion not to lay charges where the force used is inconsequential and not in the public interest to prosecute. The bill will come into force one month after receiving Royal Assent in June. For more information click International Developments, New Zealand.

May 16/07  Letter to editor re Senate Report and James Dobson
Windsor Star – Referring to the April 26 report of the Senate Human Rights Committee, a writer to the Windsor Star disparages the report for ‘labeling spanking as violence’ and refers approvingly to Focus on Family founder, James Dobson. Dobson is the 71-year-old religious fundamentalist and extreme right-wing  Republican who advises parents to hit children as young as 15 months with a switch or paddle for ‘willful disobedience’. If children don’t stop crying within 5 minutes, ‘give them more of the same’ is Dobson’s advice.

Ap 30/07  Spank Out Day April 30
SpankOut Day was initiated in the US in 1998 by EPOCH-USA to bring attention to the need to end physical punishment of children. It is observed in several countries, including Canada. Click for info on the kind of events held.

Ap 27/07  Parents teach toddlers to hit/punch/kick each another
Guardian Weekly – A UK grandmother and her 3 daughters in their 20s forced children, (age 2 and 3 years) of one of the daughters to punch, hit and kick each other. They videoed the children crying and fighting in the living room of the house. If the boy stopped fighting, he was sworn at and called a ‘wimp’ and a ‘faggot’ by the laughing and chatting adults. The father, a soldier back from Iraq, saw the 8-minute video, was horrified and contacted authorities. The grandmother told police the fight would ‘toughen them up’. She and daughters were given a 1-year suspended sentence and the children placed in care of other relatives.

Ap 26/07  Senate Committee recommends repealing s. 43 by Ap/09
The Senate Committee on Human Rights issues its final report, Children: The SilencedCitizens and makes 24 recommendations on Canada’s international obligations concerning the rights of children, particularly with respect to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Its 2nd recommendation is that the federal government:

  • immediately launch an extensive public and parental education campaign on negative effects of corporal punishment and need for alternative forms of discipline,
  • call on Dept. of Health to undertake research on alternative methods of discipline and the effects of corporal punishment,
  • repeal s. 43 of Criminal Code by April 2009, and
  • direct Dept. of Justice to analyse whether common law defences – such as necessity and de minimis should be expressly available to person charged with assault against a child.Also included are recommendations on bullying and the establishment of a federal Children’s Commissioner to monitor implementation of the UNCRC. The recommendation to repeal s. 43 seems to have attracted the most press coverage. Click for full report.Ap 25/07  Residential school left children ‘angry at the world’
    Globe and Mail – In a native residential school north of Halifax, Nova Scotia, thrashings with a leather strap were a daily occurrence according to Isabelle Knockwood, author ofOut of the Depths. The school principal during the 1930s denied this was excessive punishment even though some of the pupils had marks on their backs 3 months later. Most of these residential schools run by the Roman Catholic Church were closed in the mid 1970s. In 1992, the Archbishop of Halifax apologized for the suffering caused at the Halifax school.Ap 25/07  Court told Edmonton 4-year-old ‘covered in bruises’
    Globe and Mail – Mother and stepfather charged with assault and unlawful confinement of 4-year-old daughter. The child was hit, slapped, handcuffed to furniture and called ‘stupid’ and ‘bitch’ for not obeying orders. The parents, both in their 20s, were reported by a roomer who bought marijuana from the couple.Ap 10/07  Quebec school board gives spanking lessons
    Le Journal de Montréal – (our translation) La Commission Scolaire Val–des–Cerfs, Quebec, offers parents a course in how to spank difficult children. During ten 3-hour sessions, the course offers advice on such things as rewards and anger management. One session dealing with punishment advises parents that if a 2-year-old won’t stay in a chair or corner for a time-out, the parent can spank the child. In order to gage the force of the spank, school psychologist and originator of the course, Richard Gagné, advises parents to try the force first on the thigh of a partner. School boards in the Montreal region do not offer such a course.

    Comment: Journal de Montréal Columnist Richard Martineau ridicules this advice and suggests that it’s the psychologists who need the spanking – not the children. In a speech to senators, Senator Hervieux-Payette said teachers don’t need a ‘Spanking 101’ course. What they need is advice that any form of corporal punishment by parents is totally unacceptable.

    Ap 6/07  Australian govt funds ‘anti-smacking’ campaign
    The Australian govt will fund a $2.5 million campaign advising parents not to ‘smack’ their children. The campaign will be carried out by a child welfare agency and will tell parents that smacking teaches children that violence is acceptable in later life, has an adverse effect on emotional development, undermines feelings of love and security, and can cause them to become anxious, fearful or rebellious. The campaign will be made available in 16 languages.

    Ap 3/07  US educator tells conference bullying spreading ‘like wildfire’
    Toronto Star – Speaking to the third international conference on bullying, a California educator tells the ‘I am Safe Conference’ in Ottawa that children are growing up in a society where they see images of cruelty and violence every day and that teachers and parents need to intervene early to promote programs of kindness and caring. Kindergartens are suspending children as young as 3 for swearing and hitting. Bullies have to be dealt with, she said, but restitution, not punishment, should be the goal.

    Ap 3/07  School principal given absolute discharge for assault on child
    Globe and Mail – A Toronto public school principal pleads guilty to assault for throwing human excrement at a child in June/06. Information on the child is not given to protect his identity but the child is not a student at the school. The principal is a sister of Toronto’s deputy mayor and was described in ‘glowing terms’ by supporters. An absolute discharge means she will have no criminal record but her position with the school board is being reviewed.

    April 1/07  Political will needed for new push on early childhood development
    Toronto Star –  Political will is needed by Ottawa and Ontario to develop a national and provincial network of early childhood learning centres as proposed 8 years ago by Fraser Mustard and Margaret McCain in their Early Years Study. Their new report Early Years Study 2 provides a blueprint for such a network. The cost of centres would be 1/3 of the cost of future behavioural and mental health problems caused when parents lack the skills, time or money to supply the stimulation children need. Canada is last among 30 leading developed nations in investing in early learning. An estimated 25% of our children display learning and behavioural problems by age 6.

    Mar 30–Ap 5/07  UK ‘pillar of community’ guilty of horrific abuse
    Guardian Weekly – A 62-year-old foster mother, described as a Jehovah’s Witness and pillar of her community in Bristol, England is found guilty of sadistic and horrific abuse of 3 foster children over a 20-year period. The abuse only came to light when 2 of them left the home as adults. Although various doctors, a psychiatrist and dentist had treated the children and reports of concern had been investigated by social workers several times, no action was taken. They were schooled at home. Local authorities have begun a review of the case.

    Mar 30/07  Man pleads guilty to horrific beating of 6-year-old
    Toronto Star – Montreal man pleads guilty to aggravated assault for beating his girlfriend’s son in May/05. Bus passengers spotted the bruised child on the bus and notified police The boy is partly paralyzed and now walks with a limp. The 33-year-old boyfriend is sentenced to 5 years in prison. The mother is found guilty of failing to provide her son with the necessities of life and given a conditional sentence of 15 months.

    Mar29/07  Parents learn spanking is not good for mental development
    Toronto Star – The biggest fans of the parenting centres being funded by the Ontario government are often new immigrants who learn ‘many important things, like spanking is not good for the child’s mental development’ as one parent told the Star reporter.  The Ontario government recently granted $6 million to operate centres, half of which will go to centres located in 54 Toronto schools. The grant was announced days before publication of the Mustard, McCain, Shanker Early Years Study 2 calling for more such centres.

    Mar 29/07  Anti-bullying conference in Montreal on May 18
    PREVnet –Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence is holding its 2nd annual conference, Rise up for Respectful Relationships! at McGill University in Montreal on May 18/07. PREVNet is a collaboration of academic, community groups, government and businesses led by Dr. Debra Peplar and Dr. Wendy Craig. For info and registration, contact Dr. Craig at

    Mar 30–Ap 5/07  UK Commons committee calls for bullying inquiry
    Guardian Weekly – A House of Commons committee calls for a national inquiry into bullying in the UK because it fears the problem is downplayed by schools seeking to protect their reputations. It singles out Catholic schools, which, it says, should be forced to make a pubic commitment to stop bullying of gay pupils. All schools should be required to record instances of bullying, indicating whether they relate to race, faith, disability or homophobia. The committee also raised concerns about cyberbullying – said to be increasing.

    Mar 28/07 NZ bill to end ‘reasonable force’ defence close to passing
    New Zealand govt website – The Committee studying Green Party MP Sue Bradford’s Private Members’ Bill to repeal s. 59 of the Crimes Act concluded its hearings in February and recommends passage with amendments allowing parents to use reasonable force for restraint and control but not for correction. See International Developments, New Zealand for more info and a summary of recommended amendments. Final reading is expected to take place in April or May. Supporters believe it will pass.

    Mar 28/07  Senate report on rights of children expected soon
    The Report by the Senate Committee on the Effective Implementation of Canada’s International Obligations with Respect to the Rights of Children is expected to be published around the end of April/07. Section 43 is one of several issues it will address.

    Mar 26/07  Early Year Study 2: Putting Science into Action
    The Council for Early Childhood Development publishes this follow up to the 1999 Mustard/McCain Early Years Study. Drs. Fraser Mustard, Margaret McCain and Stuart Shanker, President of the Council, authored the follow-up study. It finds that discoveries in molecular biology show an interplay between early experiences and how genes work, said Dr. Shanker. The healthy development of the brain is affected by positive early experiences in the child’s environment and sets the stage for future developments. These appear related to the amount of stress experienced by children in their early years. See the Council’s website for the full study.

    Mar 23/07  German judge removed for holding domestic violence culturally acceptable
    Globe and Mail – A Frankfurt judge refuses a divorce to a Moroccan woman on the grounds that Moroccan culture and the Koran accept corporal punishment of wives by husbands. The decision creates a public outcry with spokespersons for the Christian Democrats and women’s groups stating that in Germany only German law applies and that religion cannot be used to justify abuse. Germany’s Muslim Council criticized the decision, stating that violence is also grounds for divorce in Islam. The judge has been removed from the case.

    Mar 8/07  Psychiatric disorders associated with physical punishment
    Using a national survey on mental health, a 2006 US study published in Child Abuse and Neglect, 30, 1093-1103 finds that physical punishment in childhood, defined as minor assault such as being slapped, spanked, pushed, or shoved, is associated with an increased likelihood of major depression and alcohol abuse or dependence. Abuse, defined to include being kicked, hit with an object, beaten up or choked, was also associated with these and other psychiatric disorders.

    Mar 6/07  Netherlands 19th country to ban corporal punishment
    Ministry of Justice press release – The Dutch Senate passes a new law stating that parents must not use emotional or physical violence or other humiliating treatment in bringing up children. The law follows a government-commissioned study on the effects of banning corporal punishment in other countries and led the Minister of Justice to take the initiative in promoting this new law. Its objective is to set a standard for parents, help reduce child abuse, and comply with the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

    The Netherlands has no defence in its criminal code similar to s. 43. However, there is a cultural acceptance of corporal punishment by parents, and child abuse is a serious problem with 50,000 to 80,000 estimated victims each year. Hence, the new law is set out in its Civil Code – as is the case in several other European countries where such a defence to assault does not exist in criminal law. The govt believes the new law will make it easier for childcare workers to convince parents not to use corporal punishment in disciplining children.

    Feb 27/07  Aunt whips naked 7-year-old in front of schoolmates
    Washington  Post – The aunt of a grade 2 boy in a US, Maryland publicly-funded charter school orders the boy to strip and beats him with a belt in front of his teacher and classmates. Corporal punishment is banned in Maryland schools but it is allowed by parents. One of the pupils told her mother and she reported it to school authorities. The principal said it was a ‘family matter and shouldn’t have occurred in school’. The mother has withdrawn her daughter from the school and the case is being investigated.

    Feb25/07  UN targets 2009 for prohibiting all violence against children
    The UN Global Study on Violence against Children sets 2009 as the target for prohibiting all violence against children, including corporal punishment, saying nobody would suggest that a little bit of violence is acceptable. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child welcomes this target and asks all countries to move quickly toward this goal, adding that concern about societal violence is questionable as long as we do not seriously address violence against children.

    Feb 23-Mar 1/07  UK parent-child relationship worst in Europe
    Guardian Weekly – UNICEF research finds UK children have worse relationships with parents than children in any other wealthy country. They are the most likely to feel left out, awkward and lonely. Various children’s agencies said that negative attitudes towards children must change and British parents must take time to talk and listen to their children. The number of UK youth who smoke, abuse alcohol and drugs, engage in risky sex and become pregnant at an early age is the highest in Europe.

    Feb 23/07  19th century philosopher Schopenhauer was so right!
    California lawmaker Sally Lieber’s bill to ban any hitting of children that causes physical or mental pain, and in particular, hitting with objects, or hitting a child under the age of 3 on the face or head is derailed by TV comics in the US who see it as fodder for ridicule and parody. Her bill has now been watered down since her plan to introduce it early this year. See Jan 18/07 news item below. As Schopenhauer said: All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. How right he was. It may be a while before Californians advance to his second stage.

    Feb 22/07  Mother charged with aggravated assault on 3-year-old
    A 3-year-old Brampton, Ontario girl suffers cuts and bruises after being allegedly dangled over a third floor balcony by her 23-year-old mother. The child was spotted by a passer-by who called police. The child is now in the care of her father who was not present at the time.

    Feb 22/07  NZ bill to repeal ‘reasonable force’ defence passes 2nd reading
    Globe and Mail – The New Zealand bill to repeal the defence to assault in s. 59 of its Crimes Act passes second reading by a vote of 70-51 in spite of ‘deep opposition’ from some parents and Christian groups. Final reading is expected in a few weeks. See International Developments, New Zealand for latest information.

    Feb 22/07  NZ bill to end corporal punishment comes closer to enactment
    New Zealand Herald – Green Party MP Sue Bradford’s private members bill to repeal s. 59 of the Crimes Act passes 2nd reading by 70 votes to 51. (Section 59 allows reasonable force for correction in words almost identical to our s. 43. It was first read in Parliament in July/05 and, with govt support, was referred to a Select Committee for study. The Committee considered written and oral submissions from Oct/05 until Feb/07.)

    Third reading will take place in about 3 weeks and will deal with a proposed amendment by a National Party MP. His amendment would continue to allow force that causes ‘transitory and trifling discomfort’. Bradford intends to fight this amendment ‘tooth and nail’ because while well meaning, it would continue to legitimize force and allow children to be ‘hit in some ways and not in others’ and thus fails to give children the same legal protection that adults take for granted. Bradford’s Bill is expected to pass by a slim majority when it comes up for 3rd reading next month.

    Feb 12/07  SpankOut Day reminder from EPOCH-USA
    SpankOut Day is observed on April 30 each year in the USA and other countries, including Canada. Its aim is to encourage parents and caretakers to use non-violent discipline instead of corporal punishment. EPOCH asks organizations to sponsor informational events on the issue. Last year, organizations in Canada and eight other countries participated in this no-hitting day. Check for ideas on how to participate.

    Feb 11/07  Authoritarianism of religious right dangerous, says author
    Toronto Star – A new book, American Fascism: The Christian Right and the War on America, by Pulitzer Prize reporter, Chris Hedges, warns that authoritarian forces in the US aim to create a nation ruled by a fundamentalist interpretation of biblical law. In Toronto to debate Charles McVety, president of Canada Christian College, Hedges argues that America’s religious right is a mass movement that reflects many elements of fascism. In connection with this movement, he cites “ultra-conservative ‘family values’ advocate” James Dobson.

    Comment: Obedience to authority is a theme that runs through the pro-corporal punishment parenting books by Focus on the Family founder and president, James Dobson. Parental authority becomes the cornerstone for future obedience to authority in places such as school and work and, he writes, a wife’s willingness to yield to the ‘confident leadership’ of her husband will be influenced by her father’s authority.

    Feb 10/07  Quebec parents say grade 4 son caged in classroom
    Globe and Mail – Parents of a 9-year-old, grade-4 boy in a Shawinigan-Sud, Quebec school, complain about their son being placed in a semi-enclosed pen for being a ‘turbulent child’. The school board says it is normal practice to place turbulent children in an isolation area for about an hour so they can calm down. The parents contend the practice should end.

    Comment: This brings to mind school discipline techniques recommended by Focus on the Family founder and president, James Dobson. In one of his many books on child discipline, he relates how he and a 6th grade teacher constructed an isolation area in a remote corner of the schoolroom where a boy was ‘sentenced to a week in the isolation booth whenever he choose to be disruptive… and later spent one entire month in relative solitude…’In another recommendation for classroom discipline, Dobson suggests a technique used by his schoolteacher wife on children in grades 2-5. She draws a scull and crossbones on the blackboard labeled ‘Poison List’ to which she explains ‘in ominous overtones’ that the name of misbehaving pupils will be added: this from America’s ‘best-selling classic’ for parents and teachers.

    Jan 30/07  Edmonton foster mother charged in death of 3-year-old
    Globe and Mail – A 32-year-old foster mother is charged with second-degree murder of a 3-year-old boy in her care. The boy died of head injuries in hospital on Jan 27 and had been in care since early Dec/06. His father said the child had bruises and burns on his body when admitted with serious brain damage. The foster mother is a single mother working at a local college. According to a Feb 1 report in the Toronto Star, she was caring for 2 of her own children and 4 foster children in the weeks before the boy’s death and was ‘feeling overwhelmed’. About 6000 children are living with foster parents or relatives in Alberta.

    Jan 22/07 Repeal 43 files brief and appears before Senate Committee
    The Repeal 43 Committee was invited to make a presentation on s. 43 to the Standing Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights. This Committee has been holding hearings since early 2005 on implementing Canada’s international obligations respecting the rights of children and issued an Interim Report in Nov/05. It is mainly concerned with how international treaties on the rights of children are negotiated, monitored and implemented, with particular reference to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Since all violence against children is prohibited by the UNCRC, the Senate committee has solicited views on s. 43. Corinne Robertshaw filed a brief on behalf of the Repeal 43 Committee on Jan 22/07 and appeared before the Senate committee. Click here for copy of brief.

    Jan 18/07 Schwarzenegger has ‘open mind’ on Calif. spanking ban – California Assemblywoman Sally Lieber’s plan to introduce a bill to ban spanking children under 3 years of age has sparked heated debate in California but Governor Schwarzenegger has expressed an open mind on the issue. Growing up in Austria, he says he was ‘smacked about everything’ but was exposed to different child-rearing strategies by his wife, a member of the Kennedy family. As a result, they use talking and withdrawal of privileges as discipline and have never spanked or hit any of their 4 children.

    Jan 18/07  Senator Hervieux-Payette named Leader of Opposition in Senate
    New Opposition Leader Stéphane Dion names Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette as Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. Senator Payette has introduced 2 Senate bills to repeal s. 43 of the Criminal Code. Her Bill S-207 has been referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights. See Senate Bill to Repeal S. 43 chapter for further information. Senator Payette was elected in 1979 and held Cabinet posts in previous Liberal governments. She was appointed to the Senate in 1995 and is a lawyer and member of the Canadian and Quebec Bars.

    Jan 9/07  Texas 4-year-old dies in fire fearing ‘spanking or something’ – A 4-year-old boy dies in an Arlington apartment fire after his older sister tries unsuccessfully to rescue him. His sister says ‘he was so scared he didn’t want to listen to nobody because he knew he was going to get a spanking or something for starting the fire’. The boy had been playing with lighters around a Christmas tree. Jordan Riak, of the California based Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education comments, ‘Being spanked throws children into a state of powerful confusion, making it difficult for them to learn the lessons adults claim they are trying to teach.’

    Dec 22/06  Quebec pays $26 million for abuse in Catholic orphanages
    Globe and Mail – 1,700 adult Quebecers receive $26 million in compensation for years of abuse in Roman Catholic orphanages where they were interned because born out of wedlock. Their memories of beatings, name-calling and dawn-to-dusk farm work are still with them. Francine Fournier, a former head of the Quebec Human Rights Commission, said there was a systemic pattern of abuse in at least 9 orphanages. Punishments included punches, strappings and cold baths by nuns who were ‘very strict’.

    These victims, dubbed the ‘forgotten orphans’, are different from the ‘Duplessis orphans’ who were interned and abused in church-run psychiatric hospitals during the premiership of Maurice Duplessis because they were ‘illegitimate’. The Quebec govt paid compensation to them in 2001.

