News: 2009

Dec/09 Global Initiative Report to End All Corporal Punishment of Children
The Global Initiative has issued an annual report for the past 4 years from its office in London, England on developments in the international campaign to end corporal punishment of children. It is an invaluable source of information on campaigns for prohibition and governments that have banned cp or planning to do so. Campaigns are increasing throughout the world. Among them, it notes that the Repeal 43 Committee leads the campaign in Canada. For link to the 4th Report, Click

Dec 23/09 Parents of Randal Dooley lose bid for new trial in horrific death
Globe and Mail – The Ontario Court of Appeal unanimously rejects the appeal of the father and stepmother of deceased 7-year-old Randal. They were convicted of second-degree murder in the child’s horrific death from abuse in Sept/98. The trial judge wrote that Randal had lived a nightmare of parental abuse for most of his short life in Canada since being brought here by his Jamaican parents 2 years prior to his death. An autopsy revealed that he had suffered 13 fractured ribs, a lacerated liver, 4 brain injuries and weighed only 42 lbs at the time of death.

An article by Corinne Robertshaw in the Ap 18/02 Globe and Mail, reminds readers that in a police interview three days after Randal’s death, his 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.

Dec 22/09 New Brunswick man gets house arrest for spanking 5-year-old son
Chronicle-Herald – A 36-year-old father from Oromocto, NB, spanked his five-year-old’s bare buttocks leaving them red and bruised. The spanking was so hard the youngster couldn’t sit down the next day. Court was told child had been misbehaving and the father had been called to take him home from daycare. Judge Patricia Cumming said the Supreme Court of Canada has recognized that disciplinary measures can be taken against a child if they do not cause injury. “Measures taken in this case strike me as inappropriate,” she said, and suggested the father could have been jailed if he were not taking counselling. He is sentenced to house arrest for 20 days and his identity withheld to protect the identity of his child.

Dec 15/09 BC govt to pay for abuse at school for developmentally disabled 
The British Columbia government will pay about 1,100 survivors of sexual, verbal and physical abuse at Woodlands School for developmentally disabled people. The settlement comes eight years after former B.C. ombudsman Dulcie McCallum completed a review of Woodlands School records from 1950-96 and found that abuse at the New Westminster facility was systemic. It included reports of children being hit and kicked, resulting in broken limbs, black eyes and swollen faces. “It was a horrifically abusive environment,” said Bill McArthur, a Woodlands survivor and a co-plaintiff in the lawsuit. Woodlands opened in 1878 and closed permanently in 1996.

Dec 14/09 Witnesses of bullying may face more mental health risks than victims
A Dec/09 article in the School Psychology Quarterly, Vol. 24, # 4 published by the American Psychological Association finds that students who watch their peers endure verbal or physical abuse could become as psychologically distressed, if not more so, by the events than the victims themselves. Bullies and bystanders may also be more likely to take drugs and drink alcohol, according to the findings of researchers at Boston College, US. They surveyed 2,002 students ages 12 to 16 at 14 public schools in England.

Dec 11/09 Jamaica commits to banning school corporal punishment
The Jamaica Gleaner – The Minister of Education, Andrew Holness, responds to recent reports of cp in schools by saying the govt intends to ban it next year. In one report, a 5-year-old schoolboy had his arm broken by a teacher who used a large ruler to punish him. In another, a child was hospitalized after accidentally being hit in the eye by a teacher who was punishing another student. The minister said that while there was not a social consensus on the use of corporal punishment, the Government had taken a moral and practical position on the issue, as it was a signatory to various conventions on the rights of the child.

Dec 9/09 Conditional discharges in Alberta school hazing assault case
Lethbridge Herald  - Seven of 9 high school students charged with assaulting younger students with a canoe paddle in Sept were given conditional discharges in Lethbridge youth court. (See Nov 1/09 item for previous note.) The Grade 12 students, all from Catholic Central High School, faced a charge of assault with a weapon, but pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of common assault. They were suspended for several days and had to write letters of apology to the younger students and families and are developing a power point presentation on hazing to be shown to other students.

During their 6 -month conditional discharge, they must perform 20 hours of community service and are prohibited from possessing any weapons. In sentencing on Jan 9/10, Judge Fred Coward said such hazing incidents are tantamount to bullying and are unacceptable, even though students and even some parents may feel otherwise. “What it all boils down to, in simple terms, is it’s bullying,” Coward said. “It was wrong, it always has been wrong, and it always will be wrong.”

Dec 9/09 US bill to prevent harmful school restraint/seclusion to be introduced
US supporters of banning school corporal punishment advise that a press conference was held to introduce a bipartisan bill in Congress to prevent harmful restraint and seclusion in US schools, but lament that the bill does not prohibit corporal punishment. Apparently, there have been no federal laws to prevent abusive restraint and seclusion at schools. The 2000 Children’s Health Act regulates how and when restraint and seclusion can be used in medical settings and community facilities, but is silent about its use in schools.

Dec 8/09 Leading opponent of NZ smacking ban now says ban is working well – A leading opponent of New Zealand’s smacking ban says parents “can relax” about the new law. Television psychologist Dr. Nigel Latta said none of the cases highlighted by the pro-smacking lobby to bolster their argument that good parents were being made into criminals for smacking stood up to scrutiny. His finding, after a three-month review by him, Police Commissioner and head of the Social Development Ministry, found the truth often differed markedly from what parents told the lobby group, and in every case the police and protection response was appropriate. “In all of the case studies that I reviewed, it was clear that there were other aggravating features involved,” he said. This has firmed the Government’s position that there is no need to change the law despite a referendum in favour of change earlier this year and the continuing campaign against the law by groups like Family First.

Dec 7/09 Grande Prairie, Alberta man charged with murder of 2-year-old
Edmonton Sun – Tanj Marie Dibbelt, was found at her Grande Prairie home suffering from “extensive and critical injuries”. Police have charged Herbie Giroux, age 25, with second-degree murder but did not release details on the nature or cause of the child’s injuries. Friends said Jessica Dibbelt, the child’s mother, and Giroux were in a relationship, although it’s not known if they were still linked at the time of the death. The single mother is distraught at the death of her daughter and declined to talk about the night of the slaying. “She was a very happy little girl” said a neighbour. On Jan 23/10, the Grande Prairie Daily Herald-Tribune reported that Giroux has also been charged with assault and choking with intent. Very little information was given as to the specifics of this charge, but his counsel clarified that it relates to the mother of the deceased child.

Dec 6/09 Parliament of World’s Religions urged to support smacking ban
the – Christine Dodd, Co-ordinator of the Churches Network for Non-Violence tells the Parliament of the Worlds Religions that smacking children should be made illegal throughout the world. She said corporal punishment infringed children’s rights and dignity, taught them that violence was a proper way to solve conflict, was on the same continuum as serious abuse, and was often based on misinterpretations of sacred texts. British missionaries, she said, were responsible for much of the corporal punishment around the world. Her network is active with religious groups in showing them that punishing and humiliating children did not fit core religious values.

Dec 5/ 09 Times of Malta editorial advocates corporal punishment ban
Times of Malta – Editorial Repercussions of hitting children: A visiting British legal expert says that the “reasonable chastisement” clause allows the fine line between a smack and physical abuse to be easily crossed and that if women are protected from such maltreatment, so too should children. Her arguments are perfectly reasonable. And there are plenty of other compelling ones too: hitting a child only teaches him/her to hit and increases the chances of resorting to violence in later life. If the object is discipline, it doesn’t work or, at least, not as well as other forms of punishment that do not entail physical hurt. It actually erodes respect for parents and it can impair a child’s healthy development.

Proponents of a “ban on smacking” are not advocating that parents be prosecuted for minor infractions, indeed quite the opposite. Neither are they saying: Do not discipline your children, as the British expert has been misinterpreted as saying. But they see such a legislative measure as fundamental to provoking a cultural shift away from corporal punishment – unacceptable from a rights perspective – to other methods of discipline.

Scorn was poured on the speaker in ensuing reactions to the report that appeared in The Times. But Malta has only one course of action to take and that is eventually to follow in the footsteps of the growing number of countries that have already implemented a ban on corporal punishment in the family; just as it has banned it in schools and outlawed domestic violence in the past.

Dec 2/09 Natural Child Project emails MPs urging repeal of S. 43
The excellent email below was sent to MPs, including the PM and Minister of Justice, by Jan Hunt, Director, Natural Child Project:

On behalf of all Canadian children who cannot write to you, please support the repeal of S. 43. Children may be small in size, but they are as fully human as we are, and as deserving as we are to be protected from physical and emotional harm, and to have their voices heard.

Spanking, like all other forms of punishment, can only bring about temporary and superficially “good” behavior based on threats and fear. As the writer John Holt put it so eloquently, having feelings of love and safety in early life, far from “spoiling” a child, is like “money in the bank”: a fund of trust, self-esteem and inner security they can draw on throughout life’s challenges.

Gentle, loving, and respectful guidance is the only truly effective way to help a child to grow and develop to his full potential as a loving and trusting adult. Spanking is unnecessary, harmful, disrespectful, and unfair. Let’s stop doing it!
Jan Hunt, M.Sc., Director, Natural Child Project

Dec 2/09 New Zealand report finds no evidence of unnecessary state intervention
The Report to the Minister of Social Development by Peter Hughes, Chief Executive of the Ministry, is mandated by the act that banned corporal punishment and is based on a review of statistical data from NZ Police and Child, Youth and Family. The Report finds no evidence that parents are being subjected to unnecessary state intervention for occasionally lightly smacking their children but notes that the possibility of unnecessary intervention for a light smack cannot be conclusively discounted. Click for Report

Dec 1/09 Alberta man charged with manslaughter in death of 2-year-old
Sun Media – Kadima Pierre Kakala, charged with manslaughter in connection with the death of 2-year-old Jaden Tshimanga, is denied bail. Paramedics initially responded to what was reported as a bathtub drowning in the Dover, Alberta home Kalala shared with the child and his mother. Jaden died in March of blunt-force trauma but police initially believed the death resulted from drowning.