    Dec 20/06  Man charged with assault for ‘severely spanking’ stepson
    Ottawa Citizen – A 33-year-old Cornwall, Ontario, man is charged with common assault after police allege he ‘severely spanked’ his common-law wife’s 10-year-old son on Dec 12. The news report cites pressure to repeal the law (s. 43) that allows reasonable force by way of correction and criticism of this law by Stephen Lewis at a recent world forum on child welfare in Vancouver.

    Comment: The case is still before the courts, but because the man’s name is withheld to protect the identity of the child, it is not possible to identify the case and determine its status. Knowledge of the outcome of the case will depend on whether newspapers report it and/or whether any judicial decision is reported in the law reports. Often such cases are not reported and it is therefore difficult to find out how they are resolved.

    Dec 16/06  Settlement of residential school abuse will cost Canada billions
    Globe and Mail – The class action suit against the federal govt by thousands of children abused in aboriginal residential schools has been settled after years of dispute. It is expected that the federal govt will have spent as much as  $5 billion in restitution. Up to one-quarter of the estimated 80,000 people entitled to benefits were victims of physical and sexual abuse.

    Dec 14/06  Senate Bill S-207 to repeal s. 43 referred to HR Committee
    Hansard –  Senator Hervieux-Payette concluded debate on second reading of her Bill S-207 by reminding senators the UN has recommended that all countries, including Canada, prohibit all forms of violence against children, however light. The Senate agreed on second reading of the Bill and referred it to the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights for further study. This Senate committee, she said, is holding hearings on theEffective Implementation of Canada’s International Obligations with Respect to the Rights of Children and should be well placed to examine s. 43 of the Criminal Code.

    (These hearings have now been concluded but it is not possible to say at this time when hearings on Bill S-207 will begin. See chapter Senate Bill to Repeal S. 43 for history of Bill.)

    Dec 12/06  Taiwan bans corporal punishment in all learning institutions
    Humanistic Education Fdn – Taiwan’s Fundamental Law of Education is amended to ban corporal punishment in all public and private schools from kindergartens to universities. The amendment is in response to the UN’s study on violence against children and reads:The state should protect students’ rights to learning, to education, to their physical integrity and their human dignity, and should protect them from any form of corporal punishment, which constitutes a physical and psychological violation.

    Dec 2/06  UK mandates classes for parents of delinquent youth
    (In 1998, the UK govt introduced legislation allowing ‘Anti-social Behaviour Orders’ to be made against anyone whose conduct causes alarm or distress to persons not of their own household. These orders are made in civil courts and generally involve problems such as aggressive street behaviour by groups of youth and acts of nuisance by neighbours such as misusing fireworks and failing to clean up after dogs.)

    Globe and Mail – In 2005, as part of it’s ‘tough on crime’ agenda, the UK govt announced new ‘Asbos’ allowing restrictions on unruly youth without involving them in the criminal justice system. Parents of such youth are also targeted as a ‘first line of defence’ against anti-social behaviour by offering them parenting-support classes – in some cases under court order. Essentially, classes are based on principles of empathy, setting clear boundaries, communication, praise, and teaching children the consequences of their actions. So far, all parents have attended voluntarily and their response has been positive. In another approach, child psychologists are being provided to troubled areas of the country.

    Dec 1 &2/06  CASs fail to promptly assess and follow up reports
    Globe and Mail – The Ontario Auditor-General’s in–depth audit of 4 Ontario CASs finds that in 1 of every 10 cases, initial assessment by the CAS was an average of 17 days later that the 24 hour deadline required by provincial child protection law. When the risk is assessed as ‘moderately severe’, the child is required to be seen within 12 hours or 7 days depending on the nature of the risk. In one-third of reported cases, children waited an average of 3 weeks before being seen. Ontario CASs conduct more than 82,000 investigations each year.

    Comment: Throughout 6 years of the constitutional challenge to s. 43, courts hearing the challenge held that s. 43 must be considered in the ‘framework of provincial child protection laws designed to prevent child abuse’; the implication being that s. 43 plays only a minor role in protecting children. This has also been a frequent theme in letters from ministers of justice.This implication that s. 43 plays a minor role in preventing abuse is contradicted both by research into the link between corporal punishment and abuse and the difficulties and delays of child protection authorities in responding to abuse reports. Courts and ministers fail to appreciate that child protection workers respond mainly after the fact, and often late, and that their role in preventing abuse is hampered by the law’s justification of hitting as a form of discipline.

    Dec 1/06  Ontario Law Reform Commission revived by provincial govt
    Globe and Mail – Ten years ago, the Ontario Law Reform Commission was axed by Ontario’s Conservative government. (Last year, the current federal government axed the federal LRC). However, Liberal Attorney-General Michael Bryant has revived the Ontario LRC saying law commissions play a vital role. They are free to consider legal reforms in contentious areas, explore new solutions to legal problems and ‘tackle social-policy issues that a government may be reluctant to address’. The new LRC will be attached to 7 law schools, the Law Society of Upper Canada, the Law Fdn of Ontario and the Ontario Ministry of Justice.

    Comment: No previous Ontario Law Reform Commission has addressed s. 43 but as long ago as 1977, the Ontario Human Rights Commission in its report, Life Together: A Report on Human Rights in Ontario recommended that Ontario’s Attorney-General consider initiating discussions with the federal govt ‘aimed at eliminating such discriminatory provisions from the Criminal Code’.

    Nov 27/06  B.C. govt appoints Representative for Children and Youth
    BC Govt website – Acting on a key recommendation of the Hughes report into the 2002 beating death of toddler Sherry Charlie, the BC govt announces the appointment of Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond to be the Representative for Children and Youth as of Feb 1/07. Ms. Turpel-Lafond will be an independent officer of the legislature to advocate for children and families and investigate injuries and deaths in the child welfare system. She will be fully independent of the govt. A Select Standing Committee on Children and Youth is being established to work with her to foster better understanding of the system.

    Nov 24/06  Law students protest axing of Court Challenges Program
    Toronto Star – Osgoode Hall law students, carrying signs demanding ‘Access to Justice’, demonstrate against the federal government’s cancellation of the Court Challenges Program. The Program funded court cases challenging laws considered discriminatory and in violation of the equality rights guaranteed by the Charter. The protesters said the CCP was the only way disadvantaged groups and minorities could afford the cost of such cases.

    Comment: The challenge to s. 43 launched in 1998 is a good example of the kind of case that would not have been brought without this funding. It ended in a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2004. See Sept 22/06 item below for previous comment.

    Nov 22/06  Susan Betinsky asks: Where are the child whisperers? – Monty Roberts trains horses through non-violent means. Cesar Milan does the same for dogs. But where are the child whisperers who believe that inflicting pain is not the way to correct children? asks US law professor Susan Betinsky. Solicitude for animals, she says, led the way to protection for children – reminding us that little Mary Ellen Wilson was the victim of years of physical abuse by her foster mother until 1874 when the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals ultimately intervened to rescue her.

    Nov 21/06  Stephen Lewis and UNICEF call for repeal of section 43
    Times Colonist – UN Special Envoy, Stephen Lewis, condemns Canada for violating the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child by continuing to condone corporal punishment under s. 43 of the Criminal Code. Under the guise of ‘reasonable’ force, children are subjected to ‘gratuitous, offensive and damaging violence’ he said at a world forum on child welfare in Vancouver. Nigel Fisher, president of UNICEF Canada, endorsed his comments. This call for repeal was widely reported in papers such as the Ottawa Citizen, Globe and Mail and National Post.

    Nov 20/06  National Child Day Open Letter to MPs calls for repeal
    An open letter to Members of Parliament co- signed by over 100 organizations appears in the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star on Nov. 18 and Nov. 20 to mark National Child Day celebrating the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It calls on MPs to repeal s. 43 and send the message that children have the same right to protection from assault as all other Canadians. The letter also appears in the Hill Times, Ottawa, on Nov. 20. Click here to read the open letter.

    Nov 19-22/06 UN Violence against Children study launched in Vancouver
    Public Health Agency of Canada – The Canadian launch of the UN study Violence against Children will be held in Vancouver, Nov 19-22 as part of the World Forum 2006: FutureDirections in Child Welfare Conference. Paulo Pineiro, the author of the study will attend and Senator Raynell Andreychuk, Chair of the Senate Committee on Human Rights, will lead the Govt of Canada delegation.

    Nov 12/06 Europe should be a corporal punishment free zone – The Deputy Sec’y-General, Council of Europe says she wants Europe to be a “corporal punishment free zone”. Children are not mini persons with mini rights, she said. The UN study Violence against Children led by Paulo Pinheiro recommended that corporal punishment be prohibited and the Deputy-Sec’y opposes any effort to have the Council dilute its resolution supporting this recommendation. She also supports the appointment of a special representative to monitor progress in eliminating violence against children.

    Nov 8/06 US Court holds that belting and bruising child is not abuse
    News Channel 3 – The North Carolina state Court of Appeals rules that hitting and bruising a 13-year-old child with a belt is not abuse unless it causes ‘serious physical injury’. Examples of abuse are pulling out a child’s hair, burning or hitting with the fist; all of which require immediate medical attention.

    Nov 4/06 Addressing roots of crime – not quick fixes – best, says former CJ
    Toronto Star – Former Ontario Chief Justice, Patrick LeSage, says that Canada is not experiencing a “crime wave” as alleged by the media and public officials. Speaking to the Toronto Criminal Lawyers Ass’n re the government’s proposed “three strikes” law, he said that doing something about the roots of crime would be a better approach and reminded his listeners that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

    Nov 3/06 NZ Committee to report on repealing corporal punishment defence
    EPOCH New Zealand  – The Select Committee studying a Private Member’s Bill to repeal s. 59 of the NZ criminal code will report back to parliament on Nov 22 rather than in Oct as intended. (See June 30/ 05 News/Archives item for note on bill.) As Parliament will begin Xmas recess soon after Nov 22, the report will likely be put over to 2007.

    Nov/06 Bill S-207 still before the Senate
    Bill S-207 is still before the Senate for second reading but there has been no further
    discussion on it. The Senate is occupied with government bills and these must take priority over Private Member’s bills. If there is an election in the spring, it seems unlikely that the bill will come up again in this parliamentary session.

    Nov 3/06 Three-year-old “spanked to death” in Georgia, USA
    www.weartv – The adoptive mother of  3-year old Amad King is convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. She testified that she lost control while spanking the boy more than 50 times with an object.

    Oct 24/06 Bishop’s College School sued for 1950-60 physical/sexual abuse
    Globe and Mail – A former student of this Quebec private school starts a class-action on behalf of himself and other students against a teacher for physical and sexual abuse in the 1950s and 1960s. He alleges that at age 14, the teacher called him into a private room and spanked him with a brush before fondling his buttocks. The teacher also acted as housemaster, chaplain, and choirmaster.  The suit comes at the same time as another class-action for abuse of students against Montreal’s Selwyn House school.

    Oct/06 Toronto Health “Spanking Hurts More Than You Think” campaign
    Toronto Public Health launched this campaign in Oct/04 for Child Abuse Prevention Monthin collaboration with other community partners. The campaign is ongoing and consists of posters and leaflets in the Toronto subway and bus shelters and TV ads on some local stations and medical waiting rooms. Brochures and posters are distributed to over 3000 settings that serve children and families in Toronto.These inform parents and caregivers about the risks of physical punishment to children’s growth and development, effective and safe methods of discipline, and where they can go for additional support and information. This is an excellent initiative by TPH and a model for campaigns by other cities. For more info click

    Oct 23/04 Ont Ass’n of Children’s Aid Societies defends workers
    Toronto Star – Jeanette Lewis, executive director of the OACAS, says the Ontario child welfare system works with limited resources and overwhelming caseloads. When tragedies occur, privacy laws limit disclosure of information and workers often cannot explain their decisions because of privacy concerns. Ms. Lewis stressed that family, friends, neighbours and the general public must be the eyes and ears of CASs but that a recent survey shows that 55% of respondents said it is difficult report actual or suspected abuse by someone they knew. The comments were made in connection with a recent death in Barrie, Ont.

    Oct 19/06 Greece latest country to prohibit corporal punishment
    Endcorporal – Greek Parliament passes new law stating “Physical violence against children as a disciplinary measure in the context of their upbringing brings the consequences of Article 1552 of the Civil Code.” The Article refers to various consequences for abuse of parental authority. The new law was drafted by a committee of government and non-govt bodies following a finding by the European Committee of Social Rights that Greece was in violation of the Social Charter. The Greek Ombudsman was disappointed that “corporal punishment” was not specifically referred to but ministers made it clear that this is included in “physical violence”.

    Oct 16/06 Ottawa Citizen lauds UN study Violence against Children
    Ottawa Citizen – The editorial expresses astonishment at the worldwide scale of abuse and the fact that the UN is speaking so firmly about it. It goes on to call it a sad truth that children have less protection than any other group and tend to be seen as property of adults. It quotes the study’s declaration that the adult justification of violence against children in the name of tradition or “discipline” must end. Click Articles/Letters 2006-1990 for letters re this Citizen editorial.

    Oct 14/06 Globe and Mail editorial on failure to protect children
    Referring to child protection failures in Newfoundland and Manitoba, the editorial states that there are deeply rooted failures in the child protection system in which the parent rather than the child has been treated as the primary client. Reviews conducted in Manitoba found that 20 children involved with protection authorities were killed between 2003 and 2006, mostly by parents or guardians, and that 24 children had committed suicide. When, it asks, will child protection agencies learn from all these tragedies?

    Oct 12/06 Manitoba calls for public inquiry into death of 5-year-old
    Five-year-old Phoenix Sinclair disappeared in June/05 and her body found in April/06.
    (See April 23/06 note on death.) The mother and her boyfriend have been charged with first-degree murder. Phoenix had been in care of child welfare authorities for most of her short life. The Manitoba government has called for an inquiry because of a “pattern of difficulties” in welfare services that include insufficient resources, training and standards.

    Oct 11/06 Children’s Day in Croatia promotes physical punishment ban
    Croatian Embassy – Croatia’s Family Act has prohibited physical punishment by parents and other family members since 1999. Its recent National Plan for the Rights and Interests of the Child includes labeling consumer goods, including milk containers, with a special sign alerting the public to this prohibition.

    Oct 3/06 Saskatchewan Children’s Advocate recommends repeal of S. 43
    In a presentation to the Senate Committee on Human Rights, Sask. Children’s Advocate, Marvin Bernstein, recommended that the federal government repeal s. 43. He stated that the Supreme Court’s decision on s. 43 has reduced Canadian children to the status of mini-persons with diminished human rights. Even the Court’s limitations that appear to be absolute, he said, are being treated as discretionary by many lower courts.

    Sept 30/06 300,000 US schoolchildren disciplined with paddle in schoolyear
    New York Times – Federal statistics show that during the 2002-3 school year, more than 300,000 US schoolchildren were disciplined with one or more blows with a thick wooden paddle, sometimes with holes cut in it to make the beating more painful. 70% of these children were in the southern states of Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama and Arkansas. In 28 other states, school corporal punishment has been banned.  Many organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and Medical, Bar, and  School Psychologists associations, have spoken out against it. Adherents of the practice include James C. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family and influential evangelical leader.

    Sept 22/06 McVety applauds cut to Court Challenges Program
    Press Release by CFAC – Charles McVety, president of the Canada Family Action Coalition, and president of Canada Christian College, Toronto, complains that “Liberal extremists” are changing the law   through “judicial activism” financed by the Court Challenges Program. CFAC describes itself as having “a vision to see Judeo-Christian moral principles restored in Canada”. One of the complaints McVety makes is that the Supreme Court of Canada is “criminalizing spanking”.

    Comment: McVety’s complaint refers to the Court’s Jan/04 decision limiting the scope of corporal punishment allowed by s. 43 – but not in fact “criminalizing” all spanking. Some of the Court limits were quite ambiguous but one was clear, viz, that s.43 can no longer be used to justify hitting children with objects. According to McVety and Realwomen, however, (Feb 2/04 LifeSiteNews) this limitation is “culturally insensitive for some faith groups which regard use of the hand in spanking as a problem.” McVety then adds,  “an inanimate object such as a wooden spoon could be used” and describes hitting with objects rather than the hand, as “logical advice”.Without funding from the Court Challenges Program, it would have been impossible for the non-profit group that challenged section 43 to bring this court action. Without this action, hitting children with objects would still be legal. McVety, his Coalition and Realwomen regret that the law no longer allows parents to hit children with wooden spoons. Hitting children with wooden spoons apparently accords with their Judeo-Christian vision and moral principles.

    Sept 22/06  Violence is major but neglected public-health issue
    Globe and Mail – Violence is a major, and largely neglected public-health issue, writes André Picard, the Globe’s public-health reporter. Referring to the recent Dawson College murder and suicide, he highlights the need to invest more in violence prevention. Instead of equipping schools with metal detectors, he suggests money would be better spent equipping them with counselors to help prevent violence.

    Comment: Violence prevention in the home is even more basic. As Murray Straus and other sociologists and psychologists have emphasized for years, corporal punishment of children makes the home the “cradle of violence” and hence a root cause of other domestic and societal violence. Legal approval of it must be ended and non-violent methods of discipline promoted to reduce this violence.

    Sept 21/06  Govt appoints pro spanking lawyer as Ontario judge
    Globe and Mail – The federal government appoints Toronto lawyer, David Brown, to Ontario Superior Court, Toronto region. Spokespersons for various groups active in promoting equality rights expressed concern that David Brown personally shares the views of the conservative “family-value” groups he has represented, such as Focus on the Family and Realwomen. He acted as counsel for both in defending spanking in the constitutional challenge to section 43.

    Comment: The concern expressed is certainly valid in so far as spanking is concerned. The PM’s new appointee has defended spanking personally on radio and TV as well as defending it as counsel.

    Sept 21/06  Netherlands to prohibit spanking
    www.libé – Justice Minister of the Netherlands has majority support for amending the Civil Code to make spanking (fessée) illegal, as is all other mental or physical violence against children in his country. The amendment would come into force in 2007 but it would still be acceptable to slap a child’s hands for such things as stealing candy. Advocates for the prevention of child abuse say that 50,000 to 80,000 children are victims of violence each year. The goal is to enact a new standard and avoid the use of spanking for discipline as an excuse for abuse. When the law comes into force, it will be accompanied by a publicity campaign and support programs for parents who are used to hitting for discipline.

    Sept 20/06  Bill in US Congress aims to ban sale of devices to hit children
    www, – A bill to ban devices sold or marketed for the purpose of hitting or whipping children is introduced in the US House of Representatives by Rep. Ed. Markey, Massachusetts. The bill responds to mounting concern in the US over the sale of paddles, whips and similar objects for inflicting corporal punishment on children in the name of discipline. The bill is sponsored by Susan Lawrence, a member of the Board of Directors, Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education (PTAVE) based in California. PTAVE is one of the most active and successful organizations in the US campaign against “paddling” children in US schools. Click here for text of bill.

    Sept 19/06  Senate Human Rights Committee urged to say no to spanking
    Winnipeg Free Press – Witnesses at the Winnipeg hearings of the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights are told that s. 43 is sloppy legislation that still allows children to be hit and denies them equal protection of the law against assault. They are urged to say no to spanking.  One senator said he was “flabbergasted” to learn about this legislation on corporal punishment. (See “Sept/06 Senate hearings resume on children’s rights and UNCRC” for more information on committee.)

    Sept 8/06 Corporal punishment’s hidden Costs in black American community
    In These Times – “If the civil rights community began a movement to discourage corporal punishment among African-Americans, I believe it would do more to stem the tide of interpersonal violence than any other strategy”, writes Salim Muwakkil, senior editor of the website and also an op-ed columnist for Chicago Tribune.

    “Growing numbers of experts who focus on the black community are also raising questions about the high costs of using physical violence to punish children. Dr. Alvin Poussaint, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School who has written extensively on African-American issues, has long opposed the use of corporal punishment… One reason for the reticence  [on the issue among many black Americans] is the influence of the church. All spanking advocates need to do is cite a biblical justification not to spare the rod and for far too many, the case is closed”, he says in concluding his article.

    Sept/06  Summary and questions re Jeffrey Baldwin death
    See Jeffrey Baldwin Death for summary of information on the death of this Toronto 5-year-old at the hands of his grandparents and their conviction for his murder and for the unlawful confinement of his 7-year-old sister. Some questions raised by the case are noted at end of summary.

    Sept/06  Quebec decision on de minimus as a defence to assault
    A Quebec decision, The Queen vFreedman, is an excellent review of the de minimisdefence to assault and includes discussion of the Supreme Court of Canada decision on the constitutionality of s. 43. (De minimis refers to the rule that trivial offences should not be prosecuted.) The decision concludes that the de minimis defence is “well alive in Canadian criminal law”. It also touches on implied consent and prosecutorial discretion. A recent Saskatchewan case on s. 43 and the Supreme Court decision is also noted. SeeThe Law, Judicial Interpretation of Supreme Court of Canada Decision.