Nov/09 A Theology of Children asks ‘Would Jesus smack a child?’
This booklet, A Theology of Children, is a shorter 2008 version of a paper written by New Zealand minister, Reverend Nove Vailaau in 2005. The 2008 version, published by Barnardos New Zealand and the Royal NZ Plunket Society in 2009, supports the movement to end legal approval of corporal punishment. In its foreword, Bishop Richard Randerson, Wellington, writes that the biblical attitude to children emphasizes a positive, nurturing approach that reflects God’s love, that ‘discipline’ means teaching, not punishment, and reminds us that the text about sparing the rod and spoiling the child is not a quote from the Bible. Click

Nov 24/09 Ontario toddler in critical condition after assault
Toronto Star – A 19-month-old toddler is in critical condition after being assaulted in his home in Walkerton. Terry Lee Clarkson, 27, is charged with aggravated assault. The child’s mother returned home to find her son in medical distress. No further information is currently available.

Nov 19/09 Canadian students among worst in bullying related acts
Toronto Star – A new study by Wendy Craig, psychology professor, Queen’s University, in conjunction with the World Health Organization surveyed 200,000 students in 40 countries about their involvement in bullying, either as a bully or person being bullied. The students surveyed were age 11, 13 and 15. Canada and the US were among the countries with the highest level of bullying. It found, for example, that 14% of 11-year-old Canadian boys reported being physically bullied and 30% verbally abused. Some provinces, such as Ontario, have put anti-bullying policies in place but Debra Pepler, PREVNet, says there is little proof that such policies work because they are not sufficiently monitored. In countries with low rates of bullying, such as Sweden, anti-bullying policies are continually evaluated.

Nov 20/09 National Child Day: Repeal 43 Committee emails all MPs
This year, Canada’s National Child Day celebrates the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Unfortunately, funds were not available for an Open Letter in newspapers urging MPs to repeal s. 43 and listing Canadian organizations that support repeal. Instead, we emailed a message to all MPs in the Senate and House of Commons. Click for messageClick for Fr version

Nov 20/09 Canada files reports to UN Ctee on compliance with UNCRC
The federal government files its 3rd and 4th reports on Canada’s compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The reports are made to the UN Committee that monitors the Convention and cover key measures adopted in Canada from Jan/98 to Dec/07. They include measures taken by federal, provincial and territorial governments and are prepared by the federal Dept of Canadian Heritage. Canada’s 3rd report was due Sept/03 and the 4th Jan/09 but both were delayed. For full report, Click

Paras 63 and 64 of reports deal with s. 43 by saying that the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the constitutionality of s. 43 in 2004, found the section consistent with the Convention, and set guidelines that allow only minor corrective force of a transitory and trifling nature. Without s. 43, the report says any force “falling short of what would be considered corporal punishment” would be a criminal assault and would risk breaking up families and be detrimental to children and, further, that the federal govt supports educational programs that promote non-physical discipline. It refers the UN Committee to a fact sheet on the Dept of Justice website entitled “The Criminal Law and Managing Children’s Behaviour”, which it describes as a plain language explanation of the current law.

In its response to Canada’s first report in 1995, the UN Committee recommended that the physical punishment of children in families be prohibited. In response to Canada’s second report in 2003, it expressed “deep concern” that no action had been taken to remove s. 43 and that Canada had not enacted legislation explicitly prohibiting all forms of corporal punishment. We expect it will have a similar response to Canada’s current reports.

NGOs may provide written information to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Palais des Nations, CH-1211, Geneva 10, Switzerland.

Nov 20/09 UNICEF president stresses need for Children’s Commissioner
Ottawa Citizen – Nigel Fisher, CEO and president, UNICEF Canada, stresses the need for a national commissioner for children, writing that at the federal level there is no one with the responsibility to bring together information and analysis on their status and needs. In a press release, UNICEF Canada reports that an estimated 120,000 children and youth are in the child welfare and justice systems – among the highest rate in industrialized countries – and that approximately 14 per cent of children and young people under 20 years have a mental illness but only one in five receives treatment.

Nov 20/09 Globe and Mail editorial supports call for Children’s Commissioner
Globe and Mail editorial – The way forward for the next generation of Canadians may well be a private member’s bill, C-418, brought forward in June by the MP Marc Garneau. It calls for the establishment of a National Children’s Commissioner. Like the auditor-general or the privacy commissioner, the appointed person would act as a watchdog, in this case working for government accountability on children’s rights. This commissioner would also bring more co-ordination and focus to an extremely complex task, enabling Canada to implement the articles of the convention in a way that would genuinely change children’s lives. See June 11/09 news item for copy of C-418.

Nov 19/09 New trial in Toronto beating death of 2 -year-old Emmily Lucas
Toronto Star – The trial of Erika Mendieta, accused of second-degree murder in the 2003 death of her 34-month-old daughter, Emmily Lucas, ended Nov 13/09 when the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict. Emmily had been taken to hospital by her mother with bruises and abrasions all over her body, face and head and died 10 days later of a severe brain injury. Emmily was small for her age, still in diapers, missed her aunt and cried frequently. The mother attributed the death to her failure to take Emilly to hospital after a fall down stairs. The Crown will continue the prosecution of Mendieta and a new trial is scheduled for Oct 25, 2010. (See Aug 13/04 for our first note on case.)

Reports from the Toronto Star since the trial began on Oct 21 give the following background: The mother was living with a boyfriend and 5 of her other children. Emmily, however, had lived with a paternal aunt since birth. At the mother’s request, the aunt had left Emmily with her mother for a temporary visit about 4 months prior to her death. When the mother refused to return Emmily, the aunt applied to family court for custody but because of the unavailability of a judge, the hearing was delayed. It would have been held 10 days after Emmily was taken to hospital. Both Crown and defence agreed that only the mother or boyfriend could have caused the child’s injuries. The mother admitted she regularly ‘disciplined’ Emmily by hitting with the hand or slipper. The boyfriend testified under the protection of the Canada Evidence Act that he, not Mendieta, had administered the blows that resulted in the child’s death. Because of this protection, he cannot be charged with the offence.

Comment: The mother ‘disciplined’ Emmily by hitting and spanking, saying she ‘knew her limits’. People who believe that such discipline has nothing to do with abuse are either unaware of or choose to ignore Canadian research showing that most child abuse in fact begins with such disciplinary hitting and spanking. This research is noted on the Research chapter of our website. If still unconvinced, perhaps this and other cases in which children have been ‘disciplined’ to death will bring home the reality of this link.

Nov 18/09 Pro-spankers parade in New Zealand but govt stands firm on ban
NZ Herald News – In his article ‘Mob rule no substitute for democracy’, reporter Brian Rudman writes that thankfully, Prime Minister John Key and his Labour opponents are staying firm in their support of the anti-smacking legislation they jointly supported in 2007. Despite the populist hysteria whipped up by the pro-beaters, he writes, they backed the bill removing the anomaly from the law books that allowed parents to do to their children something that would have resulted in assault charges if they had done it to each other, or to another adult. How humiliating, he adds, to live in a country where $500,000 is being spent encouraging people to march demanding the right to beat their kids. “Instead of parading and waving their wooden spoons and looking for bottoms to belt, the organizer who bankrolled this crassly named March for Democracy, and his supporters should be holding a candle for each abused child. Tragically, the turnout would have to be massive to achieve that.”

Nov 18/09 Luxembourg confirms new law banning corporal punishment 
During debate on a new Children and Family law passed in Dec/08 prohibiting all physical violence and inhuman and degrading treatment within families and educational communities, it was argued that this new law was not needed because criminal law against assault in Luxembourg applies to all and does not include any special defence allowing corporal punishment of children. But MPs passed the new law, referring to the Council of Europe’s recommendation to do so. A recent review of the law confirms that it prohibits all corporal punishment, however light, including by parents. This confirmation makes Luxembourg the 26th country to expressly prohibit all and any corporal punishment of children.

Nov 17/09 B.C. man charged with murder of 2-year-old stepdaughter
Canwest News Service – The second-degree murder trial of a man accused of killing his step-daughter has begun in BC Supreme Court. A few days before Christmas in 2005, 2- year-old Isabel Rain-Ayala was taken to hospital, her lips blue and her stomach bloated. The crown says her stepfather, David Carl Sunshine, repeatedly beat her and burned her with a cigarette lighter because he didn’t like her biological father. A pathologist is expected to testify the little girl bled to death when a vein in her abdomen ruptured. The crown says Sunshine confessed to an undercover officer that he beat the girl over a number of months and hit her in the stomach the night of the murder. He told them he would either wrap his hand with a towel or put a pillow over the girl to avoid causing bruising.

Nov 15/09 Assembly member calls for corporal punishment ban in France
Canadian Press – National Assembly member and pediatrician Edwige Antier asks France’s National Assembly to ban corporal punishment, including spanking. After 38 years of medical practice, she says children who have never been smacked are better behaved, listen more to adults and are more respectful of their authority. Dr. Antier is a member of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservative party. Her comments are published in Le Parisien newspaper.