    Sept/06  Senate hearings resume on children’s rights & UNCRC
    During the week of Sept 18/06, the Senate’s Standing Committee on Human Rights resumes public hearings on Canada’s international obligations on the rights of children, and in particular, its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. These hearings will be held in western Canada in September and conclude in Ottawa in October or Nov/06. Hearings began in other parts of Canada and other countries in Dec/04.

    In Nov/05, the committee published an Interim Report Who’s In Charge Here? on how the federal government deals with the UNCRC and other international treaties. The committee is expected to issue a final report on specific issues of children’s rights, including corporal punishment and s. 43, in early 2007. There is still time for individuals and organizations to make a written submission to the Senate committee to advocate repeal of s. 43. See International DevelopmentsSenate Report on Implementing UNCRC for information on the Interim Report.Aug 25/06  Auckland City Council, New Zealand, supports repeal of S. 59 defence
    Green Party MP, Sue Bradford, receives support from City of Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, for her bill to repeal section 59 of New Zealand’s criminal law. Like our s. 43, section 59 allows corporal punishment of children. The City Council of Porirua also passed a similar resolution this month. A parliamentary Select Committee is presently studying the Bradford bill and is expected to file its report in late October/06.

    Aug 23/06  UN report on violence against children seeks to end physical punishment
    The report Rights of the Child is a worldwide report on violence against children by independent expert, Dr. Paulo Pinheiro. It covers violence in all settings, including the home, and is now being referred to the General Assembly for consideration and implementation.(See June3/05 news item “UN Secretary General’s Study on Violence against Children” for background of study.)

    The report finds that violence in the home in the form of physical punishment is too often perceived as inevitable and normal, particularly when no visible physical injury results. The lack of legal prohibition of such punishment reflects this “normalization” of violence. The report recommends that all such violence be prohibited, as children should never receive less protection than adults, and that children’s rights be publicized, education on non-violent forms of discipline disseminated, and a commissioner for children’s rights established by states. For full report see

    Comment: Opponents of repealing s. 43 often argue that light slaps and spanking are not really “violence”. They need to change their perspective and see the raised hand of an adult over a small child from the child’s perspective – not merely from their own. It is interesting to note that the Supreme Court of Denmark recently held spitting in the face to be a violent act since it is an attack on a part of the body.

    Aug 17/06  Corporal punishment of black American children causing problems
    Chicago Tribune – Dr. Alvin Poussaint, a prominent black American Harvard psychiatrist, believes the beating of black children by parents is a cause of unruly behaviour and violence and the high rate of preschool expulsions. “Research shows the more you beat them, the angrier they get”. He believes this repressed anger may well erupt in unruly school behaviour and violence.

    Aug 16/06  BC’s children’s minister replaced due to failures in system
    Toronto Star – BC’s children’s minister, Stan Hagen, has been under fire for the past year for the way the BC Liberal government has handled children in care. One example is the death of Sherry Charlie. (See Feb 18/06 news item.) He is being replaced by Tom Christensen.

    Aug 9/06 Beating death of New Zealand twins fuels call for spanking ban – The beating deaths of twin 3-month-old Maori boys has increased the call for measures to stem child abuse, including the repeal of the reasonable force defence of physical punishment for discipline. New Zealand’s Children’s Commissioner has again called for an end to this defence in order to give children the same legal protection from assault as adults. Corporations such as Body Shop International and Toyota are providing support for public education, parenting advice and fundraising on the problem of child abuse.

    July 27/06  BC mother charged in death of 2-year-old daughter
    Vancouver Sun – Two-year-old Hope Lincoln is the fourth first nations toddler to die in suspicious circumstances in as many years. Her 20-year-old mother is charged with second-degree murder. The child died in Bella Bella, BC, and was known to the ministry but not under its care at the time of her death.

    July 7/06  New fact sheet on punitive violence against children
    This fact sheet from one of Canada’s Centres of Excellence for Child Welfare is based on an analysis of the 2003 Canadian Incidence of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect. (See Research chapter for note on report.) It finds that physical punishment accounted for 75% of substantiated reports of physical maltreatment of children. In most of these cases, no physical harm was documented but 58% of the children exhibited either depression, anxiety, violence toward others or negative peer relationships. Spanking was the typical form of discipline used. The Centre of Excellence for Child Welfare in Manitoba is one of several Centres of Excellence funded by Public Health Agency Canada. For full fact sheet see

    July 2/06  Police probe death of 18-month-old boy
    Toronto Star – A Burlington, Ontario child was admitted to emergency last week suffering serious injuries and later died in hospital. Police were told the child was injured in a fall. More information is not being released until an autopsy is held.

    June 23/06  Ontario Ombudsman seeks power to probe child agencies
    Globe and Mail – The powers of Ontario’s Ombudsman, André Marin, are limited to investigating actions by the provincial government itself and do not extend to organizations such as children’s aid societies, school and hospitals. These organizations are provincially financed but operate at arm’s length from the government and are not subject to scrutiny by the Ombudsman. Ombudsmen in other provinces, however, have powers to deal with such organizations. Mr. Marin regards the failings of Ontario’s child protection system, as recently shown by the death of Jeffrey Baldwin, as precisely the kind of failings his office is equipped to handle. (See Ap 8/06 note re this death.) He calls on the Premier to expand his jurisdiction to allow such investigations.

    June 7/06  Quebec father sentenced in baby’s death
    Globe and Mail – A St-Jerome father who pleaded guilty to manslaughter is sentenced to 8 years, 10 months in prison. He shook his 2-month-old son to death in June 2004.

    May 20/06  Toronto mother acquitted in death of 14-month-old daughter
    Toronto Star – A 32 year-old mother, Isabel Martinez, is acquitted of second-degree murder in the Sept/02 death of her daughter from devastating head injuries. The child also had multiple bruises and a fractured wrist. The mother blamed the injuries on a fall in the bathtub and “rough play” by the child’s 3-year-old brother. Charges against the mother’s spouse were dropped. A pathologist testified that many of the injuries were consistent with shaken-baby syndrome. The mother’s lawyer conceded that although the bathtub fall may have happened, it couldn’t account for the child’s injuries. The judge told the jury they were “faced with a mystery” and as it couldn’t be solved, the mother was entitled to be acquitted.

    Comment: Statistics Canada classifies deaths like these as “Undetermined whether Accidently or Purposely Inflicted”. In the 1981 Robertshaw study of 54 deaths of children while in the care of parents or others, 19% of such deaths were classified in this way.

    Ap 23/06  Mother and boyfriend charged in death of 5-year-old girl
    Toronto Star –  The remains of a slain child believed to be 5-year-old Phoenix Sinclair are found in a garbage dump near Fisher River, Man. Her mother and boyfriend are charged with first-degree murder. According to CBC reports in Aug/06, the child spent most of her short life in the care of child welfare authorities. A news publication ban prohibits further information at this time.

    Ap 10/06  Vancouver’s decision to cut Child and Youth Advocate protested
    Press release by former Advocates – Former Vancouver Child and Youth Advocates and the Youth and Child Officer for BC call on Vancouver City Council to reverse its decision to cut the position of Advocate. Vancouver has had a Child and Youth Advocate since 1989 and the Advocate’s role is described as crucial in hearing from children and youth. It is ironic, states the release, that at a time when Judge Ted Hughes confirms the need for such advocacy, the City decides to end the position.

    Ap 8/06  BC judge recommends independent rep for children and youth
    Toronto Star – After the beating death of toddler Sherry Charlie by her uncle, Judge Ted Hughes led an inquiry into BC’s child protection system and found it a “unstable mess” because of budget cuts. He found the deaths of 715 children were not properly reviewed and recommends an independent representative for children and youth who would report directly to the BC legislature.

    Ap 8/06  Grandparents of 5-year-old Jeffrey Baldwin convicted of murder
    Globe and Mail – Jeffrey’s maternal grandparents, Elva Bottineau, 54, and Norman Kidman, 55, are convicted of second-degree murder in Jeffery’s Nov/02 death from starvation and pneumonia after suffering long-term abuse and neglect by the grandparents in their east-end Toronto house. They were charged in March/03 and their non-jury trial began in Sept/05. They are also convicted of unlawful confinement of one of Jeffrey’s sisters and sentenced to 8 years concurrent imprisonment on that charge. Second-degree murder carries automatic life sentence with minimum 10 years before eligibility for parole. In June/06 court held the grandparents must serve at least 22 and 20 years respectively before being eligible.

    Jeffrey was removed from his mother’s care in 1998 because of allegations of abuse.

    With the support of the Catholic Children’s Aid Society, Toronto, the grandparents were given custody even though CCAS files showed both had been convicted of child abuse years before. These old files were not checked. The grandparents starved Jeffrey and forced him to sleep in a filthy, unheated bedroom along with his 7-year-old sister. Four other adults living in the house ignored their plight. An inquest into Jeffrey’s death was announced in Ap/06 and will be held some time next year.

    Shortly after the conviction, Ontario’s Children’s Lawyer filed a civil action for negligence on behalf of Jeffrey and his 3 siblings against the Toronto CCAS, the grandparents, parents, and two aunts and boyfriends living in the house at the time of Jeffrey’s death. For more information and a note on some questions raised by this death, see Jeffrey Baldwin Death April 5/06  New Bill to repeal s. 43 introduced in Senate
    Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette introduces a new bill to repeal s. 43 as her previous bill died due to the federal election. Bill S-207 is identical to her previous bill and like it calls for repeal with a one-year delay in implementation to allow time to educate Canadians and coordinate action with the provinces. See New Senate Bill to Repeal S. 43 – April/06

    Mar 31/06   Senator Hervieux-Payette to reintroduce bill to repeal s. 43
    Liberal Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette intends to reintroduce her Private Member’s Bill to repeal s. 43 when Parliament opens next week under a new Conservative government. It will be the same bill she introduced in the Senate in December 2005 but will have a different number in the 39th Parliament. For the history of the bill in the last Parliament, see Senate Bill to Repeal S. 43.

    Mar 31/06  Manila Times editorial calls for spanking ban in home and school
    The Manila Times – It is a sign that we are not yet out of the Dark Ages, writes this major Philippines newspaper, that spanking is accepted as something parents have a right to do to their children. There is no “divine mandate” for such punishment. Studies indicate that even moderate spanking can ruin lives. About 26% of all children in Asia are victims of corporal punishment by parents, guardians and teachers. Leading exerts in pediatrics like Drs. T Barry Brazelton, Penelope Leach and Benjamin Spock all vigorously oppose spanking. The editorial concludes that if we want a peaceful, non-violent culture, it is time to ban this practice, including even its mildest form.

    Mar 25/06  Alarming suicide of native youth legacy of boarding schools
    Toronto Star – Suicide rates among native Canadian youth remain alarmingly high and most point to the treatment experienced by their parents in church run residential schools as the cause.  Often beaten or sexually abused in these schools, many parents suffered life-long shame and turned the same abuse on their children. About 90% of native people from the NAN nation in northern Ontario, said its Grand Chief, have been affected by these schools. In them, children were forbidden to speak their own language and not allowed to express their feelings. The result has been too many dysfunctional families that have “a tremendous problem with parenting”.

    Mar 15, 16, 22/06  Manitoba mother charged in death of 5-year-old
    Globe and Mail – The Manitoba government is at a loss to explain how Phoenix Victoria Sinclair, who spent much of her life in foster care, ended up dead on a remote reserve north of Winnipeg. Police allege the child was killed in June/05 after weeks of horrific physical and emotional abuse but her disappearance was only recently discovered. Her mother, Samantha Kematch, and mother’s boyfriend, Karl McKay, have been charged with first-degree murder.

    Mar 10/06  Calgary mother jailed for routinely tying 4-year-old daughter
    Vancouver Sun – The 29-year-old mother admitted tying the child to a couch for 6 – 8 hours over a 2 month period while she worked 8 hour days as a maid at a Calgary motel. The child was left in the care of her 6-year-old sister in a hot, darkened room. An anonymous call alerted the police. In sentencing, the judge stressed the mother’s disregard for the safety and dignity of the child. The Crown is applying for permanent wardship.

    Mar 3/06  More endorsers for Joint Statement on Physical Punishment
    220 organizations and a number of individual Canadians have now endorsed the Joint Statement on Physical Punishment of Children and Youth. The Statement was developed in Sept/04 by a national coalition of organizations facilitated by the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) and initially endorsed by 138 organizations. It calls on the federal government to change the law to give children the same protection from physical assault as adults and to initiate public awareness campaigns on the harm of such punishment and the need for parenting education. Endorsements are received on an on-going basis. Organizations and individuals can read the Statement at Aussi disponible en francais.

    Feb 18, 25/06  BC Govt slammed for delay in reviewing Sherry Charlie death
    Globe and Mail – At an inquest into the Sept/02 killing of 19-month-old Sherry by her uncle, government officials acknowledged it had no immediate plans to give tribal agencies specific training on its “kith and kin” program and that checks on proposed family caregivers were “superficial in some ways”. The inquest revealed that the child had been abused some weeks prior to being beaten and kicked to death. Her death sparked several reviews of the case and concluded that an “unconscionably long time” was taken to complete the final review. The coroner’s jury recommended that the independent children’s commission, axed by the Liberal government after it took office in 2001, be reinstated. For other information, scroll down to Nov 9 and Aug 19/05 items.

    Feb 14/06  Joan Durrant gives keynote speech at NZ conference on child abuse
    New Zealand Herald – Canadian psychologist, Dr. Joan Durrant, is sponsored by the NZ Ministry of Justice to give the keynote speech at the 10th Australasian conference on child abuse and neglect in Wellington. Dr. Durrant is internationally acknowledged as an expert on Sweden’s experience in ending legal support for corporal punishment, has studied its effects over a period of 15 years, and supports its reform of the law. A private member’s bill to remove New Zealand’s legal defence allowing “reasonable force” to discipline children is currently being debated by a select parliamentary committee. The NZ government supported sending the bill to committee in order to facilitate an informed debate on the issue.

    Feb 11/06  Montreal teacher uses tape to stop “wandering” 5-year-old
    Toronto Star – The teacher faces disciplinary action for taping the boy to his chair and later taping his mouth to stop him wandering around the classroom. Two other students were also taped.

    Feb 3/06  No charges in decades of alleged abuse at PEI orphanage
    Toronto Star – A 3-year RCMP probe into allegations of physical and psychological abuse at Prince Edward Island’s Mount Hebert orphanage has ended with no charges laid. The alleged abuse dates back to the late 1920s and allegedly continued until it was closed in 1976. Difficulties in proving the identity of alleged abusers were cited as one of the reasons for not prosecuting.

    Jan 12/06  McVety’s answer to violence is to “roll back the clock” to more corporal punishment
    Toronto Star – At a community conference in Toronto’s Jane-Finch corridor to address the roots of crime, Dr. Charles McVety, president of the Evangelical Assn. and Canada Christian College calls on government to “roll back the clock to a time when parental punishment could be used as discipline”. “I’m not talking about abuse”, he assured his listeners, “but there has been an erosion of parental rights and a social drift that’s been coming for years…because of legal protections built in”.

    Comment: It is unfortunately too common for evangelical Christians like Dr. McVety to promote more violence – but of course not “abuse” – as the answer to youth violence. Rather than recognizing that hitting children in the name of discipline is one of the root causes of youth violence, Dr. McVety wants to give it more legal protection than it already has. He is no doubt aware of the Jan/04 Supreme Court of Canada decision that limited, but did not end, the justification for hitting children. Rolling back the clock to more of the same ignores Canadian and international research, legal reform in other countries, and, in the view of many Christians, the true spirit of their religion.

    Jan 22/06  UK children’s commissioners call for total ban on “smacking”
    BBC News – The four UK Commissioners for Children and Young People say Britain is failing to meet its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Council of Europe by failing to completely eliminate the defence of “reasonable chastisement”. This defence was limited by the government, but not entirely repealed, in 2004. Children, said the Commissioners, should have the same protection from assault as adults. Reminding listeners that the UN Committee on the Convention has stated that it “deeply regrets” the UK’s persistence in retaining this defence, they said the issue is not going to go away and the defence must be totally repealed.

    Jan 11/06  UK govt mandates parenting classes for anti-social behaviour
    Toronto Star – In an attempt to reduce anti-social behaviour by youth, local UK authorities can now require parents to attend classes on how to deal with anti-social behaviour by their children. Even opponents of other aspects of the government’s Anti-Social Behaviour Policy have acknowledged that the new National Parenting Academy has genuine merit. The head of a UK public policy think-tank, initially skeptical of mandatory courses, expressed surprise that almost all parents attending the courses had been pleased with them.

    Jan 11/06  Tony Blair no longer believes in “smacking” his children
    The Independent, Online edition – UK Prime minister, Tony Blair, admits to “smacking” his 3 eldest children but says he has never hit his 5-year-old son, Leo. He disclosed his change of attitude to corporal punishment in launching the National Parenting Academy program referred to above. Children’s groups said that the difference between his attitudes now and in the past reflect the shift in social attitudes on corporal punishment over the past 20 years.

    Dec 17/05 Edmonton parents charged in horrific abuse of 4-year-old daughter
    Globe and Mail – Unnamed mother and step-father, both in their 20s, charged with assault, assault with a weapon, assault causing bodily harm and unlawful confinement for “torturous” abuse over a long period of time. In addition to assaults and being hand-cuffed to furniture, the child had been deprived of water and resorted to drinking liquid fertilizer. A person who had witnessed the abuse alerted the police. Although the child appeared physically healthy, she has suffered serious psychological damage.

    Dec 13/05  Union says New Brunswick failing to protect children
    Globe and Mail – The union representing more than 600 social workers say vulnerable children are at risk because the province has failed to hire enough child protection workers. It states that workers cannot meet minimum standards for contacting families because of insufficient staff and because too much time must be spent on administrative tasks.

    Dec 15/05  Woman killed by husband had history of spousal & childhood abuse
    Toronto Star – In a memorial service for Rose McGroarty, whose common-law husband has been charged with second-degree murder, friends said she would not disclose abuse by her 50-year-old husband. A cousin who grew up with her said that abuse by McGroarty’s caregiver began when 6 years old and living in a boarding house run by an Edith Sanders. “She learned early”, the cousin said, “to distract herself and not dwell on what was really going on”. In 2002, Sanders was convicted of enslaving and torturing children in her care and died in 2004 while on parole. Scroll down to Jan 15/03 for a note on the treatment of children in the boarding house run by Sanders.

    Dec 2/05  Toronto mother charged in baby’s death from brain injury
    Globe and Mail – A 24-year-old mother is charged with second-degree murder in the death of her 3-month-old baby girl. The baby died from a severe brain injury. The mother, Anna Sokotnyuk, had been living with her husband and was charged after a 10 month investigation.

    Dec 1/05  Pennsylvania becomes 29th state to ban school corporal punishment
    The Center for Effective Discipline in Columbus, Ohio reports that Pennsylvania is now the 29th US state to ban corporal punishment in all public schools. The Center reports that 10 states having the highest rate of striking students with paddles as a legal form of discipline are in the south, that black students are hit at a rate that is more than twice their makeup of the population, and that Texas accounts for 19% of all school paddling in the country. See our Links chapter for links to websites for the Center and other US organizations opposed to corpral punishment.

    Nov 30/05  Manitoba 3-year-old saves 2-year-old brother from drowning
    Globe and Mail – Tianna Neufeld, now 4, becomes the youngest person to receive an award from the Lifesaving Society of Manitoba. Her little brother had fallen into a dugout on the family farm. She instructed him to keep kicking his legs to keep afloat until his mother arrived to pull him out.

    Nov/05  Chicago proclamation encourages non-violent discipline
    Chicago City Council passes a resolution encouraging non-violent discipline with a view to reducing violence in society and especially within the family and towards children. The City resolved to promote mental health, family counseling, advocate for children, encourage the distribution of non-violent parenting literature and alternatives to corporal punishment. The resolution was submitted by Chicagoan, Michelle DiGiacomo.

    Nov 19/05  National Child Day Open Letter to PM to repeal S. 43
    An open letter to Prime Minister Paul Martin signed by over 90 organizations appears in the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star on Saturday, Nov. 19 to mark National Child Day on Nov 20. It calls on the Prime Minister to honour the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child by repealing s. 43 of the Criminal Code, recommending guidelines to prevent unnecessary prosecutions, and implementing a national education campaign on positive discipline. It also appears in the Hill Times, Ottawa, on Nov. 21. Click here to read the open letter.

    The UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on Nov 20, 1989. It was signed by Canada in 1990, ratified in 1991 and came into force in Jan 1992. In 1993, the federal government designated Nov 20 as an annual National Child Day to commemorate the Convention. Art. 19 of the Convention requires governments to take appropriate measures to protect children from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse. Art. 43 states that the principles of the Convention must be made widely known to adults and children alike. The open letter calls on the government to honour these commitments.

    At least 154 Canadian organizations have now clearly declared their support for repealing s. 43 by either writing individual letters to the Minister of Justice over the past few years or listing their names on the Nov 19/05 open letter to the Prime Minister. Click Supporting Organizations chapter for our updated list.

    Nov 18/05  School bullying mirrors society where violence is the norm
    Guardian Weekly Nov 18-24 – The Children’s Commissioner for England, Al Aynsley-Green, says a culture of violence is to blame for an epidemic of school bullying. A leading expert on young people, the Commissioner said that violence is the norm in many areas, including TV, the workplace and the home. His comments came soon after a 15-yar-old was stabbed in school and a 19-year-old jailed for killing a schoolmate who had bullied him for years.

    Nov/18  BC government fails proper review of hundreds of child deaths
    Globe and Mail — The BC government admits its failure to conduct proper reviews of 713 child deaths in the province. The failure stems from its closing of the Children’s Commission in 2002 as a cost-cutting measure. Before it was closed, the Commission completed about 150 comprehensive reviews annually. The NDP opposition has called the government’s lack of action “gross negligence” and urged it to reinstate the Commission. One of the deaths not properly reviewed at the time is that of Sherry Charlie. See Nov 9/05 note below.

    Comment: It is widely acknowledged by researchers that without proper reviews, many deaths from abuse are undetected. They are classified as accidental, undetermined, or resulting from unknown causes. As a result, the true numbers of child abuse deaths are underreported.

    Nov 17/05  Hearings on Senate Bill S-21 stalled in Senate
    The last hearing on Senator Hervieux-Payette’s Private Member’s Bill S-21 to repeal s. 43 was held on June 16/05 by the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. Since then, this Committee has been dealing with government bills. As these take priority over PMBs, hearings will not resume until all government bills are dealt with. In view of the upcoming federal election, the fate of the bill at this point is uncertain. For background on S-21, see our chapter Senate Bill to Repeal S. 43.

    Nov/05  More judicial decisions interpreting s. 43 summarized
    Seven more judicial decisions in which s. 43 has been offered as a defence to assault charges against parents and teachers are summarized on our website. These are cases decided after the Jan/04 Supreme Court of Canada decision that interpreted the section. See The Law, Judicial Interpretation of Supreme Court of Canada Decision.

    Nov/05  Murder  trial of Jeffrey Baldwin’s grandparents continues
    The trial of grandparents, Kidman and Bottineau, for first-degree murder in the confinement and starvation death of their 5-year-old grandson continues in Toronto. The child died in 2002 while in the legal custody of the grandparents. They were charged in March/03 and the trial has continued off and on before a judge alone since early September/05. (Scroll down for our Mar 20/03 note on this case.) There have been frequent adjournments over admission of evidence and other procedural matters. When the trial is concluded, we will summarize the facts and comment on what can be learned from Jeffrey’s appalling life and death.

    Nov 9/05  Inquest to be held in killing of BC toddler by foster father
    Globe and Mail — In 2002, 19-month-old Sherry Charlie was killed in a fit of rage by her uncle, who was her foster father, because she would not stop crying. The uncle claimed the child died after being pushed down stairs by her 3-year-old brother. Although authorities knew this was not the cause of her death, the brother remained in the home for five months. An inquest is being held almost 31/2 years after the child’s death. Scroll down for our Aug 19/05 note on this case.

    Oct 28/05  Chicago resolution urges alternatives to corporal punishment
    A resolution encouraging non-violent discipline passes the Finance Committee of the City of Chicago and will soon go to full city council. It asks the city to support behaviour management strategies as alternatives to corporal punishment, help promote mental health and family counseling programs, and encourage and distribute positive, non-violent parenting literature via schools, churches, hospitals and community organizations.

    Oct 26/05  New Brunswick still lacks a children’s advocate
    Globe and Mail — As a result of horrific cases of child abuse and neglect, the New Brunswick legislature unanimously passed a law in 2004 providing for the creation of a children’s advocate. The position is still not filled. Some of the cases included decades of sexual and physical abuse of boys at the Kingsclear youth jail near Frederickton and the death of 2-year-old Dawn Brewer from neglect and dehydration while under the supervision of health and child protection officials. The recent suicide of a teenage girl living in a foster home has renewed calls for an advocate to be appointed.

    Oct 26/05 Swiss group calls for ban on corporal punishment
    Swissinfo web news — The Swiss Centre for Family Affairs, part of Switzerland’s federal government, recommends banning corporal punishment and other behaviour that is humiliating or degrading to children. It also recommends that awareness of the problem be raised and that a special ombudsman be created to look after children’s best interests. It describes the medical, police and judicial costs of child abuse as “enormous”.

    Oct 20/05  South American Commission calls for corporal punishment ban
    Press release by Commission — At a hearing in Washington DC, the Andean Commission of Jurists and Save the Children Sweden asked the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to declare corporal punishment of children a breach of their human right to physical integrity and dignity. Paulo Pinheiro, a member of the Inter-American Commission and leader of the UN Secretary-General’s Study on Violence against Children welcomed the request. In addressing the UN General Assembly the week before, he called it perverse that children still had less legal protection from being hit and humiliated than adults.

    Oct 21/05  Quebec to tighten Youth Protection Act
    Globe and Mail — Quebec proposes to amend its YPA to shorten the time parents of abused or neglected children will have in which to show an improvement in their parenting skills. This will vary from 12 months to 2 years depending on the age of the child. The minister, Margaret Delisle, stressed that children have a right to a good and safe environment and that affection and proper care are needed for appropriate brain and emotional development. The proposed amendment aims to create stability in the child’s life by ending the frequent shuffling of children between foster and family homes. It will emphasize voluntary mediation over court action to reach this goal.

    Oct 18/05  US study finds abused boys likely to become abusive men
    Sympatico msn Health and Fitness — A study at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine finds that men who were abused as youngsters are more likely to commit domestic violence. The results provide circumstantial evidence that abused boys may “learn” that violence is an acceptable method of conflict resolution in the home, said the lead author of the study, adding that this needs confirmation by a larger study. The findings are reported in the Oct 18 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

    Oct 17/05  Father sentenced to 8 years for killing baby son
    Toronto Star — A 28-year-old Quebec man, Simon Halle, is sentenced to 8 years in prison for killing his 3-week-old baby by hitting him on the head for not drinking from his bottle. The baby had been home from hospital for one week before his death.

    Oct 13/05  Toronto father charged with aggravated assault on toddler
    Toronto Star — The unconscious 15-month-old boy was admitted to a Toronto hospital with serious head injuries and seizures and has undergone surgery to relieve pressure on the brain. The police say that no weapon or implement was used and that the child appeared to have been hit by blows from the hand while in his crib.

    Oct 4/05  Over 100,000 reports of abuse and neglect reported in 2003
    The Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect released today finds that over 100,000 reports of abuse and neglect were received by child welfare workers in 2003, not including reports received in Quebec. About 1/4 of these were reports of physical abuse. The study is released by Dr. Carolyn Bennett, Minister of State for Public Health and is the second such nation-wide study. Social Development Minister, Ken Dryden, was present at the release to show his concern about the problem of child abuse. The study shows a 125% increase in total reports over the previous study released in 2001. See Research chapter for more information.

    Sept 30/05  Class action sought on alleged abuse at elite Montreal school
    Globe and Mail — A former student of Selwyn House, an all-boys school in Montreal, files an action for negligence against the school for damages for allowing a teacher to sexually molest him and others in the 1970s and 1980s. The school was attended by many of the city’s anglophone business elite. Students described the teacher as a strict, authoritarian figure who used a fishing rod to beat them. “Anything the teacher told you to do, you did”, said one former student. The court is being asked to certify the suit as a class action.

    Sept 30/05  Chile finally makes woman abuse a crime
    Globe and Mail — For the first time in its history, domestic physical assault becomes a crime in Chile. Previous to this, it was only a violation of the country’s Civil Code. Psychological abuse will also be included as a criminal offence. Women leaders claim that domestic abuse is so common it is seen as a normal part of marriage. Minimal reporting and a lack of national statistics have hidden the problem. New family courts with specialized judges will be established.

    Sept 8/05  NZ Christian group issues pamphlet supporting “rod” website — During New Zealand’s national elections in Sept/05, a Christian group issued a pamphlet claiming that parents have a Christian duty to punish children by using a “stiff, flexible rod”. The pamphlet was a response to a Green Party MP’s Private Member’s Bill to repeal s. 59 of the Crimes Act — a defence to assaults on children similar to our s. 43. Supporters of the bill and the Children’s Commissioner condemned the pamphlet. With the support of the governing Labour Party, and over opposition by the conservative National Party, the NZ parliament voted in June to refer the bill to its Justice Committee. Although its majority was reduced, the Labour government was re-elected for a third term and the Justice Committee continues to study the bill.

    Aug 25/05 Australians start campaign to end ‘reasonable force’ defence
    Australian Courier-Mail —  A group of Australian psychologists in Queensland begin a campaign to end the Australian equivalent of our s. 43. They have asked MPs to introduce a bill to repeal this section of the Australian Criminal Code but want ‘trivial’ punishments exempted. The minister responsible said she would consider the request.

    Aug 19/05  Incomplete criminal check on foster father who killed child
    Vancouver Sun — 19-month-old Sherry Charlie was killed by her foster father in September 2002, three weeks after being placed with him by a Vancouver Island aboriginal child protection agency. The foster father, Ryan George, was her uncle and was acting as foster father under the province’s “kith and kin” plan. George had a history of violent offences and was on probation for spousal assault at the time of the placement, but BC guidelines for criminal record checks did not include checking for assault convictions. He is now serving a 10-year prison sentence for manslaughter. A government report concluded that the ministry had failed to properly train workers on how to use the guidelines.

    Aug 15/05  Is a bruise an injury?
    National Post — In an article dealing with health issues, a Post columnist answers a question that sometimes arises in assault cases against caregivers who hit children hard enough to cause a bruise. In such cases, red marks dismissed as minor may be more serious and painful than is realized.

    A bruise (also called a contusion) is an injury that begins as red or purple but changes colour over a 10-14 day period and ends as a fading brown, says the Post writer. It causes leakage of blood from small blood vessels but does not break the skin. They can occur either beneath the skin, between muscles, or to the bone. The latter is the most severe and usually the most painful. If the bruise is to the tissue surrounding muscles, there may be swelling but little discolouration.

    Aug 15/05  Woman who won civil suit for father’s abuse claims $1.6 M
    National Post — A BC woman was badly beaten and psychologically abused by her father during her teens and had attempted suicide. One beating was so bad that a doctor said she was lucky to survive. The father was convicted of assault causing bodily harm. The daughter won a civil action against him in 1999.  The BC Supreme Court is now assessing the amount of damages to be awarded.

    Aug 9/05  RCMP call death of Alberta 2-year-old suspicious
    Globe and Mail — An injured 2-year-old admitted to hospital in Brooks, Alta. is transferred to the Children’s Hospital in Calgary where he dies. Autopsy results are not yet available but the RCMP considers the death “suspicious”.

    July 25/05  New website chapter on Senate Bill to repeal s. 43
    See Senate Bill to Repeal S. 43 chapter for copy of Senate Bill S-21 and information on its progress. This is a Private Members Bill introduced in the Senate on Dec 2/04 by Quebec Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette. It would take effect one year after enactment to allow time for the public to become informed about this change in the law.

    On March 10/05, the Senate approved the Bill in principle and referred it to Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs for study. Hearings began on June1 before this committee and continued on June 2, 8, 9, 15 and 16. They are expected to resume in the fall when Parliament returns. Supporters can email Senator Payette at or write her at The Senate, Ottawa, K1A 0A4.

    June 30/05  New Zealand bill to repeal CP defence goes to committee
    New Zealand Herald — NZ parliament refers a Green Party MP’s Private Members Bill to repeal s. 59 of the Crimes Act to committee for consideration. Section 59 is the same defence to assault as s. 43 of our Code. The govt. expects the bill to be debated soon. If passed, NZ would be the first common law country to remove this defence allowing corporal punishment of children. The sponsor of the bill said she was appalled at the idea of any compromise that would qualify s. 59 by continuing to allow lesser forms of assault.

    June 17/05  Mother of 6-year-old charged with aggravated assault
    Toronto Star — The mother of the severely burned and beaten boy who was spotted by Toronto bus passengers on May 21 is charged with aggravated assault and criminal negligence. A charge of aggravated assault has also been laid against the mother’s boyfriend. The assault took place in the woman’s home. The child, described as fighting for his life in a Toronto hospital, is now in a rehabilitation center. A 2-year-old sibling is in CAS care.

    2005  James Dobson: new book — same bad message
    James C. Dobson, US Founder and Int. President of Focus on the Family, extreme right-wing Republican party activist, and Christian psychologist who has “filtered man-made theories through the screen of Scripture” produces his New Strong-Willed Child; an updated version of his 1978 parenting book on the same topic. Beginning with his same story about beating the family dog into submission with a belt (“The only way to make [him] obey was to threaten him with destruction”), he believes this highly relevant to raising children, because just as a dog will challenge authority, so will a little child “only more so”.

    His first rule in childrearing is to teach respect for authority. As he writes in a 1992 book, this will be the cornerstone for the child’s respect for other authority figures later in life. To instill this respect, spanking can begin at 15 months with a “neutral object” such as a switch or paddle, rather than the hand, which is “an object of love”.

    This advice violates Canadian law as interpreted by the 2004 Supreme Court decision and should be dealt with as any other writing that counsels a violation of our Criminal Code.

    June 16/05 Realwomen oppose Bill S-21 at Senate committee
    Realwomen appear before Senate committee to oppose Bill S-21 that calls for repeal of s. 43. Stating that it takes no position on spanking and does not advocate it, it opposes the Bill claiming that if s. 43 is ended and spanking is reported, it will have to be investigated and would be “the go-ahead for an army of social workers to intrude into family life”. See Senate Bill to RepealS. 43 chapter for more information on the hearings. Realwomen, along with Focus on the Family, the Home School Legal Defence Assn. and the Family Action Coalition were the principal interveners as the “Coalition for Family Autonomy” that supported the government in opposing the constitutional challenge to s. 43.

    At the end of this hearing, the Senate Committee adjourned to deal with government bills — which take priority over private bills. As it intends to call more witnesses, hearings on S-21 are expected to resume in the fall when Parliament returns. A brief note on the other hearings appears below.

    June 15/05  Justice Minister opposes S-21 at Senate committee
    Dept. of Justice lawyer appears before the Senate committee on behalf of Justice Minister, Irwin Cotler. She states that the govt. does not condone physical correction but opposes Bill S-21 on the grounds that the full force of the criminal law should not be brought to bear on parents for a “mild, non-injurious spank”.

    June 15/05  Uncle charged in death of 3-year-old niece
    Globe and Mail — A Brampton, Ontario man is charged with 2nd degree murder in his niece’s death.  Police have not released any information except that the child’s back was broken and the father lives in India. The death was reported as an accidental drowning.

    June 9/05  Home School Assn. opposes S-21 at Senate committee
    The Home School Legal Defence Assn. was part of the “Coalition for Family Autonomy” that intervened to support the government’s opposition to the constitutional challenge to s. 43. It tells the Senate committee that it takes no position on whether spanking is correct and opposes S-21 because any unwanted touching is assault with a penalty of up to 5 years in jail. The individual rights and autonomy of parents, it states, is a tradition that must be protected.

    June 8/05 Fdn. for Children supports S-21 at Senate committee
    The Canadian Fdn. for Children, Youth and the Law, the organization that launched the constitutional challenge to s. 43, addresses Senate Committee citing 3 basic reasons in support of Bill S-21, i.e., human rights, our obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and social science evidence that shows no benefit to spanking or other forms of corporal punishment.

    June 8/05 Council of Europe confirms CP ban in Italy and Portugal
    Art. 17 of the Council of Europe’s Social Charter requires member states to prohibit corporal punishment of children in the home and school. In a complaint to the Council’s Committee of Social Rights that some members had not done so, the Committee confirmed that Italy and Portugal were in compliance because of Supreme Court judgments in1996 and1994. However, the Committee noted that neither Italy nor Portugal had done enough to educate their populations about this change in the law. The Committee also referred to positive developments in Greece, Ireland and Belgium that would soon lead to legislative abolition.

    June 3/05 UN Secretary General’s Study on Violence against Children 
    This study was inspired by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and in Feb/03, the Secretary General appointed Dr. P. S.Pinheiro as its head. Nine regional consultations are being held throughout the world to draw together existing research and relevant information about the forms, causes and impact of violence affecting children and young people. The North American regional consultation will be held in Toronto on June 3/05. A major report will be published in 2006 and recommendations presented to the General Assembly.

    June 2/05  Global Initiative supports S-21 at Senate committee
    The Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment based in London, UK, addresses Senate Committee on internationaldevelopments to end corporal punishment, stressing that repealing laws justifying corporal punishment of children is a question of basic human rights. A growing number of countries in Europe and elsewhere have already ended such laws. Added to the human rights imperative is the overwhelming social science evidence of potential harm.

    June 1/05 Senate Committee begins hearings on Bill S-21 to end s. 43
    Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette appears before the Senate committee to outline her reasons for sponsoring Bill S-21.Thebill to repeal s. 43, with implementation after 12 months, was introduced by her on Dec 2/04 and approved in principle on second reading on March 10/05. See Senate Bill to RepealS. 43 chapter for a copy of the Bill and information on its progress.

    June/05  Daycare worker reinstated after hitting 3-year-old on head
    (Our translation of news release by C. P. E. du Manoir) A labour arbitrator orders the reinstatement of a daycare teacher fired in June/04 by the CPE du Manoir, a day care center in Laval, Quebec. According to one witness, the teacher stood the 3-year-old in the corner and later hit his head so that it banged against the wall. A second witness said the teacher took the child by the collar of his shirt and that the child cried out that this was hurting him. The teacher denied both incidents.

    Arbitrator held that although one cannot accept violence against a child, one has to realize that a teacher may make a mistake because of tiredness, overwork, or being irritated by a badly brought up child. It is not necessary to fire a teacher for a little cuff on the head, a slap on the bottom, or grabbing a child by the shirt collar, as this is not really violence. Teachers are sometimes unable to cope with badly brought up children. The day care center will appeal the decision.

    June/05  See The Law, Judicial Interpretation of Supreme Court of Canada Decision for 3 new decisions on s. 43.

    May 30/05  Ontario study links poor parenting with bullying
    Globe and Mail — A study of 7000 high school students by Prof Zopito Marini of the Dept. of Child and Youth Studies, Brock University, found a strong correlation between teenage bullying and alienation from parents. In responding to questions about relationships with their parents, those not involved in bullying reported a much more open and positive relationship than those who bullied.

    May 27/05  Saskatchewan prohibits corporal punishment in schools
    Saskatchewan becomes the 6th province to amend its Education Act to make it clear that corporal punishment is not allowed in disciplining students. As with Ontario regulations, the Saskatchewan Act required pupils to submit to any discipline that would be exercised by a “kind, firm and judicious parent”. This has traditionally been interpreted to allow corporal punishment. Because of this and the Jan/04 Supreme Court decision disallowing corporal punishment by teachers, the Minister of Learning introduced this clarification in April and it quickly passed We have written Ontario Minister Gerard Kennedy and education ministers in Manitoba and Alberta requesting that their provincial acts also be clarified.

    May 27/05  Massachusetts municipality discourages corporal punishment
    Nospank website —The municipality of Brookline, MA (near Boston) passes a resolution making it local policy to discourage parents from using corporal punishment. The resolution is a victory for a local activist whose previous resolution had failed. Citing research, support by pediatricians, and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the resolution calls on parents to use nonviolent methods of discipline with the goal of mutual respect between parent and child.

    May 23/05  New book by Alice Miller The Body Never Lies
    Psychotherapist Alice Miller, PhD, has new book published by W.W.Norton & Co. This is the latest in a number of books on childhood trauma resulting from corporal punishment and other parental practices.  In reviewing the book, Rutgers professor emeritus, Philip Greven says, “As Alice Miller knows and makes so clear, the body remembers all the pain and suffering of childhood.”