Nov 11/09 How much progress since notorious ‘Baby P’ death in UK?
The Guardian – Campaigners at London’s Parliament Square delivered a petition to 10 Downing Street a year ago calling for urgent, far reaching changes to the child protection system because of the notorious death of Baby P. (See May 29/09 news item.) They tell The Guardian there has been an increase in referrals and the public’s awareness of child abuse has heightened. But even with this awareness people still say that social workers take children away and destroy families. Many are leaving the profession because they feel overworked and underpaid and spend more time sitting in front of the computer rather than out with families. There is still a huge employee turnover.

Campaigners say there is now a serious debate about the extent to which workers may be trying too hard to fix the worst families. Neglect of a child cannot be allowed to descend into abuse before a child is removed. Some say this view is “simplistic” and fails to balance the rights of the child with the rights of the parents. In law, there is no such balance. All that matters is what is best for the child. It needs to be recognized by the public and government that child maltreatment is rarely a one-off event, but describes a chronic, often ongoing serious problem for children’s health and development. Click

Nov/09 Senate Bill S-209 on committee order paper but no hearings yet 
Senator Hervieux-Payette’s private member’s bill to repeal s. 43, as amended by the Senate in June/08, is on the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee’s orders of reference, but as government bills take precedence over private member’s bills, a number of these must be dealt with before hearings can begin on S-209.

Nov 1/09 Lethbridge, Alberta students charged with assault for hazing
Lethbridge Herald – Eight Lethbridge high school students are charged with assault with a weapon stemming from the incident Sept. 9 when a group of first-year high school boys were taken into an alley and paddled by the older boys. Later, a homemade paddle with nails sticking out of it was seized. The Lethbridge youth advisory council will make a presentation to city council affirming that this behaviour is intolerable and inconsistent with building a safe community and school environment. On Oct 1, the Edmonton Journal reported that there have been several similar incidents across the province this fall.

Oct 30/09 Children need a national commissioner to champion their rights
Winnipeg Free Press – Brian Howe, Director, Children’s Rights Centre, Cape Breton University, writes that Sir Alan Aynsley-Green, Children’s Commissioner for England, is speaking to MPs on the virtues of a national children’s commissioner. Former astronaut and current MP Marc Garneau’s private member’s bill calls for a national Children’s Commissioner for Canada that would monitor government and champion the voices and rights of children. His bill deserves serious consideration, Howe writes, as children – a quarter of Canada’s population – need an agency to defend and promote their rights. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has urged Canada to establish such a commissioner, as has the Senate Committee on Human Rights.

Oct 16/09 Is slapping a student corporal punishment?
Sun Media –A teacher in Barrie, Ontario slaps a student for chewing gum and is charged with assault. Both police and a professor at the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education decline to call the slap ‘corporal punishment’. “This isn’t corporal punishment in the legal sense because corporal punishment is illegal in Ontario”, said the professor. The teacher was reassigned and is not in the classroom or working with students. The school board spokesperson refused to speculate on what would happen if the teacher were found guilty.

Oct 16/09 Spanking risks children’s well-being and should be illegal
The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) – Prompted by a “What do you think?” survey from a Conservative MP, George Georget checks off “Yes” to the statement: “I agree with Michael Ignatieff’s Liberal senator — all spankings should be illegal.” He writes that MP Kelly Block should challenge herself, her party and our government to reconsider what is much more important – the well-being of our children or the risk of this being lost in this politically charged question. See his article under Articles/Letters.

Oct 15/09 Sask MP wrong on spanking and wrong on Sweden
The Star Phoenix – Ailsa Watkinson, social work professor, University of Saskatchewan, writes that a 2003 Canadian study found that 75 per cent of incidents that meet the definition of child abuse have been attributed to parental discipline that escalated from physical punishment. That same year 59 Canadian children under the age of 18 were killed, 31 of them by a family member. Without a doubt, she writes, the culture of acceptance that surrounds physical punishment of children contributes to these numbers, adding that research has shown that even mild to moderate forms of physical punishment have serious long-term effects, including disrupted child cognitive and mental development, increased depression and aggressive tendencies. Since the ban was passed in Sweden, youth involvement in crime has decreased, as have youth suicide and drug use. See her article under Articles/Letters.

Oct 15/09 Couple appeal conviction in murder of 5-year-old Phoenix Sinclair
Globe and Mail – Three Manitoba Court of Appeal judges reserve their decision in the appeal of the child’s mother, Samantha Kematch, and her boyfriend, Karl McKay, from their conviction and life sentence for first-degree murder in the beating death of 5-year-old Phoenix in June/05 on the Fish River reserve north of Winnipeg. The Court is asked to reduce the conviction to second- degree murder. (See March 15/06 news item.)

Background from Toronto Star Oct 14 reports that Phoenix had been beaten, choked and shot at with a BB gun over a period of months after being returned to her mother. Previously she had been in foster care for much of her life. She was found dead on an unheated, filthy basement floor after a final assault and had suffered innumerable broken bones. Somehow her death was undetected for 9 months. The issue before the court was whether the child had been forcibly confined to the basement, as a slaying while forcibly confined elevates the crime to first- decree murder.

Oct 8/09 Sweden marks 30th anniversary of ban on spanking
CBC: The Current – Anna Maria Tremonti interviews Ruby Harrold-Claesson, founder,
The Nordic Committee for Human Rights and Marvin Bernstein, Saskatchewan Children’s Advocate. Harrold-Claesson says Sweden’s smacking ban has produced “badly behaved” children and that any parent who smacks a child faces prosecution and the child can be taken away. She has represented parents who have had their children taken because of what they felt was reasonable discipline. Bernstein countered with the arguments against hittting he made in the Oct 6 Star Phoenix article summarized below.

Comment: Ruby Harrold-Claesson’s human rights organization describes itself as being “For the protection of Family Rights in the Nordic countries”. She is not a member of the Swedish Law Society, although described as attorney-at-law, and says she does not belong because she cannot pay the fees. Her comments on corporal punishment do not appear to be supported by research and are simply anecdotal. She is from Jamaica but married to a Swede and lives in Sweden. Perhaps her views are influenced by the strong tradition of corporal punishment in Jamaica.

Oct 6/09 Sask Children’s Advocate says hitting children should be outlawed
Star Phoenix – Saskatchewan Children’s Advocate, Marvin Bernstein, is a non-political appointee looking out for the interests of the province’s children. He believes Canada should outlaw hitting children. Calling Canadian law “archaic” and out of step with other industrialized nations, Bernstein says the law allows children age 2 to 12 to be legally assaulted and goes on to say that people think spanking is not a problem – but ‘spanking’ is a euphemism for hitting and has harmful effects. Spanking that often begins as well-meaning discipline too easily escalates into physical abuse. Being hit, for a young child is a traumatic experience that causes stress, disrupts cognitive skills and impedes learning. It’s important to distinguish between spanking and discipline, he says. Spanking isn’t discipline because it doesn’t teach the child anything except fear of being hit again.

Oct 6/09 Calgary father charged in death of 2-month old son
CBC News – A Calgary father, Jamie Allen Dorey, 29, is charged with manslaughter in the death of his two-month-old son, Bryson Dorey-Fox. The baby, born prematurely, died as the result of blunt force trauma on Aug. 3, two days after his mother drove him to hospital with serious injuries. Police ruled out family claims that the baby’s deadly injuries were caused by their dog. In an Oct 7 Calgary Sun report, the baby’s mother said that police are wrongfully accusing the father and that the hospital is responsible for the baby ‘s death. In an obituary, Bryson was called “Daddy’s handsome little man” and the “light of everyone’s eyes,” including his parents and an older brother and sister and that he “was called home by our Father the Creator on August 3, 2009 at the age of 2 months.”

Oct 6/09 MP favours spanking and asks constituents to fight Senate bill
The Star Phoenix – Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar Conservative MP Kelly Block calls spanking a “traditional punishment” and is asking her constituents to help her fight a Senate bill that she says “is designed to make moms and dads into criminals” for using the traditional punishment of spanking. Block did not return multiple interview requests seeking comment.

Oct 6/09 Conservative Sask MP supports hitting as “traditional punishment”
Star Phoenix, Saskatoon: editorial: MP must clarify spanking stance – Hot on the heels of another scientific study about the deleterious effects of spanking, a reclusive MP issues an inflammatory and misleading flyer to her constituents. Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar MP Kelly Block has entered the debate squarely on the side of corporal punishment. To seem clearly to be advocating the use of force without defining its limits, such as Ms. Block’s mail-out does, is particularly disturbing. Without some clarification on her part, it could be seen as advocating a form of discipline for which there is not one iota of scientific data to indicate it is anything but destructive.

Almost as disconcerting as Ms. Block’s ambiguous position on what level of physical force she is willing to tolerate when it comes to disciplining children was Liberal MP Ralph Goodale’s casual disregard for the issue. As Saskatchewan Children’s Advocate Marvin Bernstein pointed out in an interview with The SP, the body of scientific evidence grows every year demonstrating that to hit children increases the likelihood of injury, mental health problems, anti-social behaviour, bullying and copied violence when these kids become adults. (The Regina Leader-Post republished the editorial Oct 9.)