    May 21/05  Man sought after violent attack on girl friend’s 6-year-old son
    Toronto Star — The child was spotted on a bus with severe burns and bruises to his face while in the company of mother and boy friend. Bus driver and passengers alerted the police and the child was taken to hospital where he is listed in critical condition and fighting for his life. The man escaped and a warrant has been issued for his arrest.

    May 17/05   Quebec home daycare woman sentenced for infant beatings
    Globe and Mail — A former at-home daycare worker is sentenced to 4 1/2 years in jail for aggravated assault on infants in her care aged 7 and 10 months. Both children sustained skull fractures and one is likely to suffer permanent damage.

    May 17/05  UNESCO publishes position paper against corporal punishment
    The paper concludes that corporal punishment breaches fundamental human rights, is a threat to healthy development, and an ineffective form of discipline.  Constructive, nonviolent discipline  is needed that is based on a child’s dignity and rights and an understanding of child development. Positive, nonviolent discipline should be promoted throughout the world. See our link to nospank website for full paper.

    May 17/05  Saskatchewan to prohibit corporal punishment in schools
    The Saskatchewan Minister of Learning replies to our April 20 letter advising that in keeping with the Supreme Court decision, he introduced an amendment to The Education Act on April 26 to prohibit corporal punishment in public schools. The amendment applies to private Christian schools associated with the province as well as to independent schools, since their policies must be consistent with Canadian and Saskatchewan law. This amendment had been under consideration for some time and is expected to become law soon.

    April 30/05  Mother to be retried for assaults against son and daughter
    Globe and Mail — The mother, a 46-year-old nurse, was charged with 17 counts of assault and forcible confinement of her son and daughter from 2000 to 2001 when the children were about 11 and 9 years old. They said they had been hit with objects, bound and forced to sleep naked on the floor. The son said a friend told the North York mother that God wanted her to do this. The trial lasted from April 7 to 15 during which the girl said she didn’t tell teachers because she thought they would just talk to her mother and she would get in trouble. Defence lawyer claimed the allegations were too bizarre to be believed. After 5 hours of deliberations, the jury couldn’t reach a verdict and the trial ended in a hung jury. Jan 6/06 has been set for retrial of the mother.

    April 30/05  Canadian Red Cross marks No Hitting Day
    Red Cross website — The Canadian Red Cross urges parents and caregivers to mark No Hitting Day by learning non-physical ways to discipline.  Its website message calls attention to its RespectED program and notes a lack of parental education that leaves many parents with a model of harsh punishment from their own childhoods. “Temper tantrums and adolescent rebellion are normal parts of growing up,” notes the national director of RespectED. “No Hitting Day is a good time to start thinking about alternatives.”

    April 20/05  Thousands of physical assaults against children reported in 2003
    The Daily, Statistics Canada — This Statcan report is based on data from 122 police services in Canada. It shows 28,000 reports of physical assaults against children in 2003, This number represents only 61% of the national volume as many police services, including the RCMP, are not yet part of the data collection system. A family member, most often a parent, committed the majority of the assaults against children less than 6 years old. Most were classed as common assaults. ” Note that these are reported assaults only. Children aged 6 to 13 were at greatest risk of assault from 3 to 7 p.m.  Karen Bach, Director of the Yonge Street Mission for Street Youth is quoted in a Toronto Star article on Feb. 21, “There is an enormous need to begin to address the issue of non-violent parenting.”

    April 20/05 Council of Europe calls for positive child rearing
    The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe note s the 2004 recommendation by the Council’s Parliamentary Assembly for a Europe-wide ban on corporal punishment .The Committee shares the Assembly’s view on the need for a coordinated and concerted campaign for the abolition of all violence against children and that the need to encourage positive, non-violent forms of child rearing cannot be underestimated. The Council refers to the European Social Charter that requires a legislative prohibition against any forms of violence against children and informs the Assembly that it is working with UNICEF to propose clear recommendations to implement and improve laws and policies in this regard.  See International Developments chapter, Recommendations by international bodies, to read the Assembly’s 2004 recommendations and for information on the Council.

    April 16/05  Murder charges  withdrawn against parents in baby’s beating death
    Globe and Mail — The 3-month-old baby girl died in 1989 as a result of 35 rib fractures, bruises to the head and a lacerated liver. The father was charged with 1st degree and the mother with 2nd degree murder in 1999 and 2000. Charges were stayed in 2003 because of the length of time in bringing the case to trial due to a delay in the pathologist’s report. The Ontario Court of Appeal upholds the stay. The couple’s son is now in the care of the CAS and the parents are free of any further proceedings in their baby’s death.

    April 5/05  Teacher charged with assaulting 6-year-old
    Toronto Star —A Toronto teacher is charged with assault with a weapon. Police have not specified the weapon but it is thought to have been an eraser or pencil. The child suffered minor injuries. On commenting on the charge in a Canadian Press report of the same day, Premier Dalton McGuinty stated that corporal punishment has no place in Ontario schools and that it harkens back to a bygone era.

    April/05  Letters to Education Ministers re corporal punishment in schools
    Repeal 43 Committee writes ministers of education in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta requesting that education act s in these provinces be amended to clarify that corporal punishment is prohibited in schools. The Supreme Court of Canada decision on the constitutionality of s. 43 in Jan/04 made it clear that this defence to assault no longer applies to schoolteachers. Ministers were reminded that it is time to make this clear in their education acts.

    Mar 12/05  Korean CEO father caned teen-age son 300 blows
    Globe and Mail — Claiming that caning is a traditional form of punishment in South Korea, the father, an international businessman and CEO of several companies, pleads guilty to assault with a weapon and assault causing bodily harm. He is given a conditional discharge and placed on probation for 2 years by Vancouver judge. The 16-year-old son has lived in Vancouver with mother and sister since 2002 to attend school. The father lives in Korea but visits frequently. The boy was caned on 2 occasions because his school marks had dropped. The caning was so hard it broke the stick and covered the son with bruises from buttocks to ankles. One of the conditions of discharge is that the father must submit an article to a Vancouver paper explaining what forms of discipline are acceptable in Canada.

    Comment on Globe and Mail report on case – The Vancouver reporter, Petti Fong, phoned me and asked for comment on this case. I said prosecution was certainly warranted in this case, but not necessarily in other cases, and that under the specific circumstances of this one —as set out in the judgment — a conditional discharge was probably appropriate. The reporter asked for background information on the Repeal 43 Committee. In her article, she described the committee “as an organization lobbying to force courts to punish parents who spank their children.” I informed the Globe’s Executive Editor that I had said no such thing. He checked with the reporter who agreed that the quote was incorrect and she phoned to apologize.I asked the Globe to print the following letter to the editor:Re A Korean father’s lesson on raising cane (March 12): Your reporter, Petti Fong, has completely misstated the objective of the Repeal 43 Committee. Its objective is not, and never has been, “to force courts to punish parents who spank their children”. The committee’s aim is simply to repeal section 43 of the Criminal Code; an 1892 defence to assault that justifies hitting children for “correction”.  If repealed, most parents could be helped to learn alternatives to hitting without any need to prosecute and “punish” them. This is made clear on our website Ms. Fong is familiar with our site and owes us an apology for her careless misstatement of our aim.The Globe declined to print my letter saying that its policy was to print a correction instead. On March 14 it printed the following correction:

    Correction printed by Globe and Mail

    The goal of the Repeal 43 Committee is to repeal Section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada, which allows for corporal punishment in some circumstances. Incorrect information appeared in a March 12 article.

    Unfortunately, the Petti Fong article is on the web — but without the correction.

    Mar 10/05  “Extraordinary history of violence” after abuse at age 2
    Globe and Mail — The Ontario psychiatric review board declares that a 25-year-old man with a history of frequent and severe violence must be sent to Penetang Mental Health Centre rather than prison. The ruling comes after years of dispute on how and where the man should be kept. He was removed from an abusive home at age 2 and lived in at least 30 foster homes.

    Mar 10/05   Senate Bill S-21 to repeal s. 43 passes 2nd reading
    Second reading of this Senate bill, introduced in December/04 by Senator Hervieux-Payette, resumed March 8 with a speech in support by New Brunswick Liberal Senator John G. Bryden, a lawyer and former New Brunswick Deputy Minister of Justice.

    Debate continued on March 10 with a speech by Ontario Conservative Senator Anne C. Cools. She stated that she had no problem with making some change to s. 43 but was strenuously opposed to repeal, saying it would leave millions of parents exposed to criminal prosecutions and would not reduce child maltreatment and abuse.

    Senator Rompkey, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate moved that the bill not be read a 2nd time but instead referred to committee. Senator Stratton, Deputy Leader of the Opposition, did not agree, stating that bills tend to linger there. The Conservative side of the Senate, he said, supported the bill in principle and it should be passed and go to committee.

    Senator Noël Kinsella, Leader of the Opposition, said that the principle of the bill is clear and he supported it. There was no point in sending it for study prior to 2nd reading. The bill was then voted on and passed. On motion of Senator Hervieux-Payette, BillS-21was referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs for study.

    Mar 8/05  Mother charged in fatal 2003 beating of 3-year-old daughter
    Toronto Star— Three-year-old Emily Lucas died of severe head trauma associated with cardiac arrest in a Toronto hospital 10 days after a beating by her mother. The child had been returned to her mother and stepfather a few months before her death after being raised from birth by a relative. Some family members only came forward with information after police posted a $50,000 reward leading to arrest and conviction of child’s killer. The 28-year-old mother has 5 other children now being cared for by relatives.

    Mar 8/05  Black American leaders call for corporal punishment ban
    North Carolina Observer — National black organizations and leaders, including the NAACP and Dr. Alvin Poussaint, a Harvard medical professor, call for ban on school corporal punishment.  An analysis by the Observer of a North Carolina school district found that black students received such punishment well out of proportion to their numbers in student population.  An earlier federal study of the same district found that it used corporal punishment on children with disabilities more than any other N. Carolina district.

    Mar 5/05  Father guilty of 2nd degree murder for killing17-year-old daughter
    Globe and Mail — Daughter bled to death from stab wounds inflicted by BC father because of her relationship with boyfriend from a different culture. The Sikh father was described as consumed with rage because of daughter’s refusal to stop seeing her high school boyfriend. Friends testified he acted responsibly outside the house but assaulted his daughter at home. A hearing to determine when he can apply for parole is set for June.

    Mar 5/05  Academy  Award winner lauds grandmother for “whupping”
    Globe and Mail — Film actor, Jamie Foxx, wins award for lead role in Ray and attributes his success to being “whupped” by his grandmother as a child. The report notes that this message is contrary to the October advertising campaign by Toronto Public Health designed to convince  parents not to spank children.

    Feb 28/05  Mother charged with murder in drowning death of 4-year-old
    Toronto Star — Daughter was found drowned in a bathtub. The mother, a student taking an English language course at a Toronto college, claims the drowning was an accident and that she did not kill her only child. A trial date has not yet been set.

    Feb 25/05  Council of Europe cautions Greece on school corporal punishment
    The CE’s Committee for Social Rights has cautioned the Greek Education Ministry over the lack of legislation to protect secondary school students from corporal punishment. Such punishment is banned in primary schools but not in secondary ones. The caution is the result of a complaint from a human rights group and could result in a call to appear before the committee unless legislation is amended.

    Feb 24/05  UK law lords uphold ban on school corporal punishment
    The Scotsman — An attempt to reinstate corporal punishment in 4 independent Christian schools is rejected by the House of Lords. The teachers and parents claimed the ban infringed their human rights because the schools were set up to educate on the basis of the Bible and this included corporal punishment.  The Court held it respected the claimant’s beliefs but the practice of these beliefs was not in the best interests of the child. Biblical proverbs had been cited in the lower courts. They had dismissed the case ruling that the parents themselves could physically punish the children.

    Feb 21/05  StatCan research shows avoidance of spanking benefits children
    The Daily, Statistics Canada — Further data from Statistics Canada ‘s longitudinal study shows that children whose parents don’t use corporal punishment are less aggressive, less anxious and more considerate of others. When such parents ceased spanking, their children became less prone to bullying and anti-social behaviour. “When parenting changed, the child’s behaviour changed as well,” said senior research analyst Eleanor Thomas. See Research chapter for more information.

    Feb 21/05  Three-year-old walks 3 kilometers to rescue mother and sister
    Globe and Mail — After their car rolled over in a ditch, an Alberta toddler walks 3 miles on a desolate road to get help for pregnant mother and year-old sister. The child found people to help and led them to his mother and sister who are now recovering from accident.

    Feb 17/05 Jan 8/05  Teen charged with murder of brother, Jonathan, subjected to years of corporal punishment by stepfather
    Globe and mail — Sixteen-year-old charged with brutal murder of 12-year-old brother was profoundly troubled and alternately enraged, depressed and suicidal according to his lawyer because of physical and psychological punishment from stepfather over a period of years. The stepfather agreed that he came from a culture that subscribes to corporal punishment. He denied abuse but agreed he slapped stepson with belt or slipper. The youth resented the punishment and his mother’s failure to protect him. Because one of the prosecution witnesses may have committed perjury, a mistrial is declared.

    Feb 14/05  Dutch government  introduces law to ban smacking
    Nospank website — Dutch government decides to ban all forms of violence against children to combat child abuse. An estimated 50,000 to 80,000 children suffer abuse yearly and several dozen die as a result. Justice Minister Hein said he was not interested in “endless” discussions over parental smacking because a smack often leads to violence. Judges have given highly different rulings over parental discipline and this reform will clarify the law.

    Feb 12/05  Father guilty for excessive spanking of 11-year-old daughter
    Toronto Star — The daughter had a problem with bladder control and was spanked by father for sitting on furniture with urine soaked clothes. Minor bruises on the child’s buttocks were visible several days after the spanking. Father charged with assault. Justice Norman Douglas found the force excessive and punitive rather than corrective but gave the Guelph father an absolute discharge. This means father will have no criminal record.  Unfortunately, the decision is not reported in the law reports.

    Feb1/05 Senate resumes and debate on repealing s. 43 may take place
    Senate begins sitting today after Christmas break. Debate on Senator Hervieux-Payette’s Bill S-21 to repeal section 43 may resume this month. (See Dec. 2/04 news item for details.) We urge readers to support her bill by writing the Senator at The Senate, Ottawa, K1A 0A4 or emailing her at

    More decisions interpreting Supreme Court of Canada judgment and s. 43
    Of the 9 decisions that have come to our attention since the Jan/04 Supreme Court judgment, 5 have been acquittals, 3 guilty verdicts, and in one, a new trial was ordered. In 3 of the acquittals, children were slapped in the face. One of the children slapped was13 years old. These acquittals appear to contradict the Supreme Court judgment prohibiting slaps or blows to the head and to children over age 12.

    These prosecutions for slapping may be undertaken because there is a history of other hitting that cannot be introduced at trial for lack of witnesses and/or because the child is reluctant to testify. The result is stressful and expensive prosecutions that end up in acquittals that justify slapping and appear to contradict the Supreme Court judgment.

    The stress and expense of these trials could be avoided if s. 43 were repealed. Instead of prosecution, parents would be told that hitting a child for correction is illegal and offered help in finding acceptable alternatives. They would be cautioned that if the hitting continued, prosecution would have to be considered. With this clear message, parents would know the risks they run and that these risks could be avoided by accepting help in learning alternative methods of discipline. For further information and comment on these 9 cases, see The Law, Judicial Interpretation of Supreme Court of Canada Decision .

    SpankOut Day reminder from EPOCH-USA
    SpankOut Day is observed on April 30 each year in the USA and other countries, including Canada. Its aim is to encourage parents and caretakers to use non-violent discipline instead of corporal punishment. EPOCH asks organizations to sponsor informational events on the issue. Last year, organizations in Canada and eight other countries participated in this no-hitting day. See on how to do so.

    Jan 29/05 Kindergarten teacher acquitted of shaking, biting 4-year-old
    Windsor Star — In Oct/03 a Windsor teacher was charged with assaulting kindergarten pupil by shaking him and biting his hand because she was frustrated with his crying. The boy vomited after the alleged assault. The Essex County School Board fired the teacher. In a lengthy reserved judgment, Judge Sharman Bondy acquitted teacher on the basis that there was conflicting evidence and the Crown had not proved the assault beyond a reasonable doubt. The child’s mother expressed shock and disappointment at the verdict. The teacher intends to apply to the schoolboard for reinstatement. (Section 43 was not in issue because the teacher simply denied the assault.)

    Jan 22/05 Crown tries to revive charge against parents for murder of baby
    Globe and Mail — The Crown applies to the Ontario Court of Appeal to revive a charge of murder against the parents of a 3-month-old baby girl. The baby, Athena, died in 1998 after suffering 35 rib fractures, a lacerated liver and bruises to the head. Her parents were charged with first-degree murder but not brought to trial until 2003. The trial judge dismissed the charges on the grounds that this was an unreasonable delay. After a 3 day hearing, the Appeal Court reserved judgment.

    Jan16/05 UK legislation limiting corporal punishment comes into effect
    London AFP — The amendment to the UK Children and Young Persons Act, 1933, passed in Nov/04 by the UK House of Commons comes into force. It essentially makes any punishment other than common assault a criminal offence. It results from a compromise forced by the government on Labour MPs and has been condemned by UK children’s organizations. See International Developments, United Kingdom for further information.

    Jan 8/05 Defence alleges stepfather abused son charged in brother’s murder
    Globe and Mail – Counsel for 17-year-old boy accused of brutally murdering his 12-year-old brother, Jonathan, alleges stepfather physically abused older son. Stepfather denied abuse but agreed he believed in “milder” corporal punishment such as “slapping” with a belt or slipper. He acknowledged that around age 10, the accused had told a teacher he was being beaten and that Children’s Aid had called on the family. He agreed that 2 years ago, the accused had suicidal thoughts and had been committed to a Toronto psychiatric ward. He denied suggestions the accused was left alone, neglected and starved for affection.

    Law Commission research estimates annual financial cost of abuse at $16 billion
    A study by the University of Western Ontario funded by the Law Commission of Canada estimates the annual cost of all forms of child abuse at just under $16 billion. The study was released in March 2003. See Research chapter for breakdown of costs and further information.

    Dec 2/04 Senator introduces Bill S-21 to repeal section 43
    Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette introduces Bill S-21 to repeal s. 43. It would take effect one year after enactment to allow time for the public to become educated on the change in the law. In a news release, the Senator said the bill would eliminate discrimination against children, highlight the government’s commitment to protect the most vulnerable, and comply with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Second reading of the bill began on December 7 and debate is expected to resume when the Senate reconvenes in Feb/05. Supporters of this important Senate initiative are urged to email Senator Payette at or write her at The Senate, Ottawa, K1A 0A4 to show support.

    Nov/20/04 Open letter to PM in Globe and Mail for National Child Day
    78 Canadian organizations sign an open letter to Prime Minister Paul Martin calling on the government to respect the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child by repealing s. 43. The letter is published in the Globe and Mail in an 8 x 9 in. format. It points out that in 1995 and again in 2003, the UN Committee overseeing the Convention asked Canada to repeal this defence to assault in order to comply with Art.19 requiring signatories to protect children from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury, or abuse. Check National Child Day to view letter.

    Nov 20/04 Well over 100 organizations have written ministers advocating repeal
    At least 132 organizations to date have written individual letters or signed open letters to federal ministers urging repeal of s. 43. See Supporting Organizations for list. We urge other organizations and individuals who support repeal to do the same. See How to Support Repeal for names and contact information. Organizations that write and forward a copy of their letter will be added to our list.

    Nov 5/04 Jail term increased for Blackstock parents who caged sons for 13 years
    The Ontario Court of Appeal increases the 9-month sentence given to parents who caged and beat their adopted sons over a period of 13 years. Saying that the appalling conduct of the couple must be met with severe sanction, the court increased the mother’s sentence to 5 years and the father’s to 4. See Jan 15 and July 6/04 news items for details of case.

    Nov 1/04 Alberta prohibits physical punishment by foster parents
    Alberta joins the provinces of B. C., Manitoba and Ontario in prohibiting any form of physical punishment of foster children. The regulation under the Alberta Child Welfare Actalso prohibits verbal or physical degradation or emotional deprivation.

    Oct 30/04 Section 43 judgments since Supreme Court of Canada decision
    Five judgments that have come to our attention since the Supreme Court decision are summarized under The Law, Judicial Interpretation of Supreme Court of Canada Decision. The Supreme Court opinion was treated as authoritative in these cases although all alleged assaults occurred prior to its decision. These judgments are rarely published in the law reports and are usually available only through a paid computer search.