Oct 5/09 Globe says spanking stupid in light of evidence against it
Globe and Mail editorial: Passing on a dim-witted legacy – Only stupid parents still spank their children in light of so much evidence that it’s harmful, say the editors, and cite a recent study by Murray Straus, University of New Hampshire as an example. (See Sept 28 item for information on Straus study.) Even so, it would be wrong to criminalize all corporal punishment, as some children’s advocates urge “as the evidence against spanking does not rise to the level of scientific certainty of severe harm by which the state can assume the right to interfere in private family disciplinary decisions.” But although the evidence is not definitive, there is enough to say that corporal punishment is probably harmful to most children.

Comment: The Globe editorial is right in calling on parents to stop spanking but parents who spank aren’t necessarily stupid. Many are intelligent but unaware of research on the harm of spanking, or that alternatives exist and can be readily learned, or are simply carrying on an unnecessary and harmful tradition from their own childhoods that is still justified by s. 43 of the Code. But on the issue of ending s. 43, it is wrong. Firstly, referring to ‘criminalization’ suggests to readers that repealing s. 43 will result in criminal prosecution for any and all spanking. This is not how the criminal justice system works. Prosecutorial discretion, guidelines, and the de minimis rule all work against inappropriate prosecutions. Secondly, since when has it been necessary to establish “scientific certainty of severe harm” before conduct is made criminal? Common assault of an adult is a criminal offence. Has it been ‘scientifically proven’ to cause ‘severe harm’? If this is the criterion, then only assault causing grievous bodily harm should be ‘criminalized’. The editorial is calling for an impossibly higher standard for protecting children and respecting their basic right to physical integrity than exists for adults. Lastly, the decision to assault a child is not a ‘private’ decision that should escape legal scrutiny any more than should the decision to assault a spouse or an elderly parent.

Sept 30/09 Mother and child ordered off BC bus because child crying
Cowichan Valley Citizen: editorial Growing Intolerant – Andrea Rondeau, editor of this Vancouver Island newspaper, protests about a mother and child being ordered off the bus because the toddler was crying and about the reaction of the driver and passengers. See Articles/Letters for editorial.

Sept 28/09 Murray Straus study finds spanking may lower a child’s IQ
Montreal Gazette –A study by Professor Murray Straus, (referred to in the Oct 5 Globe editorial) University of New Hampshire, and one of North America’s foremost child psychology experts, finds that corporal punishment slows the development of mental ability, particularly in younger children age 2 to 6. Corporal punishment was defined for the study as hitting a child, usually on the buttocks, at least 3 times a week. David Day, associate psychology professor at Ryerson University, Toronto, studies aggression and anti-social behaviour in children and youth. He agreed that spanking doesn’t promote cognitive development or language and problem-solving abilities in children and is very frightening for a child because at a young age, they don’t have the ability to deal with stress and are afraid of being hit. “It really has long-term consequences for children” he said. The study was presented Oct 2 at the International Conference on Violence, Abuse and Trauma in San Diego but has not yet been published.

Sept 18/09 Parents in horrific abuse case ask for new trial
Toronto Star – The stepmother and father of 7-year-old Randal Dooley, convicted in 2002 of 2nd degree murder in Randal’s death from horrific beatings, appeal their convictions and ask for a new trial.

Comment: In an article written for the Globe and Mail in 2002, (see link at top of chapter), I reminded readers that the father told police he had “flogged” Randall a month earlier for vomiting and soiling himself, but 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”. Did the father’s belief in corporal punishment contribute to Randal’s death, and does this belief contribute to the over 42,000 cases of physical abuse in Canada each year?

Parents who spank more likely to use harsher punishment – Reducing spanking may help reduce physical child abuse
HealthDay – (This article was published Aug 27/08 and recently came to our attention) Researchers at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, conducted an anonymous telephone survey of 1,435 mothers in North Carolina and South Carolina in 2002 and found that 45 percent of the mothers reported they or their partners had spanked their children in the previous 12 months, 25 percent reported spanking with an object on the buttocks and 4 percent reported using harsher forms of punishment. Although some surveys show evidence of a modest decline in spanking over the last 30 years, recent surveys show that up to 90 percent of children between the ages of 3 and 5 years are spanked by their parents at least occasionally. Researchers concluded that parents who report spanking children with an object and parents who frequently spank children are much more likely to report other harsh punishment acts consistent with physical abuse. Efforts to reduce spanking through media, educational and legislative means may help reduce physical child abuse, Dr. Zolotor, lead researcher, and his colleagues concluded. See Research chapter for more information.

Sept 15/09 Spanking leads to aggression and lower cognitive development
Science Blog – In a study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health,
Researchers at Duke University and the Universities of Missouri-Columbia, South Carolina, Columbia, Harvard University, and North Carolina at Chapel Hill finds that spanking 1-year-olds leads to more aggressive behaviors and less sophisticated cognitive development in the next two years. Verbal punishment is not associated with such effects, especially when it is accompanied by emotional support from mothers. The study found that African American children were spanked and verbally punished significantly more than the other children in the study. See Research chapter for more information.

Sept 12/09 Ontario teens charged in school hazing of grade 9 students
Globe and Mail editorial: The tradition that must die – On their first day at M.M. Robinson High School, 5 Burlington grade 9 student are set on by a group of grade 11 and 12 students armed with wooden paddles. They were beaten and bruised in what one student described as a ‘long-standing’ hazing tradition at this suburban school of 1600 students. The students are facing charges of assault with a weapon and police say they will lay criminal charges in future incidents. The editors write that this hazing is a degrading, humiliating tradition that has to end. “Personal autonomy and dignity are also traditions in Canada. More than traditions. The law is there to protect them from those who cite specious reasons for harming others.”

Comment: The same reasoning can of course be applied to another long-standing tradition – that of hitting children in the name of ‘discipline’.

Sept 3/09 Globe views research on toddler depression with ‘bemusement’
Globe and Mail editorial: Truth about Tantrums – Researchers from the Universities of Montreal, Laval, McGill and Carnegie-Mellon, Pittsburgh find that 15% of preschoolers in Quebec suffer from atypically high levels of depression and anxiety. They interviewed mothers over a 5-year period and reported their research in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. The Globe editors express ‘bemusement’ with the study, saying until we have a clear picture of what is meant by depression, we should probably leave toddlers to their tantrums and find other ways to practice preventive medicine. See Research chapter for link to study.

Comment: Two letters published in the Globe take issue with the editors for their jocular tone and for mocking the problem of depressed toddlers. See Articles/Letters 2009.

Sept 4/09 Alberta school hazing and parental silence perpetuates violence
Edmonton Journal editorial: Speak out against bullying – In school hazings at Alberta high schools in Sedgewick and St. Albert, grade 10 students were beaten with belts, hockey sticks and bats by older students at a bush party marking the start of the school year. Neither students nor parents would make a formal complaint to police or assist in the investigation for fear of retribution. While understandable, says the editorial, this fear is misplaced. This silence perpetuates violence by labeling it a rite of passage in which the victims ultimately become the abusers. Violent hazing is not a harmless bonding ritual, but a crime.

Sept 1/09 Ontario man charged with assault for spanking 9-year-old son
CBC News – A witness reported to police that the boy was grabbed by the throat and spanked with excessive force by the father. The incident happened in the town of Renfrew, near Ottawa. Family and Children services were involved in the police investigation. The 1892 section 43 of the Criminal Code provides a defence where parents and parent substitutes use reasonable force to discipline children by corporal punishment.

Aug 26/09 World Congress calls for end to corporal punishment
At a conference on Family Law and Children’s Rights in Halifax, a resolution was passed calling on all nations to undertake initiatives, including legislative action, to promote positive parenting skills and move toward the elimination of corporal punishment of children by parents and institutions.

2009 is the 20th Anniversary of UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
On the 20th anniversary of the adoption by the UN general Assembly, the Chief of the Gender and Rights Unit of UNICEF’s Policy and Practice Division, says the Convention on the Rights of the Child represents a major milestone in the historic effort to achieve a world fit for children. As a binding treaty of international law, it codifies principles that Member States of the United Nations agreed to be universal – for all children, in all countries and cultures, at all times and without exception, simply through the fact of their being born into the human family. The Convention, he says, demands a revolution that places children at the heart of human development – not only because this offers a strong return on our investment (although it does) nor because the vulnerability of childhood calls upon our compassion (although it should), but rather for a more fundamental reason: because it is their right.

Aug 25/09 Final result of citizen initiated referendum on smacking ban
New Zealand Ministry of Justice – The final result of the referendum is that 56% of eligible voters voted, 87% of whom responded No and 12% Yes. See International Developments, New Zealand for more information on referendum.

Aug 21/09 NZ referendum results not likely to change anti-smacking law
BBC News – The referendum question was “Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?” Based on preliminary results, 54% of the voting population took part in the referendum, with nearly 90% responding “No”. Critics of the referendum, including the prime minister, said the question was loaded and ambiguous. The referendum is non-binding, and Prime Minister John Key has said he will not change the existing law but would put forth some proposals “to give parents added comfort that the law is working.” The ban on smacking was brought in two years ago to lower the country’s high rate of child abuse: the third-worst of OECD countries. The referendum provoked heated debate and the postal vote – at a cost of $6.1m – is considered by many to have been a waste of time and money.

Aug 17/09 Corporal punishment contributes to right-wing paranoia
Huffington Post – Stephen Ducat writes that not only does a right wing ideology justify and facilitate spanking, it also helps to create future right wing ideologues full of fury, vengeance, and a sense that a malevolent authority whose responsibility is to care for them is really out to humiliate, hurt and destroy them. Ducat cites a passage in a book by Michael Savage, whom Ducat describes as the bigoted, shrieking rage-monger of ultra-conservative talk radio. Savage wrote about his childhood: “Things were tough every day of our lives. And we made the best of it. Frankly, that’s why I’m driven the way I am. I was raised on neglect, anger, and hate. I was raised the old-fashioned way.”