    The judgments indicate that prosecution of parents will increase in order to test the limits of the Supreme Court decision. This conflicts with the position that such prosecutions are harmful to families. If s. 43 didn’t exist and an assault were reported, police could make it clear to parents that spanking and hitting children are unlawful assaults just as they are for adults. There would be no need to prosecute to determine whether the assault is allowed by s. 43. Instead, the parent would be advised that this method of discipline is no longer legal and helped to learn alternatives. Prosecutions would only be required if the parent continued the assaults or if the force were sufficiently severe to warrant prosecution for the purpose of deterrence.

    Oct 28/04 Jail sentence for parents who broke infant’s legs
    Globe and Mail – A 38-year-old father is sentenced to 2 years in the penitentiary and 23-year-old mother to 9 months in jail for inflicting 6 fractures on their 7-week-old son. The Toronto couple was found guilty in June of aggravated assault and failure to provide the necessaries of life because they had failed to obtain medical attention for the baby’s injuries until at least 24 hours after the assault. The father was himself abused as a youngster. The child, now 2 years of age, has been placed for adoption.

    Oct 27 /04 Toronto’s “Spanking Hurts More than You Think” ad campaign
    Toronto Public Health initiates its first advertising campaign against spanking with ads in subways, bus shelters, the Toronto Star and Toronto Sun. To view these innovative ads, see

    Oct 25/04 Statcan study shows link between physical punishment and aggression
    The Daily, Statistics Canada – A national survey by Statistics Canada concludes that children of parents who use physical punishment or yelling and shouting as punitive discipline are much more likely to engage in aggressive behaviours, such as fighting, bullying and meanness to others. Children from punitive environments at age 2 to 3 years scored 39% higher on a scale of aggressive behaviour than children in non-punitive homes. Children 8 to 9 years scored 83% higher. The study was front- page news in many Canadian newspapers. See Research chapter for more information.

    Oct 16/04 Appeal of sentence begins for couple who caged adopted sons
    Globe and Mail – The appeal of a 9-month prison sentence for a couple that assaulted and forcibly confined their adopted sons begins in the Ontario Court of Appeal. The couple, age 43 and 52, assaulted and confined the boys over a 13-year period. The trial judge had described their conduct as near-torture but as an appeal judge commented, this is not reflected in the sentence. The trial judge, he said, spent more time talking about the motivations of the parents than about their conduct. The hearing continues.

    Oct 13/04 Toronto mother charged in death of 21-month-old daughter
    Globe and Mail – Toronto woman described as a good mother is charged with manslaughter in death of 21-month-old daughter, Starlin. Cause of death is still undetermined but child had head injuries, including a fractured skull. The Children’s Aid Society had visited home since baby’s birth. The 31 year-old-mother had lived on her own since age 13, had a tumultuous relationship with child’s father, and had no family in the city.

    Oct 6/04 Two-year-old killed by B. C. foster-father
    Globe and Mail – A 32-year-old Port Alberni foster-father is jailed for 10 years after pleading guilty to manslaughter in the 2002 death of his foster-daughter. The man originally claimed that the child had been pushed down steps by her brother but eventually confessed to kicking her and slamming her head on the floor because she wouldn’t stop crying.

    Sept 30/04 Children’s Hospital and paediatricians lead new push to outlaw spanking
    Toronto Star – Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and Canadian Paediatric Society lead a new coalition of 140 organizations aimed at giving children the same protection from physical assault as adults. The organizations plan to keep pushing until Parliament repeals s. 43. The CHEO press conference launched a Joint Statement on Physical Punishment of Children and Youth. This 40-page document lays out the case against physical punishment in a reader-friendly format that can be read at

    Sept 28/04 Daycare owner convicted of assault for punishing children with soap
    Ottawa Citizen – A 31-year-old Quebec daycare worker is sentenced to 1 year of probation and ordered to perform community service for 4 counts of assaulting children with punishments such as putting soap in their mouths.

    Sept 23/04 Man sentenced to 15 years for beating 2-year-old to death and injuring infant
    La Presse – Gerald Georges, age 37, was looking after the children, described as those of his mistress, while she was at a medical appointment. The 2-year-old was beaten to death and the 10-month-old was shaken and left deaf, blind and bedridden for the rest of her life. Three years were added to his sentence by the Montreal court for attempting to have the mother killed to prevent her testifying against him.

    Sept 23/04 Boyfriend accused of beating 4-year-old to death in discipline attempt
    La Press – The young boy, Sasha, an adoptee from a Russian orphanage, was being looked after by the adoptive mother’s boyfriend, Eric Grenier, while she worked at a day-care center. According to evidence, Grenier believed the child needed discipline and had frequently spanked him. The day after one such spanking, the mother returned home to find the child dead in bed, covered with 72 bruises. He appeared to have suffered a violent blow to the abdomen. The Montreal trial is expected to last 4 weeks.

    Sept 10/04 University of Michigan study finds corporal punishment detrimental to children
    Child Health News – Posted on net. This study by Professor Grogan-Taylor uses data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth and concludes that even minimal amounts of spanking can lead to increased likelihood of anti-social childhood behaviors, such as cheating, lying and bullying. Stronger statistical controls than in previous studies, lend additional support to these conclusions.

    Sept 1/04 Childhood trauma, such as physical abuse, linked to arthritis
    Globe and Mail – The Canadian Journal of Public Health publishes a study based on data from Statcan’s National Population Health Survey. It finds that people experiencing adverse childhood events, including physical abuse, are more likely to develop arthritis later in life. According to the study, stress that accompanies traumatic experiences may induce biological changes increasing susceptibity to certain adult medical conditions.

    Aug 30/04 Grade 9 boys beaten in Manitoba school hazing ritual
    Globe and Mail – A hazing ritual of grade 9 boys by high school seniors is apparently a tradition at Margaret Barbour Collegiate, La Pas. It consists of beatings on the buttocks with paddles, hockey sticks or two-by fours. Parents say they want it to stop but fear of retribution is keeping some victims from speaking up. Several teachers have complained (anonymously) of the practice. The school’s motto on its website is “Home of the Spartans”.

    Aug 27/04 Daycare operator charged with aggravated assault on 16-month-old girl
    Toronto Star – The charge against the 34-year-old operator arises from severe burns to the child who has been in intensive care since the injury 3 week ago. She was one of 7 being cared for in a licensed daycare operated by the accused in her apartment near Barrie. The daycare has been closed and a publication ban issued.

    Aug 24/04 CPS honours child protection advocate, Dr. Gloria Jéliu
    Medical Post – Canadian Paediatric Society honours Dr. Gloria Jéliu, paediatrician, L’Hôpital Ste. Justine, Montreal and professor of paediatrics, University of Montreal, with Victor Marchessault advocacy award for 25 years of work aimed at protecting children from violence. In accepting award, Dr. Jéliu urged doctors to take the lead in addressing corporal punishment of children. The CPS strongly discourages corporal punishment and expressed disappointment in the Supreme Court of Canada’s January/04 decision upholding s. 43.

    Aug 13/04 Two-year-old beaten to death: mother and stepfather “persons of interest”
    Toronto Star – Emily Lucas, 2 months short of her third birthday, is found beaten in her Toronto home and died 10 days later. Eight months of tests confirmed her injuries were not accidental. Police have received anonymous information as to what happened but no witnesses have come forward in spite of appeals. The family was known to police and child welfare. Five other children living in house are in care of children’s aid.

    Aug 10/04 Kindergarten teacher charged with assault for biting and shaking 5-year-old
    National Post – The Windsor kindergarten teacher denies the charge but was fired from her public school job. Witnesses say the teacher grabbed the boy and bit him on the hand. The child was distraught and crying when the alleged assault took place. He vomited when another teacher pulled him away. The trial is expected to begin in October.

    Aug 6-12/04 Early childhood experiences affect brain development
    Guardian Weekly – The Guardian reviews Why Love Matters by Sue Gerhardt, a British psychotherapist. Gerhardt analyses recent findings from neurochemistry showing that if infants and young children are exposed to stressful situations too long or too often hormonal changes in the brain occur. These changes are linked to depression and fearfulness or detachment and aggression. Good parenting leads to good development of the child’s brain, she concludes. According to the reviewer, these findings have been too slow to filter out to the general public.

    July 20/04 Crown appeals 9 month sentence in Blackstock abuse case
    Toronto Star – July 20/04 Crown appeals 9 month sentence of parents who caged and beat their two adopted sons over a period of 13 years. The Crown contends the sentence doesn’t give sufficient weight to the principle of deterrence and denunciation and was unreasonably light. See Jan 15 and July 6/04 news items on case.

    July 15/04 Four-year-old dials 911 to save mother
    Globe and Mail – July 15/04 A four-year-old pre-kindergarten girl dials 911 to save mother ill from diabetes. The child had been taught precise instructions on what to do in such a situation. She gave operator address, unlocked door and guided emergency workers to her mother. A paramedic’s spokesman observed that the child’s actions were a compelling illustration of the need to train children in emergencies.

    Our comment: This shows that even young children are capable of learning how to report a dangerous situation. If taught, they could learn to help protect themselves by reporting abuse. The Kids Help Phone is one of the few programs to try to do this but doesn’t reach enough children. We should be putting more emphasis on teaching children how to protect themselves rather than relying only on adults to do so.

    July 9/04 Supreme Court decision followed in father’s assault acquittal
    Ottawa Citizen – Father acquitted of assault for spanking 8 year-old son in 2002 after child yelled at father and told him to “shut up”. The provincial court judge held the Jan/04 Supreme Court decision is a binding authority, father had legal right to spank for educational purposes, and force used was reasonable. For facts and comment, see The Law, Judicial Interpretation of Supreme Court of Canada Decision.

    July 6/04 Nine months in prison for 13 years of abuse
    Globe and Mail – The Globe devotes almost its entire front page to this 9 month sentence of a Blackstock, Ontario couple for caging and abusing their adopted sons over a period of 13 years. The mother is the biological aunt of the boys. See Jan 15July 6 and July 20/04 news items for reports on case.

    In sentencing the couple, Ontario judge Donald Halikowski accepted that although the boys went to school and were taken for regular medical check-ups, they were regularly caged and beaten at home. To the question of how this could have gone on so long without anyone noticing or the boys complaining, a spokesperson for children’s aid replied, “She’d [the mother] convinced them that they deserved it. That’s why they didn’t tell.”

    The judge found the couple had health problems, little education and that the boys “were difficult to raise”. He praised the couple for their concern and said that what may have started out as good intentions descended into abuse that “crossed the threshold into near torture.”

    A July 12 media release by the Canadian Assn. of Social Workers stated, “Social workers who work in child welfare are aware that much abuse results from good intentions. Many parents who abuse their children are taking action that they believe to be right and necessary to assist or instruct their children. These good intentions have not been considered acceptable reasons to reduce the response to abuse, since to do so would be failing to protect children”.” The sentence is expected to be appealed. See Articles/Letters 2004 – 1990 July 67 and 10 for letters to editors.

    July 6/04 Editorial in Globe and Mail on Blackstock sentence
    The editorial describes as ludicrous the 9-month sentence of the Blackstock couple who beat and caged their two adopted sons. It asks why no one, including teachers, doctors and classmates, noticed anything amiss over these13 years of abuse and why the abused boys “never felt confident enough to tell someone or at least drop some hints?” It concludes with: “It is worthwhile asking what is being done in schools to send a message to vulnerable children that they can speak up about their situation, and that someone will care.”

    Our comment: Good question. Good point.

    July 7/04 Courts rarely impose prison sentences for physical abuse of children
    Globe and Mail – The seventh annual report by the Canadian Center for Justice Statistics (Juristat) dealing with sentencing shows that 15% of family members convicted of physically abusing children go to jail compared with 28% of friends and acquaintances and 23% of strangers. Family members only receive harsher sentences than non-family members where children are victims of sexual abuse. Almost twice as many children are physically abused than sexually abused.

    July 5/04 UK House of Lords considers ending corporal punishment defence
    In March/04, the UK government introduced the Children Bill to reform the law and procedures for the protection of children. The bill was the result of the horrific abuse and death of 8-year-old Victoria Climbie—abuse that began with “little slaps”. When the bill came to the House of Lords, an amendment was introduced to end the common law defence of “reasonable chastisement”. Another was introduced as a compromise that limits but does not end the defence. The compromise passed. The bill will go back to the Commons in the fall. See International Developments, United Kingdom for more information.

    July 1/04 NYC lawyer released after 17 years for beating death of 6-year-old
    Ottawa Citizen – Joel Steinberg, a former New York lawyer who beat his 6-year-old adopted daughter to death in 1987, is released from jail after serving two-thirds of his 25-year sentence for manslaughter. We note it here because the case defies stereotypes about abuse.

    June 24/04 Council of Europe calls for total abolition of corporal punishment
    The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe calls for a campaign to totally abolish corporal punishment of children in Europe in order to make Europe a “corporal punishment-free zone for children”. See International Developments, Recommendations by International Bodies for more information.

    June 15/04 Stepmother to serve at least 15 years for Farah Khan’s murder
    Globe and Mail – , Mr. Justice David Watt sentences Farah Khan’s stepmother, Kaneez Fatima, to at least 15 years before being eligible for parole for the 1999 murder of 5-year-old Farah. Fatima was convicted of 2nd degree murder on April 22 for failing to stop the beating death by the child’s father. Justice Watt said that spouses and parents are obligated to stop violence towards children and, if they don’t, “the punishment will be severe”. See Articles/Letters 2004 – 1990 for June 19 letter to Globe and Mail.

    June 15/04 Couple committed for trial in death of 5-year-old grandson
    Toronto Star – Trial on charges of first-degree murder against grandparents begins July 21. Grandson, Jeffrey Baldwin, weighed 19 pounds and died of pneumonia in the couple’s Toronto home in Nov/03. See Mar 20/03 news item for report on case.

    June 15/04 Romania and Ukraine prohibit corporal punishment 
    Romania enacts The Protection and Promotion of the Rights of the Child prohibiting all corporal punishment of children; to come into effect Jan/05. Ukraine enacted a new Family Code prohibiting all corporal punishment of children that came into effect in Jan/04. See International Developments, Other Countries for information on other countries that have ended laws allowing corporal punishment.

    June 4/04 Hamilton mother, boyfriend convicted in beating death of toddler 
    Toronto Star – Hamilton mother is convicted of manslaughter in the 1997 death of her14-month-old son, Maliek, The child’s skull and leg were fractured and his body bruised and gashed in a beating by mother’s boyfriend. He was convicted of 2nd degree murder and is serving a life sentence with no chance of parole for 20 years. The mother did not inflict the injuries but was held to have enabled and encouraged the abuse by not reporting boyfriend. Child protection workers were involved with the family. The couple also face charges of an aggravated assault on their 2-year-old son 10 days before Maliek was killed. The 2-year-old suffered traumatic pancreatitis from an alleged blow to the abdomen.

    June 1/04 Winnipeg mother, boyfriend charged in beating death of toddler
    Winnipeg Free Press – A 15-year-old mother and her 21-year-old boyfriend, Alexandro Suazo, are charged in the beating death of the mother’s 16-month-old daughter. The boyfriend is not the father—but is the father of an 18-month-old daughter by another woman. Police report that the child was beaten “head to toe” throughout the day and then hidden for 2 days before boyfriend called ambulance. The boyfriend has been charged with 2nd degree murder but claims the child accidentally fell down stairs. The mother is charged with criminal negligence causing death. She cannot be named because of her age.

    June 2/04 Winnipeg Free Press editorial on beating death, Nameless Victim
    Editorial – The mother and child in the above report were known to Child and Family Services (CSF), had been in contact, and an inquest must put the child protection system “under the microscope” to find out why this vulnerable child was not adequately protected. The child’s name, picture or other information cannot be disclosed because this could identify the mother who has been charged under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. This lack of information makes it difficult for the public to know how CFS was watching over the child. In Manitoba, CSF must contact anyone younger than 18 who gives birth.

    May 19/04 UK survey shows support for smacking ban
    The Guardian – More than two-thirds of people surveyed by the Mori poll in the UK would support a ban on parents smacking their children. The poll, conducted for the campaigning group Children Are Unbeatable!, found that 71% of respondents agreed that the law should be changed to give children the same protection from being hit as adults.

    May/04 Parkhurst Exchange—Robertshaw/Bala debate Supreme Court decision
    The May issue of Parkhurst Exchange, a journal for medical personnel, includes a debate between Corinne Robertshaw, founder, Repeal 43 Committee, and Nicholas Bala, Queen’s University law professor and witness for the government in the constitutional challenge to s. 43. See Articles/Letters 2004 – 1990 May/04, below.

    May 10/04 Government releases its response to UN Special Session on Children
    Government news release announces its official response to the UN General Assembly Special Session on Children. It’s called A Canada Fit for Children and affirms the federal government’s commitment to ensure that children “are able to grow up healthy, with dignity and in peace” and that the well being of children is a key priority.

    May/04/04 Mother punishes daughter by burning with utensil
    Toronto Sun – A 42-year-old mother pleads guilty to aggravated assault for using a heated utensil to burn her 8-year-old daughter on the hands, legs and arms to punish her for bullying and swearing. Described as a perfectionist by a social worker from the mother’s home country, the mother thought she was doing the right thing by teaching her daughter “a lesson she would never forget”. The social worker testified that the “hot spoon” punishment of burning the flesh of disobedient children was once an accepted practice in Iran but is now no longer approved.

    April 30/04 No Spank Day in Windsor
    The Child Abuse Prevention Council of Windsor and Essex County, Windsor, Ontario, holds its third No Spank Day with a noon-time rally in Windsor’s City Hall Square. It features speakers, information displays and packages on positive discipline, T-shirts, banners, music and food. Displays and information continue throughout the day at Windsor’s largest shopping mall. Children’s mental health centers, community agencies and the public were alerted to the event by flyers and print and radio ads. On May 1st, the event got good coverage with photo in the Windsor Star.

    April 22/04 Parents convicted of murdering 5-year-old Farah Khan
    Toronto Star – Farah’s 41 year-old father, a former bank teller in Pakistan, is convicted of 1st degree murder and her 49-year-old stepmother of 2nd degree murder in the child’s brutal killing and dismemberment in Toronto in Dec/99. The newly married couple brought Farah to Canada about 8 months prior to her death. She was the child of the father’s former marriage but he repeatedly told others that he “hated” her because he believed he was not her father. Five-year-old Farah was an alert and enthusiastic kindergarten pupil and was described as “bright and cheery”. The event precipitating her killing was a persistent request for $10 to buy her kindergarten picture.

    The parents gave different accounts of how the child was killed. An autopsy revealed that Farah was beaten to death by at least 26 blows and showed evidence of earlier injuries, including a healing scull fracture and bruise on the brain. A day or two before she was murdered, Farah was beaten for taking a cookie and kept home in order not to disclose bruises. The father told police she was “disobedient”. Stepsons of the stepmother’s former Canadian marriage described her as an ill-tempered, stern disciplinarian. The father was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. The stepmother will be sentenced on May 19 when evidence will be given by the stepsons of abuse they received at her hands.

    Our comment Farah might be alive today if it were clear that parents had no legal right to strike their children. Farah was a bright child and if this were the law, she could have learned about her right to a safe upbringing in her eight months at a Toronto kindergarten. She might then have told a teacher or neighbour of the “discipline” she was receiving at home. If reported, Children’s Aid would have had to investigate and her death could have been prevented.Teaching children that they have basic human rights, including the right to non-violent correction is a requirement of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. In article 42, signatories undertake to protect children from all forms of violence and to make this and other rights “widely known, by appropriate and active means, to adults and children alike”.A recent example of how this can be done comes from Croatia, a country that prohibited corporal punishment in 1999. For its April International No Hitting Day, an event was organized at an elementary school. Children and parents were given drawing books, stickers and a brochure explaining the dangers of hitting and suggesting alternatives. Children were encouraged to express through words and pictures their feelings about being physically punished.Unlike Croatia and several other European countries, our law continues to allow corporal punishment. This creates difficulties in teaching children that they must ask for help if beaten at home. These difficulties will continue as long as section 43 remains in the Code. Other children will suffer in silence and some, like Farah, will die. Ending s. 43 is a necessary step in teaching them to speak out for their own protection.

    April 10/04 Poll shows majority of Canadians don’t spank or slap
    Globe and Mail – A Globe and Mail/CTV poll of Canadian parents conducted by Ipsos-Reid finds that 42% of Canadian parents spank or slap their children for disciplinary reasons. The percentage varies across the country with a low of 22% in Quebec, 45% in Ontario, and a high of 60% in Alberta.

    April 6/04 Four months in jail for confining 6-year-old in dryer for weeks
    Ottawa Citizen – After conviction on Dec 4/03 for forcible confinement and failing to provide the necessities of life for a 6-year-old girl in her care, and of assaulting her 9-year-old son, Justice James Fontana sentences the convicted woman to 4 months in jail, 8 months to be served in the community and 1 year probation. (See Dec 4/03 news item below for details.) The child was confined to a clothes dryer over a 2-year period for weeks at a time and ate slept, urinated and defecated in the dryer. She sometimes had difficulty walking after being released. The prosecution asked for a sentence of 3 to 5 years in prison. The judge rejected this request, holding that the woman resorted to “excessive solutions” because she was overwhelmed with her child-caring responsibilities. He held the sentence was sufficient to denounce her behaviour, deter others, and rehabilitate the woman. The Crown will appeal. The woman gave birth to her fifth child, born after charges were laid.

    Our comment To describe the woman’s actions as an “excessive solution” to her child-caring problems is surely a startling example of judicial understatement. Quite aside from the issue of whether prison (whether for months or years) is appropriate, the sentence shows that the argument for retaining section 43 because repeal could result in prosecution and jail for “mild” parental spankings is totally unrealistic. This sentence as well as others shows this argument is simply a scare tactic.

    April 3/04 Deaf and blind students at BC school to be compensated for abuse
    Globe and Mail – Students who suffered sexual, emotional and physical abuse at Vancouver’s Jericho Hill School for the Deaf reach an out-of-court settlement with the BC government. The settlement comes 11 years after an ombudsman’s report concluded that such abuse was “rampant” in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The abuse has cost the BC government almost $30 million in compensation for the 344 former students affected.

    March 7/04 UK government to reform reasonable force defence
    The Observer – After years of maintaining that it won’t make any changes to the law allowing “reasonable chastisement”, the UK government will now try to reform this defence without banning it outright. This defence of parental hitting in the name of discipline is similar to section 43 of our Criminal Code. The UK will explore amending the defence to make any corporal punishment, except a ‘eminor smack’, illegal. Moves by backbench MPs to repeal the defence entirely have caused the government to rethink its stand on the issue. The chair of the health committee has argued that ?eturning a blind eye’ to the defence is leading to the death of at least one child a month.

    Comment on the above reform by The Observer (UK)
    March 7/04 Stop smacking

    We are allowing children to be killed. The children bill, published last week, looks backwards and forwards. The response to Lord Laming’s inquiry into the torture and death of Victoria Climbie, is also a signal that children are at the heart of government thinking. That makes it all the more perplexing that the Bill does not include a ban on smacking.Legislation to bolster child protection offered the ideal opportunity to repeal the Victorian defence of reasonable chastisement, which effectively allows parents to hit children where they can claim the punishment was justified. There are many reasons to rescind this arcane measure. A system under which it is lawful to hit a baby but not an adult puts this country in breach of the UN convention on the rights of the child. Since Sweden banned smacking three decades ago, child deaths at the hands of parents have fallen to zero. In Britain, they average one a week. The Government has resisted such arguments. Fearful of charges of nanny statism, it has claimed, and still does, that a majority of parents do not favour a ban. But in eight other European countries, once-sceptical adults have been overwhelmingly converted to non-punitive means.There are encouraging signs that Ministers are shifting. As a sizable anti-smacking lobby prepares to force a Commons amendment to the Bill, Education Secretary Charles Clarke is considering his options. One is a compromise to make persistent smacking illegal but not outlaw taps of admonishment. However appealing, that would be convoluted and unworkable. While no humane society should criminalize a fraught but loving parent who taps a child’s hand in a supermarket, we need a law that can change the culture of a society scarred by child cruelty. An outright ban on smacking is a vital step towards a safer, happier life for millions of children. The Government must take it.

    Feb 25/04 Mother given conditional sentence in shaken-baby death
    Globe and Mail – A 25-year-old Toronto mother is given a conditional sentence of 2 years less a day, plus 3 years probation after pleading guilty to manslaughter in the death of her 5-week-old daughter. A conditional sentence means the mother spends no time in jail and has no criminal record providing she fulfills the conditions of the sentence and does not re-offend within the prescribed period. The baby was shaken to death because of crying. The defence portrayed the mother as developmentally delayed, although she had completed grade 12. Toronto CAS and Toronto Public Health had tried to help the mother after the child’s birth. An autopsy showed the baby had at least 10 healing rib fractures caused prior to death.

    Feb 17/04 Male baby-sitter on house arrest jailed for beating 2 children
    Toronto Star – A 5-year-old boy and his 2-year-old sister were beaten with a broom handle by a 26-year-old man who was minding them during their mother’s absence. The injuries were so severe the mother fainted on seeing the children when she returned home. The baby-sitter was under a sentence of house arrest at the time for threatening bar patrons with a gun. He was jailed 5 months for the assault on the children.

    Feb 13/04 Open letter to Prime Minister of Canada in Globe and Mail
    Sixty-three organizations sign an open letter to the Prime Minister of Canada, The Rt. Hon. Paul Martin, calling on his government to repeal section 43 of the Code, to recommend that provincial Attorneys General develop guidelines to prevent unnecessary prosecutions, and implement a national education campaign on positive discipline. See Constitutional Challenge , Open Letter to Prime Minister.

    Feb 3/04 Our campaign to repeal section 43 will continue
    The Repeal 43 Committee will continue its campaign to convince politicians and the public that section 43 should be repealed. If it is not repealed, we will urge the government to initiate public consultations to evaluate and clarify the limitations imposed by the Supreme Court decision.

    Jan 30/04 Supreme Court of Canada rewrites section 43
    In a split 6 to 3 decision, the Supreme Court rewrote s. 43, and then held it to be constitutional. The majority decided that this broad 1892 defence allowing parents and teachers to use reasonable force for correcting children doesn’t allow teachers to use corporal punishment, or parents to hit a child with objects, or on the head, or strike a child under age 2 years or over age 12, and to use only “minor, transitory or trifling” force to correct children between the ages of 2 and 12.

    Dissenting Justice Louise Arbour held that constitutionality of s. 43 must be determined on the section as it stands; not as rewritten. Nothing in the statute suggests that Parliament intended such conduct to be excluded from s. 43. As it stands, she held it’s too vague to give fair warning to the public as to what it means. It therefore violates s.7 of the Charter under which no one can be deprived of security of the person except in accordance with principles of fundamental justice. One of these principles is that a law must not be vague. Parliament, not the court is the proper forum to deal with s.43. The section should be struck down.

    Dissenting Justice Marie Deschambes agreed with Arbour J. but also held that s. 43 violates s.15 of the Charter guaranteeing equal protection and benefit of the law without discrimination based, inter alia, on age. The court, she wrote, can’t substitute its own views for those of Parliament. When interpreted according to the intention of Parliament, s. 43 violates s. 15 and can’t be justified under s. 1 of the Charter as a reasonable limit prescribed by law in a free and democratic society. Section 43 should be struck down.

    Dissenting Justice Binnie also agreed that s. 43 violates s. 15 of Charter. In even stronger language, he stated that stripping children of protection from assault makes them second-class citizens. It is destructive of dignity from any perspective. Physical integrity, he wrote, is a fundamental value applicable to all. He held, however, that the “salutary effects” of s. 43 “exceed its potential deleterious effects” since, in his view, children are protected under child welfare legislation. But, he held, section 43 should be struck down for teachers, as their relationship with pupils is closer to master-apprentice abolished by Parliament in 1955.

    See Constitutional Challenge chapter for further information

    Jan 24/04 Mother charged in death of 22-month-old son
    Toronto Star – A Richmond Hill mother is charged with failing to provide the necessaries of life for her 22-month-old son. The child was found dead with visible signs of trauma on his body. The child lived with the mother and 4-year-old brother.

    Jan 23/04 Canadian Paediatric Society strongly advises against spanking and all other forms of physical punishment due to its negative effects.
    The Psychosocial Paediatrics Committee of the Canadian Paediatric Society issues a position statement entitled Effective Discipline for Children. The Committee states it has carefully reviewed the available research on disciplinary spanking and concludes that this research shows spanking and other forms of physical punishment to be associated with “negative child outcomes”. It recommends that physicians actively counsel parents about discipline and strongly discourage spanking. The position statement is published inPaediatrics & Child Health (Jan/04 issue) and can be read at

    This position statement updates the CPS statement of1996. It advised that spanking should be discouraged but that additional research was needed to clarify its long-term effects. It cautioned this conclusion should be viewed as “subject to revision and clarification as data continue to accumulate”. The data has accumulated and the CPS now clearly recognizes that spanking and other forms of corporal punishment are harmful and should not be used.

    Jan 15/04 Couple plead guilty to criminal charges in confining, beating sons
    Toronto Star – A Durham, Ontario couple plead guilty to confining and beating their teen aged adopted sons over a period of 13 years. The boys were adopted at the ages of one and two and confined in cages except when they attended school. The adoptive mother was described as a domineering and controlling woman whose husband beat the children on her command. The boys are now in foster care. The parents will be sentenced in April.

    Jan 13/04 Murder trial of parents begins in death of 5-year-old Farah Khan
    Globe and Mail – More than 4 years after her dismembered body parts were found on Toronto’s lakeshore, the trial of 5-year-old Farah’s parents begins in Toronto. The 38-yar-old father admits killing his daughter but claims it was unintentional and entered a plea of not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter. The court rejected the plea and a plea of not guilty to murder entered instead. The child’s 48-year-old step mother pled not guilty to murder. The jury is being selected and the trial is expected to last 2 – 3 months.

    Jan 11/04 Jamaican research links harsh punishment and national violence
    The Gleaner, Jamaica – Research published by the Health Promotion and Protection Division of Jamaica’s Ministry of Health reveals a link between harsh punishment of boys and rising levels of national crime. It found that 84% of all Jamaican children reported being beaten with an object at home. The effect on young males was a lack of trust, a belief that the world is a dangerous place, and that physical abuse is part of life. Boys, it found, become more defiant and believe that the way to resolve differences is through threats and assaults. Young children display sulkiness, depression and anxiety. The research is reported in JA People, a newsletter of the Social & Manpower Planning Institute of Jamaica, Dec/03.

    Jan 10/04 Mother charged with manslaughter in death of 2-year-old daughter
    Toronto Star – The child lived with her mother and died of dehydration after being left alone for 12 hours. The Toronto mother is also charged with criminal negligence in her daughter’s death.

    Jan 6/04 Woman charged in death of partner’s 2-year-old daughter
    Toronto Star – The 24-year-old partner of the child’s mother is charged with second-degree murder in the Christmas Eve death of the child in Embro, Ontario. The 32-month-old child was found in the basement of the home. The mother is charged with being an accessory after the fact.

    Dec 26/03 Hockey dad gets conditional discharge for assaulting daughter
    Globe and Mail – The hockey dad accused of assaulting daughter gets a conditional discharge. The discharge includes community service, a donation of money to local minor hockey, and a requirement to talk to other hockey parents about appropriate behaviour. See Sept18/03 news item for report on case. (A conditional discharge means that no criminal conviction is entered if conditions are met.)

    Dec 4/03 Woman convicted of forcibly confining 6-year-old girl and assaulting son
    Toronto Star – An Ottawa woman is convicted of forcible confinement and failing to provide the necessities of life for a 6-year-old girl in her care. The child was in the woman’s care because the child’s mother was unfit to handle her. The woman locked the child in a clothes dryer for weeks at a time. The woman was also convicted of repeatedly hitting her 4-year-old son with a stick and slamming his head against a wall. The events took place in 1996 and 1997. Doctors and children’s aid workers who saw the girl at that time found no evidence of abuse but the woman’s teen-age daughter corroborated the child’s evidence. The woman will be sentenced in February.

    Dec 1/03 Children who see violence at home tend to be violent
    Toronto Star – A Statistics Canada study finds that children who witness physical confrontations between parents or older siblings are likelier to bully, threaten or attack others. Eight per cent of the total population of children aged 4 -7 (an estimated 120,000 children) has witnessed such violence. The study could not differentiate between children who were reported as witnessing violence and who might themselves have been victims. Parenting practices were identified as one of the other factors that play a role in a child’s aggressive behaviour. Check Statistics Canada site at Witnessing violence: Aggression and Anxiety in young children for more information on the study.

    Nov 25/03 British government censured for failing to protect children
    EXP News – The U.K. Joint Committee on Human Rights censures government for failing to end the reasonable chastisement defence for disciplinary assaults on children. Stating that children should have the same legal protection from assault as adults, the Committee called the defence incompatible with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Committee challenged the government’s claim that the defence is being “used properly” and called for publication of data to support the claim.

    Nov 25/03 Three-year-old dies suspiciously from unexplained injuries
    Toronto Star – Toronto homicide detectives are investigating the death of a 3-year-old girl 9 days after her admission to hospital for unexplained injuries. An earlier Toronto Star report stated that neighbours of the child’s parents “often heard thumps and muffled yelling through the shared townhouse walls”.

    Nov 22/03 Mother and boyfriend charged in death of toddler
    Globe and Mail – Mother and boyfriend charged with second-degree murder in the Sept/02 death of 15-month-old child. Investigation revealed that the toddler died as a result of being shaken.

    Nov 20/03 National Child Day ad in Globe and Mail calls for repeal of s. 43
    Canada’s federal government has designated November 20 each year as National Child Day. It’s intended to celebrate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. A quarter-page ad calling for repeal of section 43 appears on page A19 of the Globe and Mail to call attention to this special day. The ad lists 27 of the over 70 organizations that support repeal. Check National Child Day section of this chapter to see ad.

    Nov 20/03 National Child Day article in Toronto Star calls for repeal of s. 43
    This half-page Opinion article by Repeal 43 Committee member calls attention to National Child Day and the fact that the UN Committee overseeing the Convention has twice asked Canada to repeal section 43. The article features a prominent, eye-catching illustration. Check National Child Day section of this chapter to read article.

    Oct 25/03 Alberta mother challenges use of strap
    Edmonton Journal – An Alberta mother challenges a local school board policy allowing strapping after a teacher threatened her 8-year-old son with the strap. The mother reported that the child was frightened and “on the verge of being physically ill” as a result. The board will re-examine its discipline policy.

    Oct 7/03 New poll shows majority of Canadians favour ending section 43
    Toronto Public Health releases a national survey of over 2000 adult Canadians showing 69% agree that section 43 allowing schoolteachers to physically punish children should be ended. 51% agree that the section should be ended for parents. Support for ending s. 43 for parents was 58% within the 18-34 age group and 59% among women. Those who did not strongly agree that s. 43 should be ended for parents were then asked for their opinion if:

    • guidelines prevented prosecutions for mild spankings
    • research showed punishment is ineffective and potentially harmful, or
    • ending s. 43 would decrease child abuse.

    With these qualifications, agreement rose to 60%, 61% and 71% respectively. The survey was conducted by Decima Research in late August and has a maximum margin of error of +/- 2.2%, 19 times out of 20. The survey dispels the notion that an overwhelming majority of Canadians want to retain section 43. For further information, see Survey on Spanking Law.

    Oct 3/03 UN Committee again asks Canada to end section 43 
    Geneva – The UN Committee monitoring the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child releases its observations on Canada’s second report. The Committee stated it was “deeply concerned” that Canada has taken no action to remove section 43 and regretted Canada’s failure to heed the Committee’s 1995 recommendation that physical punishment in the home and school be prohibited. See International Developments, UNCRC for more information and comment.

    Oct 1/03 Edmonton woman sentenced in beating death of infant daughter
    Ottawa Citizen – A 20-year-old Edmonton woman is sentenced to 4 years in prison and 3 years probation for the violent beating death of her 10-week-old daughter during a drunken rage. She was ordered to take psychological treatment and addiction counselling and to notify probation officer if she becomes pregnant again.

    Sept/03 Canada ranks 16th out of 27 in child maltreatment deaths
    UNICEF releases a Table of Child Maltreatment Deaths in Rich Nations listing the average, annual number of maltreatment deaths of children under age 15 in the 1990s in 27 industrialized countries. 15 of these countries have an annual maltreatment death rate of less than one child per 100,000 children. Canada is in the bottom half of the table with one maltreatment death per 100,000. With a population of just under 6 million children in this age group, this means that a total of 60 children die each year in Canada as a result of maltreatment. This number is slightly larger than the 54 deaths in 1977 summarized in the 1981Health and Welfare Discussion Paper Child Protection in Canada. The child population for that year was almost 200,000 higher than in the 1990s. The Discussion Paper is cited in the Research chapter of our website.

    Sept 26/03 Major UK political party calls for end to smacking defence
    Metro Cafe (A UK urban commuters’ newspaper) – Delegates to a Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton vote overwhelmingly in favour of a motion urging government to end the 1860 “reasonable chastisement” defence for parents who smack children. Baroness Walmsley, who co-sponsored the motion with MP Paul Burstow, stated “It’s a policy whose time has come but the Government did not have the courage to implement it.” (In the UK political spectrum, the “Lib Dems” are between the Conservatives and the Labour Party.)

    Sept 23/03 New Zealand PM backs smacking ban
    New Zealand Herald – The Prime Minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark, has thrown her personal support behind repealing section 59 of the Crimes Act allowing reasonable force for correction of children. Her support comes in the wake of the death of a child from a brain injury at the hands of her stepfather. Social Services Minister, Steve Maharey, has advocated repeal since 2002. His department is due to initiate parenting courses and a $10 million multimedia education campaign next year on alternatives to physical punishment. The New Zealand report considers it inevitable that the government will repeal s. 59 within the next two years.

    Sept 18/03 Father charged with assault on daughter at hockey rink
    Globe and Mail – A 38-year-old father is charged with assault after allegedly grabbing his 10-year-old daughter by the facemask and screaming and shaking her for missing a chance to score at a hockey game in Pickering, Ontario. The man was arrested but released on a promise to appear in court on Oct. 14. A parent who witnessed the incident described it as appalling. A member of the girl’s family says it is being “blown out of proportion”.

    Sept 17/03 Canada appears before UN Committee on Rights of Child
    News Release, Dept. of Foreign Affairs – Government of Canada presents its second report to the UN Committee in Geneva on the Rights of the Child. The delegation, headed by Senator Landon Pearson, will answer questions on Canada’s progress on implementing the rights set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. One of these rights is the right to protection from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse. Section 43 has been criticized by the Committee before and will likely be criticized again. The UN Committee is expected to publish its observations on Canada’s report on October 3. See International Developments, UNCRC, for more information.

    Sept 11-17 British government announces plan to protect children
    Guardian Weekly – As a result of the death of 8-year-old Victoria Climbie at the hands of her caretakers, the British government is proposing a sophisticated system to track England’s 11 million children. Where a child is known to social services, welfare authorities or police, the child’s file will be flagged and contain contact details for all professionals involved. Barriers to information sharing will be removed. The inquiry into Victoria’s death identified at least 12 occasions on which the child could have been saved had professionals established contact. The government also plans to appoint an independent children’s commissioner.

    July 10/03 Saskatchewan child protection system fails toddler
    Toronto Star – A 20-month-old aboriginal boy is blind, palsied, and brain-damaged after being beaten by his mother’s common law husband. The child and two siblings had been in foster care but were returned to the couple. The child was beaten one month after his return. A report by the Department of Community Resources could find no record of reasons for returning the child. The man was sentenced to 4 years in jail. The child is now in a Saskatoon long-term care facility.

    June 23/03 British Parliamentary Committees call for end to corporal punishment
    The Joint Committee on Human Rights and the House of Commons Health Committee recommend that the British government end the “reasonable chastisement” defence because the law’s approval of “smacking” can easily escalate to greater abuse. The defence is similar to our s. 43 defence allowing “reasonable force”. See International Developments, Other Countries, for more information.

    June 21/03 Ottawa father a “new man” after assault charge
    Ottawa Citizen – A father who screamed “shut up, bitch”, repeatedly yelled at his 15-month-old daughter and grabbed the throat of a by-stander who came to the child’s aid is given a suspended sentence for assaulting the by-stander. The conditions of the sentence are that the father enrol in parenting courses and continue treatment for alcohol abuse. He told the court that the April charge was “the best thing that ever happened” to him because it had forced him to acknowledge his problems and take steps to resolve them. His wife described him as a “new man” since then.