Aug 12/09 Mainstream New Zealand churches back smacking ban
New Zealand Herald – The heads of the Anglican and Methodist churches say the current law, which bans the use of force against children for “correction”, is working well and should not be changed. The Catholic Church aid agency, Caritas recommended a “Yes” vote on the basis that the current law was close to the compromise that bishops sought in 2007. “The Catholic bishops have clearly recognized in several statements now the importance of facing up to our responsibility to better protect children,” said a Caritas spokeswoman.

Aug 10/09 Disabled students in US schools paddled more than others
New York Times – More than 200,000 US schoolchildren are subjected to physical punishment each year according to a study by Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union and 19% of these are students with disabilities. “Corporal punishment is just not an effective method of punishment, especially for disabled children, who may not even understand why they’re being hit,” said Alice Farmer, who wrote the report.

Aug 7/09 American Psychological Ass’n says no to corporal punishment
Scientific American blog – The results of a 5-year effort to review the scientific literature by a task force appointed by the American Psychological Association concludes that parents should reduce and potentially eliminate use of any physical punishment as a disciplinary measure. The 15 task force experts in child development and psychology found correlations between physical punishment and an increase in childhood anxiety and depression, and an increase in behavioral problems including aggression, and impaired cognitive development. The task force was not unanimous in its conclusions, however, with psychologist Robert E. Larzelere arguing that the research is flawed. But the majority are firm in its recommendation against corporal punishment. The APA is reviewing the majority and minority positions and will issue its official recommendation at a later date.

July 21/09 High rate of infant spanking by low-income US mothers
Health – Researchers at the Jefferson Paediatrics/duPont Children’s Health Programme in Philadelphia find that among a group of 1,265 mostly black, single, low-income mothers of infants up to 11 months old, 19% said they “valued” corporal punishment as a means of discipline and 14% reported spanking their infants. Further, mothers who suffered physical abuse or other violent experiences in childhood are much more likely to spank their infants than those who did not. The lead researcher, Dr Esther K. Chung, encouraged healthcare providers to ask pregnant women or new parents about their childhood experiences and their attitudes about spanking. See Research chapter for more information.

July 27/09 Ontario woman charged with assault at her home daycare
Toronto Star – A 38-year-old woman is charged with aggravated assault for breaking a child’s leg at her home daycare in Port Perry. The alleged assault occurred in 2006. She is also charged with failing to provide the necessities of life to a person in her care.

July 30/09 Hitting kids should be banned ‘under any circumstances’
The Canadian Jewish News – The annual fast day commemorating the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem was the occasion for a number of rabbis to urge their congregations not to hit children. Among them, Rabbi Mark Dratch, founder of the Jewish Institute Supporting an Abuse-Free Environment, said that historically there was an assumption that hitting a child was an appropriate form of discipline. But, he said, the proverbial rod referred to in Proverbs and invoked by some as a justification for hitting children may be a metaphor for proper education and discipline, and not a literal tool.

July 31/09 US committee urges examination of school seclusion and restraint
After hearings by the Education and Labor Committee of the US House of Representatives in May, the US Secretary of Education writes all chief state school officers saying he is deeply troubled by the testimony given to the committee showing that some seclusion/restraint techniques used on students were abusive and potentially deadly. He referenced his home state of Illinois as having regulations limiting the use of seclusion and restraint and promoting a Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports policy that trains staff in minimizing problem behavior.

June 26/09 Child abuse victims more likely to develop cancer
Globe and Mail – A new University of Toronto study finds that people who were physically abused as children are 49% more likely to develop cancer as adults. Using survey results from 13,000 people in Saskatchewan and Manitoba and adjusting for other causes of cancer, the researchers were surprised to see that the association between abuse and cancer did not disappear. A possible explanation for the link is that abused children are more prone to abnormal levels of cortisol, the hormone that helps to deal with stressful situations. The study is published in the July 15/09 issue of the American Cancer Society journal Cancer. See Research chapter for more information.

June 22/09  Amended  Bill S-209 to be studied again by Senate Committee
Senator Hervieux-Payette’s bill to repeal s. 43 as amended by the Senate in June/08 was reintroduced in Jan/09 when parliament resumed after being prorogued in Dec/08. On second reading today the bill is again referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs for study after Senator Sharon Carstairs speaks in support. She said Senator Wallace was correct when he said that changes made to the bill by thee 2008 committee were not seen by previous witnesses and that perhaps they could be heard when the bill goes to committee this time round. Click for Sen. Carstairs speech.

June/09  Differing interpretations of S. 43 in some recent decisions
Who is a ‘parent’ for the purposes of s. 43? How is parental authority delegated? Does anger prevent s. 43 from being a successful defence? Is a ‘push’ to the head or stuffing and taping a sock in a child’s mouth ‘reasonable’ under s. 43? What is ‘corporal punishment? Is there a common law defence apart from s. 43? See The Law chapter, Judicial Interpretation of Supreme Court of Canada Decision for some recent judicial decisions on these and other questions.

June 16/09  Voting on New Zealand referendum on corporal punishment ban – The citizen initiated non-binding referendum asks: ”Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?” It will be voted on between July 31 and Aug 31. New Zealand’s PM says the question “could have been written by Dr Seuss – this isn’t Green Eggs and Ham, this is yes means no and no means yes, but we’re all meant to understand what the referendum means. I think it’s ridiculous myself.” He said he is satisfied the law is working and that stricter rules may be necessary for future referenda questions.

Labour leader, Phil Goff, said the question was badly worded and “absolutely” the wrong question. The leader of the Maori Party said the referendum was a waste of money and its $9 million cost could have instead been spent on helping families. See International Developments chapter, New Zealand for information on the 2007 law and subsequent developments.

June 15/09  Montreal father charged with murder in death of baby son
Toronto Star – Mohamed Larmine Keita, 40, is charged with premeditated murder of his 11-month-old son. The child died earlier in June. No other information is given.

June 12&13/09  BC teen charged with murder in death of toddler
Globe and Mail – 21-month-old Jor-el Macnamara’s open-casket funeral in New Hazelton, north of Vancouver, showed huge bruises on his face. He died June 3 while in care of his aunt who was also raising a teenage son. Jor-el had been removed from his home and placed with the aunt by joint decision of the BC Ministry for Children and the band council of a first nations agency. A youth advocate and others in the community said they had told the ministry the child was in danger but nothing was done.

The death is being compared to that of Sherry Charlie, a toddler who was placed with her uncle under the province’s ‘kith and kin’ program and killed by him shortly thereafter. Her death led to government promises to make significant changes in its approach to child protection. See our Aug 15/Nov 9/05 & Feb 18/06 News items for more information on the Sherry Charlie death.

June 11/09 MP Marc Garneau introduces bill for Children’s Commissioner
Marc Garneau, Liberal MP for Westmount-Ville-Marie, introduces a Private Member’s Bill, C-418 to establish a national Children’s Commissioner to ensure government implementation of Canada’s obligations under the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child and to advance the principle that children are entitled to special safeguards, including appropriate legal protection. Click for Bill.

June 9/09   Senator John Wallace speaks against amended Bill S-209
Senator Wallace (C. New Brunswick) speaks against the bill on the grounds that the 2004 Supreme Court decision gives sufficient protection to children, parents and teachers and that if the public does not understand the law on s. 43, more public awareness should be created. He said the changes made to the bill were not seen by witnesses at the previous committee hearings and that perhaps this can be done when the bill is studied this time. See Senate Bills to Repeal S. 43 chapter for other information.

June/09  Council of Europe “Raise your hand against smacking” campaign 
The CE campaign package against corporal punishment of children: “Raise your hand against smacking”, contains a mix of publications addressed to different target audiences. The package suggests 3 approaches to successfully challenge corporal punishment – awareness raising, legal and policy reform and offers parents alternatives to violence in the form of positive parenting. Its 2008 “Off the Books!” brochure is particularly useful. Click ‘Raise your hand against smacking’ for link to ‘Off the Books!’  Three other brochures give brief definitions, reasons, and steps to take to support reform. Click for 3 brochures.

June 7/09  Violent school corporal punishment continues in India
The Hindu, Delhi, on line – Although the Supreme Court of India banned corporal punishment in 2000 when it directed States to provide education in an environment free from fear and ensure that children were not subjected to corporal punishment, reports of violence in the form of corporal punishment continue to pour in from schools across the country. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights has written States requiring them to take action to prevent corporal punishment.

June 5/09  Edmonton foster mother jailed 3 years for death of 3-year-old
Toronto Star –  The foster mother was convicted of manslaughter in 2008 for the death of a 3-year-old boy in her care. The sentence was greeted with outrage by the child’s birth father and the detective who investigated case. The detective also criticized Alberta child welfare laws that prevent media from publishing the woman’s name. See our Dec 1& June 11/08 News item for circumstances of death and other information.

May 29 & 15/09  UK ‘Baby P’ killers jailed and more children now in care
Guardian Weekly – The mother in this horrendous British case is jailed indefinitely for causing or allowing her son’s death at the hands of a boyfriend and a lodger. She will serve at least 5 years, the boyfriend 12 years, and the lodger an indeterminate time in jail, with a minimum of 3 years. Because of a public outcry against the government’s woefully ineffective policies to protect children, policies were changed and as a result, there has been a surge in the number of children taken into care. See our Dec 21/08 News item on public demand for changes in handling such cases.