    June 6/03 Supreme Court of Canada hears CFCYL appeal
    The Supreme Court of Canada hears appeal by the Canadian Foundation for Children, Youth and the Law of the Ontario Court of Appeal decision dismissing its constitutional challenge to section 43 of the Criminal Code. The hearing before a packed courtroom lasted 4 hours. The Court’s decisions is expected by December 2003. See Constitutional Challenge, Hearing by Supreme Court of Canada for info and comment.

    June 4/03 Trial of Alberta babysitter in death of 2-year-old girl
    Calgary Herald – Court hears final arguments in trial of babysitter accused of manslaughter for violently shaking the child and causing her death. The babysitter claimed she had slipped with child in her arms but medical professions testified that the injuries were consistent with severe shaking.

    May 16/03 Quebec Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse published
    This first-ever Quebec study finds that 63% of substantiated physical abuse reports involve physical punishment. More information is listed under Research.

    May 9/03 Supreme Court grants leave to intervene in s. 43 appeal
    See Application to Supreme Court of Canada under Constitutional Challenge for details.

    May 4/03 UK finally bans smacking by “childminders”
    The Observer newspaper editorializes that hitting a child is never right and that the childminder ban should apply to parents, as well. See Other Countries under International Developments for more information.

    April 30/03 Coalition of 7 national child service organizations publish Joint Statement against physical punishment of children
    The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO), Child Welfare League of Canada, Family Service Canada, Canadian Child Care Federation, Canadian Institute of Child Health, Canadian Public Health Assn. and Canadian Assn. for Young Children have published a Joint Statement on Physical Punishment of Children and Youth. The Statement results from 2 years of collaboration and research.

    Recommendations include: a public awareness campaign to inform Canadians that physical punishment is harmful and ineffective, universal parenting education, and provision of the same protection for children from assault as is provided to all adult Canadians. The Statement is being circulated to organizations concerned with children and youth with an invitation to endorse it. Available in English and French from CHEO, Ottawa, the English Statement and its French and English Executive Summaries should be on the CHEO web site at by early June and the French later in the month.

    April 30 is International SpankOut Day
    SpankOut Day was initiated in the USA in 1998 by organizations opposed to corporal punishment. It’s now international. For information and ideas on how to organize a SpankOut Day, click and check out International SpankOut Day. Some Canadian groups, including The Council for the Prevention of Child Abuse of Windsor and Essex County, have arranged events for this Day.

    March/03 Scotland enacts “justifiable assault” defence 
    The Scottish Parliament enacts new legislation changing the “reasonable chastisement” defence to “justifiable assault”. It would ban parents from shaking, hitting the head or hitting children with an implement and will be implemented after a public education campaign. See International Developments, Other Countries for more information.

    March/03 Iceland 12th country to prohibit corporal punishment of children
    Iceland passed a new Children’s Act this month stating that parents must protect children against any physical or mental violence. It will come into force in November/03. No legal defence allowing assaults for correction – such as our section 43 – exists in Icelandic law. The new law reinforces this protection.

    Mar 27/03 Church of God decision prohibits corporal punishment
    Toronto Star – Parents and Elgin/St. Thomas CAS agree to a court approved six month supervision order prohibiting corporal punishment of the seven children apprehended in 2001. The order includes unannounced access to parent’s home by CAS. But parents will appeal the March 3 decision by Judge Schnall on the constitutional issues involved in the case.

    Mar 20/03 Grandparents charged in death of 5-year-old grandson
    National Post – Toronto grandparents charged with first-degree murder in horrific death of 5-year old grandson who died from pneumonia while in their legal custody. The child weighed 19 pounds at time of death, was bruised, with parts of his body encrusted with scabs. He and a sister had been kept in a locked room. The grandparents had been convicted of assaulting children under their care in the 1970s – one of whom had died of pneumonia with autopsy reports revealing several bone fractures. These prior convictions were recorded in Catholic CAS files but did not come to light when grandparents granted custody in family court. They were discovered only after child’s death.

    Mar 17/03 Globe and Mail editorial applauds Church of God decision
    Globe and Mail – In a lead editorial, the G&M agrees with Judge Schnall’s March 3 decision that the Elgin/St. Thomas CAS acted responsibly and constitutionally in apprehending the children from their Alymer home. Writing that Canada will make no accommodations for child abuse, the editorial agreed the parents had no basis for their constitutional arguments.

    Mar 10/03 Man convicted in death of girlfriend’s 2-year-old daughter
    National Post – A Montreal man is convicted of manslaughter in the June 2001 death of girlfriend’s two-year-old daughter. He was also convicted of aggravated assault for shaking the child so severely she suffered irreversible brain damage and of assaulting the child’s five-year-old sister.

    Mar 7/03 Mother ordered to pay for “barbaric assaults” on children
    National Post – A Toronto mother who showered love on two children while assaulting and torturing two others has been ordered to pay $975,000 in a civil action for damages brought by the two children, now in their thirties. The abused children were born in Korea and remained there when their mother emigrated to Canada where she had two other children. She brought the older children to Canada five years later. They testified to frequent beatings, chokings, scaldings, being pushed down stairs, and to other assaults characterized by the court as sadistic cruelty. As a result, they suffer permanent psychological impairment. The father was described by the court as a strict disciplinarian who also beat the mother. The mother intends to appeal.

    Mar 4/03 Supreme Court of Canada sets June 6 for hearing s. 43 challenge
    The Canadian Foundation for Children, Youth and the Law receives notice from the Supreme Court of Canada that it will hear the constitutional challenge to section 43 on Friday, June 6/03. The CFCYL filed its argument with the Court on March 28. Organizations wishing to intervene in the case must apply to do so by April 25. The federal government must file its argument by May 9. All Supreme Court cases are heard in Ottawa.

    Mar 3/03 Reasons for Church of God constitutional decision released
    In a 99 page judgement, Judge Eleanor Schnall dismissed the parents’ claim that their constitutional rights to security of the person under s. 7 of the Charter were violated by the apprehension of their seven children in Alymer, Ontario. Schnall J. held that apprehending the children, entering the home, and interviewing them without the parents’ consent were all constitutional.

    Feb 28/03 Teacher charged with assault for slapping child’s face
    National Post – A 55-year-old Toronto woman teacher is charged with assault for slapping 11-year-old boy in the face “in a rare case of school discipline leading to criminal prosecution”. Described as “just a slap” by the investigating detective, parents were split on whether charges should be laid. The slap caused minor injuries. The teacher intends to plead not guilty.

    Feb 27/03 Suspicious death of York Region 3-month-old treated as homicide
    Toronto Star – Baby girl suffered fractured ribs and internal injuries as result of blunt force trauma while in care of maternal grandmother. The death is being investigated by coroner and police.

    Jan 31/03 Man guilty in shaking death of 2- year-old
    Globe and Mail – A Nova Scotia man is found guilty in death of two-year-old girl who died of shaken-baby syndrome. The 23 year-old man will be sentenced in March.

    Jan 30/03 Research shows link between pet abuse and child abuse
    National Post – The Calgary Humane Society is developing guidelines for the cross-reporting of animal cruelty and domestic violence because of studies showing a link between child abuse and abuse of pets. Child protection workers will be asked to consider the care given to pets to help determine what might be happening to children. A small grant from the federal Department of Justice to the Calgary Humane Society funds the project.

    Jan 21/03 Shaken baby deaths undetected
    Toronto Star – Severe shaking kills or injures 40 infants a year in Canada and is but the tip of the iceberg according to Ottawa pediatrician, Dr. James King. Survivors often experience behavioural or learning difficulties, some requiring costly long-term care. Dr. King’s research is reported in today’s Canadian Medical Association Journal.

    Jan 15/03 Woman jailed for years of child abuse
    Toronto Star – An 81-year-old woman is sentenced to 4 years in jail for years of torturing and abusing two daughters and another girl from the 1950s to the 1980s. The girls were beaten with hockey sticks and tortured with a cattle prod. The court found that the woman had practiced domination through fear and control and that the impact on the lives of the victims is irreparable.

    Dec 14/02 Father jailed in shaking death of baby
    National Post – A 36 year-old Quebec father pled guilty to manslaughter in the shaking death of his 2-month-old son and aggravated assault on the baby’s twin brother. The baby died from a brain hemorrhage. The twin sustained several broken bones. The father is sentenced to 6 years in prison.

    Dec 7/02 Parents charged with aggravated assault on baby
    Globe and Mail – The parents of an 8-month-old baby girl have been charged in Toronto with aggravated assault and criminal negligence causing bodily harm as a result of a broken femur and other injuries suffered when the baby was 7 weeks old. The baby was placed in foster care by the CAS but the parents were given visitation rights by the court. A fractured skull and further injuries suffered by the child in October are now under investigation.

    Nov 16/02 Judge believes in “good spanking from time to time”
    Ottawa Citizen – Justice Roland Durand of the Quebec Superior Court returned a 12-year-old boy to his mother in a protection hearing even though she has reportedly beaten him at least three times – in August pinning him to the ground and kicking him. Saying he believes in a “good spanking from time to time”, Judge Durand refused a recommendation by child protection officials that the boy be placed in his father’s interim custody.

    Nov 5/02 Mother spared jail for abusing baby
    Ottawa Citizen – The adoptive mother of a 10-month-old baby girl is sentenced to two years house arrest for assault causing bodily harm that included bruises, lacerations and fractured bones inflicted over a period of months on the child. The mother was spared jail because she suffers from serious depression, is remorseful, willing to undergo psychiatric treatment and will have no future custody of children.

    Oct 17/02 Supreme Court of Canada will hear appeal in constitutional case
    The Supreme Court of Canada agrees to hear the appeal by the Canadian Foundation for Justice, Youth and the Law of the Ontario Court of Appeal decision dismissing its constitutional challenge to section 43. The appeal is expected to be heard by the end of 2003.

    Comment on Supreme Court of Canada decision to hear appeal

    Nov 8/02 Letter to Windsor Star Discipline taken too far results in abuse 
    Re: Children’s safety at stake. As a person who recognizes our collective responsibility for the protection of children within this community and country, I feel compelled to express my outrage in response to last Wednesday’s editorial on spanking. The Star’s apparent bewilderment with the Supreme Court’s decision to review Section 43 of the Criminal Code is absurd.Perhaps the constant disregard of our children’s welfare by the politicians and legal system in this country has truly distorted any effort to attain journalistic integrity when reporting on such issues. Otherwise, one could clearly understand that like any other man, woman or even animal in this country, children too, have the fundamental right to be protected from physical punishment. Perhaps the question would fare better in public opinion polls if the media reported more comparatively on both sides of the issue.

    People need to be informed of evidence such as the 2001 Canadian Incidence study of Child Abuse and Neglect which revealed an alarming 69% of all substantiated physical abuse cases resulted from over discipline. Given these disturbing statistics, how is it that one could describe our current spanking law as having worked well for over 100 years?

    Surely, the 42,000 Canadian children who may not have been physically abused had their parents or guardians practiced non violent forms of discipline, would agree with such optimistic sentiments. Section 43 of the Criminal Code is, at best, ambiguous, outdated and unconstitutional. Stephanie Segave, Leamington.

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    Poulin Decision


    Oct 25/02 Charlottetown, P.E.I. Lucille Poulin, a 78 year-old former nun and head of a religious commune in PEI was convicted of assault on five children between 5 and 10 years of age who lived in the commune. They were frequently beaten with a wooden “rod” or paddle because “they were born with the devil in them, which had to be beaten out”. Section 43 was raised in her defence. Justice David Jenkins rejected this defence, but in doing so observed that the recent Ontario decision on the constitutional challenge to section43 provided limited guidance, and that although “most” of the use of the rod exceeded what was reasonable, corporal punishment with a rod “does not fall outside the protection of s. 43 per se”. On Nov 7/02, Ms. Poulin was sentenced to 8 months in jail


    Oct 25/02 Article in Times & Transcript (Moncton, New Brunswick) Our children must be protected For the Record is a regular feature of the editorial page. Today’s column is contributed by Marlene Stuart of Riverview who says she was prompted to write it after reading about the recent trial of a former nun in Prince Edward Island.

    Please consider the most horrific and tragic crime in our society, child abuse. No other issue has such far -reaching repercussions on all other aspects of the child’s development or in later years to all of society. No other segment of our society is less protected and more defenceless.

    What can be done about it? Where do we start? Society’s priorities must change, attitudes must change. The day must come when it is known far and wide that to harm a child in any manner whatsoever is abhorred by all of society and subject to the severest of punishment.

    How do we change attitudes? The place to start this reform must first come from the laws that govern us. In particular, the laws must be changed so that it is illegal to hit or physically punish any child.

    Section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada permits every parent or caretaker to use force as a means of correction toward a child if the force does not exceed what is reasonable. There are many parents and caretakers who are not capable of making reasonable judgments, especially in times of stress. Every year there are thousands of substantiated and suspected cases of physical abuse. Attempts to discipline by corporal punishment were involved in the majority of these cases.

    According to Statistics Canada, an average of 44 Canadian children are killed by family members each year, 35 of them are killed by parents. I suggest to you that the ones who were “killed” are the lucky ones compared to those who die a little each day at the hands of unreasonable caretakers.

    There are many parents and caretakers who were abused themselves, are lacking in self-esteem, are immature, mentally deficient, have low tolerance levels, are influenced by drugs of alcohol, or simply see themselves as good, strict parents, but lack the knowledge to be parents in a more compassionate way. These people are not in a state to know what reasonable force is. Perhaps if they knew it was punishable by law to harm a child, just perhaps, it would be a deterrent.

    Physical punishment has no beneficial consequences. Child care experts and researchers have proven it does not work, it only propagates the cycle of violence and abuse. Children are now the only remaining class of Canadian citizens who can be legally assaulted. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child recommended that corporal punishment of children in the home, school and elsewhere be prohibited and in June 1995, specifically made this recommendation to the Canadian government in connection with s. 43 of our Criminal Code.

    It is unjust that if you strike your adult neighbour, you could be charged with assault, but if a grown man strikes a 20-pound toddler, it could be considered reasonable force.

    Nov 11/02 Letter to National Post Punishment
    Mr. Justice David Jenkins acted correctly when he convicted and sentenced Lucile Poulin, the spiritual leader of a small P.E.I. community, who repeatedly assaulted the children in her charge, to rid them of the devil. Save the Children Canada applauds this decision and hopes that advocates for spanking will soon recognize corporal punishment for what it is: child abuse.

    The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, signed by Canada in 1991, explicitly protects children from all forms of physical violence. People who defend the use of corporal punishment are usually keen to distinguish between spanking and child abuse, and can rationalize physical punishment as being in the interest of the child. Unfortunately, spanking and beatings lie on the same continuum of physical assault. It is not an adult’s right to use force with children, but rather it is a child’s right to be protected from physical punishment.
    Nadine Grant, Save the Children Canada, Toronto

    Church of God Case


    Mar 27/03 Supervision order prohibits corporal punishment
    Toronto Star – Parents and Elgin/St. Thomas CAS agree to a court approved six month supervision order prohibiting corporal punishment of the seven children apprehended in Alymer, Ontario in 2001. The order allows unannounced access to parent’s home by CAS. But the parents intend to appeal the March 3 decision by Judge Schnall on the constitutional issues involved in the case.

    Mar 3/03 Decision on constitutional issues released
    In a 99 page judgement released today, Ontario Court Judge Eleanor Schnall decided that the constitutional rights of the parents of seven children apprehended by the Elgin/St. Thomas CAS in July 2001 were not violated. Schnall J. held that apprehending the children, entering the home, and interviewing them without the parents’ consent were all constitutional. Evidence showed the children were hit with electrical cords, sticks, belts, and the wire handle of a fly swatter for such things as staying in the bath too long or going out with “messy hair”, and that the “chaotic, distressful environment at the family’s home at the time of removal of the children was caused – indeed, was orchestrated – by Pastor Hildebrandt “, the family’s advisor and leader of the Church of God in Alymer, Ontario. The Globe and Mail carried a brief notice of the decision, but it was not reported by the Toronto Star or National Post despite the sensational coverage they accorded the apprehension last year.

    Oct 10/02 Claim that parents’ constitutional rights violated dismissed
    The claim that the apprehension of seven children forceably removed from their home in Alymer, Ontario by the Elgin Children’s Aid Society violated the parents’ constitutional rights is dismissed by Justice Eleanor Schnall. Written reasons for her decision will be released at a later date. The decision arises out of an application for a supervision order to protect the children brought by the CAS in July/01.

    July 4/01. Seven children between the ages of 6 and 14 are apprehended after their parents refuse to discontinue disciplining them with a leather belt or stick. The parents belong to the Church of God, a fundamentalist Christian group that believes in this method of correction. The Elgin CAS applied to the court in St. Thomas, Ontario for an protection order. On July 27 the children were returned to their parents under an interim supervision order in which the parents agreed not to use corporal punishment and the CAS was granted the right to visit and interview the children. A hearing of the evidence resumed in May/02. Judge Schnall ordered a publication ban on the evidence. The ban was appealed and set aside on June 29/02. The hearing of the protection application is expected to resume in Dec./02 with judgement expected in early 2003.


    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 Canadian 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

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    Randal Dooley Death


    7 year-old Randal’s death was preceded by 10 months of beatings by his stepmother, Marcia Dooley, and father, Tony Dooley. They beat him with belts, punched and kicked him over a 10-month period until the night of Sept. 24, 1998, when 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. He kept a bungee cord to hit Randal when Randal ‘misbehaved’.

    Randal was pronounced dead on the morning of Sept 25/98 after his father dialed 911. Parents told police he had fallen from his top bunk bed. His body was a mass of bruises, scars, and injuries in various stages of healing. He died of severe head injuries as a result of prolonged physical abuse.

    Stepmother and father charged and convicted of 2nd degree murder
    His stepmother, 32, was charged with 2nd degree murder in Oct/98 and 6 months later, his father, 36, was also charged. Both were found guilty in May/02, given an automatic life sentence and must wait 18 and 13 years respectively before seeking parole. In Dec/09, the Ontario Court of Appeal unanimously rejected their appeal.

    Randal’s early years in Jamaica and arrival in Canada
    Randal had been left in the care of an aunt in Jamaica and by all accounts, including his grade 1 Toronto schoolteacher, was a sweet, lovable child. However, he had difficulty adapting to his new food and routine and vomiting and incontinence were the result. The parents saw this as deliberate disobedience and rejection of the stepmother. The father doubted Randal’s paternity. It seems they grew to hate the child. As a result, Randal was repeatedly beaten by both, but principally by the stepmother with the father’s knowledge and consent. Which parent struck the fatal blow could not be determined. At the time of death, Randal had a dozen fib fractures, a lacerated liver, and several brain injuries.

    A former friend of the stepmother testified that she knew Randal was being beaten and that when she saw him he looked sick and in pain. A neighbour testified that she saw Randal looking weak and ill days before his death and had heard the stepmother yell at Randal in an angry voice. The Crown contended that other members of the Dooley family also knew how Randal was being treated. Stepmother told police that she had never seen Randal ‘really cry’. A pediatrician and expert in child abuse testified that Randal was probably too afraid to cry or tell anybody what was happening to him.

    Parent’s background
    Randal’s father moved to Toronto from Jamaica in 1992 and acquired landed immigrant status through marriage in Canada to Marcia, age 28. He then brought both sons, age 7 and 8, to Toronto in Nov/97 and Marcia became stepmother to the boys. The father left for the US after about 2 weeks and was frequently out of town. At the time of Randal’s death, the couple also had a 3-month-old baby. According to a cousin, Marcia had been neglected and badly abused by her mother as a child, and was also abused by her new husband.

    Report by school and investigation by Toronto police and Children’s Aid Society
    CAS and police investigated reports of abuse in April/98 after school officials reported concerns about Randal’s health and apparently accepted the stepmother’s explanation that the marks on Randal were caused by a Jamaican tag game in which children hit each other with belts. He was not interviewed privately because the parents objected; saying he was too young. CAS opened a file but rec’d no other reports. Randal was not registered for school in the following Sept.

    Calls for public inquiry
    After the May/02 conviction of the parents, a coalition of community groups called for a public inquiry into the role of the Toronto CAS, School Board and police in failing to protect Randal. But no public inquiry was held. On completion of the criminal proceedings in Dec/09, the coroner decided that an inquest was unnecessary.

    The coroner’s 2011 Annual Report will apparently include a non-identifying review of Randal’s death by the Pediatric Death Review Committee, a committee that works under the coroner’s leadership and analyzes the circumstances leading up to and surrounding the deaths of children. It develops recommendations aimed at preventing deaths in similar circumstances, but does not assign blame or responsibility. The end result is that there will be no public investigation on how and why Ontario authorities failed to protect Randal.

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