On May 21, the Guardian reports that there was probably sufficient evidence to remove Baby P before he was brutally killed. This contradicts the legal advice given to social workers when the child was on the ‘at risk’ register that the threshold needed to trigger an application to take him into care had not been reached.

On May 8, the Guardian reports that the boyfriend (described as the stepfather of Baby P) was also found guilty of raping a 2-year-old girl who, like Baby P, was also on the council’s at-risk register. The child, at the age of 4, gave evidence of the rape by video link to a police interview taken at age 3. She is the youngest person ever to give evidence at an Old Bailey trial.

On June 5-11, the Guardian reports that the Attorney General will ask the Court of Appeal to increase sentences handed down to in Baby P case after child welfare organizations and the public complained that they were too short.

May 28/09  Ontario formally bans corporal punishment in public schools
Ontario Minister of Education, Kathleen Wynne, advises that regulations under the Education Act have been amended to eliminate any ambiguity about the use of corporal punishment in publicly-funded Ontario schools. Regulation 298 of the Act now states that corporal punishment is not authorized and pupils are not required to accept such punishment. Various individuals and organizations, including the Repeal 43 Committee, wrote the Minister requesting this change. Our Committee first wrote former ministers in 1994 and 2005 and Minister Wynne in 2008.

We welcome the minister’s response and also wish to acknowledge the efforts of Dr. Bette Stephenson to ban school corporal punishment when Minister of Education in 1981. Her views were opposed by the Ontario Teachers Fdn. and Public School Trustees Assn. and were rejected by the government. Manitoba and Alberta are now the only remaining provinces that have not amended their education acts to bring them into conformity with the 2004 Supreme Court decision that ended s. 43 as a defence to hitting schoolchildren as a means of discipline.

May 23/09  No charge against school aide for cutting boy’s hair
Globe and Mail – A teacher’s aide at a Thunder Bay public school stood a 7-year-old boy on a chair and cut his hair bangs by 10 centimeters because she thought he was having trouble seeing. The boy wears long hair as part of his native heritage. His family complained that this constituted assault and a filed a report with police. However, no charge was laid as Crown prosecutor believed there was little chance of a successful prosecution, and further, that prosecution was not in the public interest because it would ‘re-victimize’ the boy.

Comment: As in the May 14 racial insult case noted below, these are standard criteria that must be met before launching a prosecution. Opponents of repealing s. 43 ignore these criteria when they claim that minor slaps by a parent will be prosecuted.

May 21/09  Irish children ‘lived in terror’ in catholic schools/orphanages
Toronto Star – A 9-year govt investigation into child abuse in more than 250 church-run institutions finds that children lived in a climate of fear created by pervasive and excessive physical punishment, including beatings, rapes and humiliation. This abuse took place mainly in institutions run by the Sisters of Mercy for girls and those run by the Christian Brothers for boys. The report sharply criticized the Dept of Education for allowing these abuses to continue for decades. CNN news noted that the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference declined to comment on the report.

The Week Magazine (June 5) quotes some commentators as saying everyone in Ireland “knew these institutions were grim places,” but didn’t want to know just how grim they were. Others responded that the church wasn’t the only organization that used corporal punishment and that ‘virtually everyone believed in not sparing the rod’.

The Independent  (June 21) has an opinion piece by a leading campaigner for the abolition of corporal punishment in Ireland in which he calls the above assertion a lie and writes that Irish lay people acted and demanded, and finally in 1982, forced authorities to end corporal punishment in Irish schools. In 1969, he writes, he placed an ad in national papers inviting people who wanted corporal punishment banned and received thousands of positive responses. The Irish people demanded on a massive scale that corporal punishment be banned from all schools and have reason to be proud of what they achieved.

May 19/09   US govt finds wide abuse of seclusion and restraint in schools
The U.S. Government Accountability Office reports on the first government investigation into schools’ use of seclusion and restraint. Rep. George Miller (D-Ca), Chair, House Education and Labor Committee requested the investigation. Seclusion is the term used to mean the involuntarily confining of a student in an area by himself. Restraint is the restriction of movement. The report examined 10 cases in detail; 4 of which were fatal. The report found these practices were used disproportionately on children with disabilities.

May 14/09  Assault charge dropped against schoolboy in racial insult case
Globe and Mail – A charge of assault causing bodily harm against a 5’ 2” grade-9 Toronto student who punched a fellow-student in the mouth for a racial insult is dropped after protests by his classmates and supporters in other countries. The Crown concluded it was not in the public interest to prosecute and there was no reasonable prospect of conviction.

May 8/09  Research finds childhood bullying  may trigger schizophrenia
Globe and Mail – A British study from the University of Warwick published in the Archives of General Psychiatry links bullying with psychotic symptoms that may trigger schizophrenia. The authors speculate that the stress caused by severe and chronic victimization may be enough to push a vulnerable person over the edge. The UK govt plans to meet stakeholders to address these abuses. See Research chapter for more information.

April/09  European publicity campaigns against corporal punishment 
The Council of Europe is engaged in a Europe-wide awareness-raising initiative against corporal punishment of children. It aims to contribute to the full prohibition of corporal punishment, to promote positive parenting and raise awareness of children’s rights throughout Europe. It currently runs a TV spot called Raise you hand against smacking!

In addition, Germany’s Association for a New Education, UK’s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and Poland’s Nobody’s Children Foundation are working on a project to advance the EU-wide implementation of a legal ban on corporal punishment and promote non-violent parenting across Europe. The project, called“Respect Works Out!” promotes non-violence as the basis for a child-friendly, democratic Europe in which all forms of physical punishment, including a light smack, are banned. Click for videos.

April/09  Recent decisions on S. 43 added to Law chapter
Summaries of 6 recent decisions involving s. 43 are added to The Law chapter. They deal with parents and teachers convicted of assault for pushing/hitting in anger and frustration/ hitting on the head/ and whether the nature of the child’s offence should be considered. In one case, a group home worker is assumed to be protected by s. 43. In another, a mother is acquitted because the force used in touching her daughter in an attempt to calm her and bring her home was reasonable.

April 18/09  Parents who abandoned baby in parking garage sentenced
Globe and Mail – Parents who abandoned an 8-month old in a freezing Toronto parking garage on Jan 30/08 are sentenced to time served in jail since May/08 and a $300 fine. The child, named Angelica Leslie by the CAS, has since been adopted.

April 10/09  Hamilton police find children locked in filthy basement room
Toronto Star – Two boys, age 2 and 5, are rescued from a feces-smeared, dark, windowless basement room in Stoney Creek Mountain where it is alleged they were kept by relatives for periods of time. A third child may also have been confined. The children were found in a state of anxiety and fear. Bunk beds were soaked with urine and dead rats found outside the room. But two children living on the ground floor with grandparents lived in ‘impeccable’ conditions and were well cared for. Hamilton CAS had been checking on these children but was unaware of the children in the basement until they heard cries during a visit after police received a 911 call, presumably from one of the older children. The father, mother and 60-year-old grandmother are charged with forcible confinement. The grandmother is also charged with assault.

April 10/09  Violence breeds violence in Jane Creba murder
Globe and Mail – JSR, age 17 when he joined a gun battle in downtown Toronto that resulted in the death of innocent bystander, Jane Creba, was convicted of second-degree murder and is in court to determine whether he should be sentenced as a juvenile or adult. Although he did not fire the fatal bullet, he wounded 2 other people. Outlining what he termed a tragic childhood, counsel said that as a child JSR was beaten regularly by his mother, his father was deported to Jamaica, and he attended 9 schools in 9 years. ‘Love begets love but violence begets violence’, said his counsel.

Contending that JSR has shown signs of trying to turn his life around and could be reformed with treatment, counsel argued for sentencing as a juvenile. On April 25, however, the Globe reports that JSR is sentenced as an adult to life imprisonment and must serve at least 7 years before applying for parole. The judge said although he was ‘not unsympathetic’ to his troubled childhood, he must be ‘held accountable for what he chose to do.’ In an April 27 Toronto Star column, Rosie DiManno comments: “There can be little doubt, though, that knowing right from wrong is not so evident a moral choice when individuals are reared in a toxic environment of conflict and abandonment…”

April 8/09  UNCRC – a new ‘wedge issue’ by a US congressman 
Politico 44 – A Republican member of the House of Representatives (Pete Hoekstra, Mich.) introduces a bill to amend the U.S. Constitution to permanently “enshrine” in American society an inviolable set of parents’ rights. The bill has 70 Republican co-sponsors and is intended, Hoekstra says, to stem the “slow erosion” of parents’ rights and to circumvent the effects of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which he believes “clearly undermines parental rights in the United States.” The Convention emerged from relative obscurity most recently when, during the presidential campaign, then-Senator Obama replied to a question about it by saying he found it “embarrassing” that the United States stood with Somalia – the only other U.N. member that has not ratified the treaty — and promised to review it as president.

April 8/09  Toronto school principal again in trouble with police
Toronto Star – Elementary school principal, Maria Pantalone, is charged with 3 counts of threatening death and bodily harm following an incident that involved minors. As a result, she is on paid leave from her Ossington Junior School. The incident did not involve her school or her students and details are under a publication ban. She pled guilty on April 3/07 to throwing feces at a boy (not her student), was given an absolute discharge, and moved to another school by the board. Many parents think Pantalone an excellent principal and have petitioned for her return to school.

Ap 2/09 Toronto mother convicted of assault and feeding cocaine to toddler
Toronto Star – The mother who fed her 2-year old son cocaine over a period of 14 months, possibly in an effort to control him, and administered a near-lethal dose that left him brain-damaged is convicted of assault causing bodily harm, aggravated assault, failing to provide the necessities of life and administering a noxious substance. See Jan 23/09 News item for previous information.

April/09  A community newspaper ad by an Ontario supporter 
A supporter of repealing s. 43 has a small but eye-catching ad in the Kingsville Reporter, Kingsville, stating ‘Spanking is Wrong’. It references 3 websites, including our own, that support the prohibition of corporal punishment for disciplining children. We commend him for sponsoring and financing the ad and hope it will encourage others to do something similar. Community newspapers are a useful and relatively inexpensive way for individuals and groups to show support for repeal. Click for ad.

April/09  Repeal 43 member co-author of parenting workbook
Nanci Burns, a founding member of the Repeal 43 Committee, co-authors with Nancy Rubenstein a workbook for parents entitled Take your Temperment!  It’s described as a fun, hands-on series of exercises to help parents gain insight into nine key temperament traits and offers a fresh way of thinking about children’s behaviours and choices. Nanci has worked for the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board for 17 years as a social worker and prevention specialist and was instrumental in developing the Safe and Caring Schools Initiative. Before that she worked primarily in the area of violence prevention and helped establish the National Clearinghouse on Family Violence/Health Canada. She also spent several years at the Family Research Laboratory, University of New Hampshire.

Mar/09  Moldova latest country to ban corporal punishment
Global Initiative Newsletter – Moldova prohibits corporal punishment of children in all settings, including the family home. Moldova’s  Family Code now states that the child has the right to be protected against abuses, including corporal punishment, by his parents or persons who replace them and that methods to educate children will exclude abusive behaviour, insults and ill treatment of all types, discrimination, psychological and physical violence. Including Italy, which ended corporal punishment by judicial decision in 1996, a total of 25 countries have now prohibited all corporal punishment of children.

Mar 31/09  Alfie Kohn’s Unconditional Parenting – a new paradigm
In a feature article on the Globe and Mail’s Life section, Alfie Kohn’s book Unconditional Parenting is mentioned in connection with a new parenting movement called Consensual Living. Kohn’s book was published in paperback in 2006, with the sub-title Moving from Rewards and Punishment to Love and Reason and is described as ‘eye-opening and paradigm-shattering’ in its approach to bringing up children. In a brief reference to the overwhelming evidence that corporal punishment is harmful, Kohn adds that fundamental values are enough to justify opposition to it. “Hitting children clearly teaches them a lesson”, he writes, “and the lesson is that you can get your way with people who are weaker than you are by hurting them”.

March 30/09]  Inter-American Court confirms obligation to ban cp
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights confirms the human rights obligations of Member States of the Organization of American States to prohibit and eliminate all corporal punishment of children. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights had formally asked the Court for an advisory opinion on whether corporal punishment of children is compatible with various articles in the American Convention on Human Rights and the American Declaration of Human Rights and Duties. It did so because there is no inter-American standard stating that corporal punishment is incompatible with human rights and because it is widely practiced and lawful in most states – even though nearly all have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Mar 25/09  Judges reject new bill on non-family custody applications
Globe and Mail – In the wake of the beating death of 7-year-old Katelynn Sampson in the apartment of a ‘friend’ who had been granted custody by a Toronto family court judge (see our Jan 9/09 News item), the Ontario government introduced Bill 133 designed to prevent such deaths in future. The bill would allow the court to require any non-parent applying for custody to provide police checks, criminal record searches, current prosecution searches, and Children’s Aid Society records. These would be admissible in evidence in such custody applications. A group of 12 family court judges are opposing these requirements as unwieldy and obtrusive, saying it would make their job more difficult and burdensome.

Mar 24/09  Senator moves 2nd reading of amended Bill S-209 
Senator Hervieux-Payette moves 2nd reading of her amended bill to repeal s. 43 but asks leave of Senate to postpone her speech saying she has just received results from Europe of recent studies that provide new insights and would give senators ‘new food for thought’. She will speak on her bill when her research is finished.

Mar 23/09  Sibblies sentenced to 6 ½ years for  manslaughter of 1-year-old
Brampton Guardian – Garfield Sibblies was originally charged with 2nd degree murder but pled guilty to manslaughter of Elijah, a boy almost 1 year old. Sibblies was not Elijah’s father but was married to the child’s mother in a marriage of convenience. (See Nov 29/08 news item for first posting on case.) The child had 38 injuries to his scalp, face and torso. Sibblies also pinched the child and told the court that this was a form of discipline he believed was far less harmful than the belt he received growing up as a young boy. He is the son of internationally acclaimed reggae singer Leroy Sibbles. He is sentenced to 6 ½ years in jail, must submit his DNA to a national data bank and will be on 36 months probation during which he will be banned from being alone with children under 10. He must also undergo anger management and parental counselling.

Mar 22/09  Philippines parliamentary committee approves cp ban 
Philippine Daily Inquirer, Manila – A House committee has approved in principle a bill that would prohibit corporal punishment and all other forms of humiliating or degrading punishment of children in homes, schools and other places.

Mar 17/09  Research review shows negative effects of physical punishment
Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Arizona, Press Release – A report by Elizabeth T. Gershoff, PhD, University of Michigan, is a concise review of one hundred years of social science research and hundreds of published studies on physical punishment by psychology, medical, education, social work and sociology professionals on the effects of physical punishment of children. It concludes that physical punishment doesn’t improve children’s behavior in the long term, makes it more, not less, likely that children will be defiant and aggressive in the future, puts children at risk for negative outcomes, including increased antisocial behavior and mental health problems and puts them at greater risk of serious injury and physical abuse. The report is endorsed by several US medical organizations. See Research chapter for more information.

Mar 11/09  Former students of Sask school for deaf sue province for abuse
Globe and Mail –  More than 50 students of a Regina school for the deaf sue province of Saskatchewan for alleged abuse suffered at a provincial school. They allege physical and sexual abuse by both older students and staff from 1931 until 1991, when the school was closed.

Mar 7/09  Calgary toddler had life-threatening injuries in foster care
Globe and Mail – A 14-month-old boy with life-threatening injuries apparently received while in foster care is to be taken off life support. RCMP are investigating. The boy and his now-2-year-old sister were temporarily removed from their 21-year-old mother’s care in June. The mother says she has not been told how her son was injured and Children’s Services Minister, Janice Tarchuk has declined to release any information.

Mar 6/09  Nova Scotia mother furious after son confined in tiny closet
Globe and Mail – The 8-year-old boy in grade 2 was awaiting assessment for autism and would react violently if feeling trapped. Mother agreed with school that son could occasionally be placed in time-out room but was furious when she learned on a visit to the school that he was screaming and hollering from a storage closet 1 metre square. The Superintendent of Schools acknowledged this was unacceptable and will change guidelines for time-out rooms.

Feb 25/09  Ontario Child Advocate reports on 90 child deaths in 2007
In his first annual report as Ontario’s Advocate for Children and Youth, Irwin Elman, files his 2007-2008 report, entitled 90 Deaths – Ninety Voices Silenced. In it, he writes that 90 children known to Ontario child protection services died and that most of these deaths were preventable. Although 16 were accidental, almost all were accidents that could have been foreseen, 9 were suicides, 4 homicides, and the rest undetermined or still to be classified. 14 were not considered appropriate for investigation by a coroner. On the death of Katelynn Sampson in Toronto, he asks where were her schoolteachers who hadn’t seen her for months, where were her neighbours and other members of her community? In calling for more public investigation of these deaths, he emphasizes that the safety of children often depends on respect for their rights and on adults willing to listen.

Feb 23/09 New Canadian study shows genetic imprint left by child abuse
National Post – A new study at McGill University shows that childhood abuse can alter a person’s genetic profile, making them more vulnerable to suicide and less able to cope with stress later in life. The head of the team, Dr. Michael Meaney states, “Abuse is believed to be prevalent, with as many as 10 to 15% of children physically or sexually abused.” Last week one of his projects to identify Canadian children at risk of serious cognitive and behavioural disorders was held up as an example of the type of research Ottawa is no longer willing to fund, although the work is considered so important internationally that Dr. Meaney was asked to establish a similar program in Singapore. The Canadian government did not renew the project last year. The study is published in Nature Neuroscience. See Research chapter for link.

Feb 20/09  Evangelical lobbyist promoted to PM’s Deputy Chief of Staff
CIV Chinese in Vancouver – Darrel Reid, former head of Canada’s largest anti-gay lobby group, Focus on the Family Canada, has been promoted to Prime Minister Harper’s Deputy Chief of Staff. While working for Focus, Reid lobbied against same-sex marriage, the adding of sexual orientation to the list of minorities protected from hate crimes, and has actively promoted the harmful and discredited practice of conversion therapy for gays. He was initially awarded a government job by Harper in 2006 and has since been promoted several times across unrelated departments.

Comment: In an opinion piece for the Globe and Mail on Jan 23/02, Reid writes, among other things, that a concerted effort is being made in the courts to undermine parental authority by government funded activists such as the Canadian Foundation for Children, Youth and the Law and are “seeking to make criminals of the 70 per cent of Canadian parents who have spanked their children”. Focus on the Family, whose founder and international president writes that toddlers as young as 15 months should be hit with a switch for ‘willful disobedience’ is now well entrenched in our Prime Minister’s Office.

Feb 6/09  Abductor’s brutal childhood taken into account in sentencing
Toronto Star –  A 5-year prison sentence for an Ontario First Nations woman who abducted a baby from a maternity ward is cut in half by the Ontario Court of Appeal. The trial judge was faulted in a 2-1 ruling for not taking account of the woman’s background filled with physical, emotional and sexual abuse at the hands of her mother, uncle and common-law partners. The woman was beaten by 3 people while pregnant, causing her baby to be stillborn. Afraid to tell the father, she planed to replace her stillborn infant by one from the hospital and pled guilty when the abduction was discovered. The 2 appeal judges said the trial judge failed to follow a Supreme Court of Canada decision 10 years ago and now incorporated in the Criminal Code that requires courts to pay special attention to circumstances surrounding aboriginal people.

Question: Shouldn’t the courts be required to pay special attention to circumstances in all sentencing?

Feb 4/09  Winnipeg man sentenced for fracturing 8-year-old’s skull
Globe and Mail – The man had slammed his stepson’s head into the ground causing extensive skull fractures, bruises all over his body and double vision. He had pled guilty to aggravated and common assault and breach of probation. In sentencing him to 3 and 1/2 years in prison, the judge said: ‘There is no excuse for hurting a child to the extent this child was injured.’

Question: Is the judge implying that it’s ok to hurt a child, but not quite to this extent?

Feb 4/09   Community service for Halifax teacher who hit student
Globe and Mail – There were no cuts or bruises, but a special-needs student who was slapped in the face by a teacher suffered ‘significant emotional injury’, said the judge in giving a conditional sentence to a 57-year-old Bedford junior high school teacher for assaulting the boy. He was ordered to perform community service, have no contact with the boy and put on probation for 2 years. Because of the conditional discharge, the teacher won’t have a criminal conviction but will have to tell potential employers that he was found guilty of assault.

Jan 30/09  Youth accused of iPod murder ‘whacked daily’ as a child
Globe and Mail – SM is accused at age 17 in stabbing death of Michael Oatway, a bus passenger and stranger who wouldn’t give up his iPod when demanded. Born in Jamaica and brought up in Canada by his mother, SM was whacked daily and at age 6 turned up at school sobbing because his mother had hit him with a broom. He was diagnosed with a profound learning disability but his mother resisted attempts to get help and he began showing serious behavioural problems in school. See Articles/Letters for Feb 3/09 letterViolence breeds violence.

Jan 29/09 Bill S-209 to repeal S. 43 reintroduced in Senate
True to her word to keep introducing her bill to repeal s. 43 until it is passed by Parliament, Senator Hervieux-Payette, reintroduces Bill S-209 the day Parliament resumes after being prorogued in Dec/08. The Bill is the same as amended and passed by the Senate in June/08. As it has already been studied by 2 senate committees and passed with amendments, we hope it receives quick passage in the Senate and reaches the House of Commons before the next election. The amended bill needs changes and restructuring to make it crystal clear that its main purpose is to end legal approval of corporal punishment. Click for amended Bill S-209.

Jan 28/09 Elderly father sentenced for physical/sexual abuse of daughters
Globe and Mail – Marcelle Hamelin beat and sexually abused his 2 daughters when they were in elementary school in the late 1950s and early ‘60s. The daughters finally complained to police after their mother died 4 years ago and asked the court to publish their identities to encourage others to speak up. The result of the abuse was severe. One daughter lived as a vagabond; the other sank into alcoholism and depression and twice attempted suicide. But both say their lives are now on track. In sentencing the 93-year -old Montreal father to 2 years to be served in his old-age home, the court said that he never showed any empathy or compassion toward his daughters and no remorse or regret for his actions.

Jan 28/ 09 Should children be blamed and assaulted for correction?
Globe and Mail – The Minister of Justice for Nunavut loses his post for suggesting in an email that women are partly to blame when they are assaulted during domestic disputes. In demoting him to Minister of Languages and Culture, the Premier said no victim of violence should be faulted for initiating conflict and nothing can justify violence in an intimate relationship.

Comment: A child’s conduct in initiating conflict has always been at the heart of s. 43 and its justification for the violence inflicted as punishment. Although the Supreme Court wrote in its 2004 decision on s. 43 that ‘the punishment must not focus on the gravity of the child’s wrongdoing’, the law still sees children as blameworthy for initiating conflict and hence deserving of disciplinary assault by a parent. As the Nunavut Premier notes, an adult partner in an ‘intimate relationship’ cannot be legally assaulted for initiating conflict. The same reasoning should apply to children.

Jan 23/09 Mother on trial for assault and administering cocaine to toddler
Toronto Star – A 26-year old Toronto mother is on trial for aggravated assault, administering a noxious substance and failing to provide necessities of life for her then 2-year old son. Doctors found the toddler had numerous broken ribs in various stages of healing and that he had ingested cocaine over a 14-month period. He was admitted to hospital in 2005 after a massive cocaine overdose suffering from a seizure and close to death. He is now age 5, lives with his father, has permanent brain damage and requires a full-time teaching assistant at school.

On the same date, the Toronto Star reports that a 46-year old Ontario mother pled guilty to exposing her daughter to drugs over a 12-month period. The mother was a crack addict and lived with her daughter in what was described as a flophouse visited by crack addicts.
Also on the same date, the Globe and Mail reports that a mother in the UK pled guilty to child cruelty for letting her 3-year old son smoke cigarettes.

Jan 15/09 Homicide of 3-month old girl from severe brain injuries
Toronto Star – Niagara police confirm that a 3-month old baby girl died as a result of a deliberate act. The baby was taken to hospital in Nov/08 with severe brain injuries consistent with shaken baby syndrome and died in hospital. Charges have not yet been laid.

Jan 15/08 Manitoba foster father charged with murder of foster son
Toronto Star – Roderick Blacksmith, 29, of Gillam, Manitoba is charged with second-degree murder in death of his 13-month old foster son, Cameron Ouskan. The tattered reputation of child welfare in Manitoba is dealt another blow, says the report.

Jan 14/09 Dignity the most basic core value says Globe editorial
Globe and Mail – In an editorial about the polygamy prosecution of 2 men in Bountiful BC, the Globe writes that human dignity is the most basic of core values and that this implies protection of the vulnerable and commitment to equality. Polygamy is so unequal that it damages human dignity. Canada’s constitution, it writes, does not allow such affronts to dignity as (among other things) wife assault and ‘culturally specific practices as corporal punishment”.

Question: Is approval of corporal punishment of children a Canadian ‘culturally specific practice?

Jan 14/09 A more in-depth view of the Quebec parental punishment case
Globe and Mail: Les Perreaux, Montreal – The decision of Quebec Judge, Suzanne Tessier, that the father of a 12-year old girl could not discipline her by barring her from a 3-day school graduation trip to Quebec City in June/08 is now before Quebec’s Court of Appeal. (See our June 21/08 news item for previous info.)

The girl’s lawyer, Lucie Fortin, explained that the divorced parents share custody and the girl was living with her father but moved in with her mother in May/08. She did so because the father had barred her from the school trip as additional punishment for posting a ‘suggestive’ photo of herself on an on-line dating service. The mother was in favour of the trip, prepared to pay for it and planned to attend as a chaperone. The parents had therefore reached an impasse on the question and the school, which described the girl as a model student, refused to allow the trip because both parents didn’t agree. Lawyer Fortin argued that it was no ordinary trip because in addition to marking graduation, Quebec was celebrating its 400th anniversary. Since Quebec minors can initiate court proceedings on the exercise of parental authority, the 12-year old brought the action.

Comment: One could argue that this is more a question of joint custody rights between divorced parents than a question of parental punishment. In Ontario, the mother could apply to Family Court to decide the question as a matter of joint custody rights. Perhaps it was for procedural or other reasons that the decision was made to have the action brought by the girl herself. Outraged comments on Judge Tessier’s decision see it as a parent/child discipline case rather than a dispute between divorced parents.

Jan 10/09 20th Anniversary of adoption of UN Convention on Rights of Child
The Newsletter of The Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children reminds us that 2009 will be an important year for children. It is the target date set by the UN Study on Violence against Children for prohibition of all corporal punishment of children, including in the home; the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child; and 30 years since Sweden became the first state in the world to achieve equal protection from assault for its children.

Jan 9/09 Why alleged murderer was given custody of Katelynn
Our Aug 6/08 report on the beating death of 7-year-old Katelynn Sampson asks how it was that Katelynn’s alleged murderer, Donna Irving, obtained legal custody of Katelynn.
The Toronto Star reports that Katelynn’s mother had been charged with trafficking $40 worth of drugs and a conviction on this would have resulted in Katelynn being made a CAS ward. Rather than give her into CAS care, the mother decided to give Irving, who she considered a friend, custody while she (the mother) faced the drug charge; hoping to regain custody when she got her life back on track. The Family Court approved the custody arrangement. Following the child’s death, it was revealed that Irving had convictions for prostitution, drugs and violence.

MPP Peter Kormos filed a complaint to the Ontario Judicial Council against the judge who granted the custody order on the basis that she asked few questions during 3 hearings before awarding custody to Irving. On Dec 19/08, the Toronto Star reported that the Ontario Judicial Council dismissed the complaint, saying there were no indications that the child was in peril while being cared for by Irving and that it would not have been appropriate for the judge to undertake extensive inquiries on her own initiative.

In Nov/08, the Ont govt introduced child custody reforms that will require potential custodians to undergo police background checks, a file check by CAS, and that both parents and non-parents will be required to produce a plan for care of the child. (About 10% of custody applications in Ontario are by non-parents.) On Nov 25, the Toronto Star editorialized that it ‘boggles the mind’ that these reforms weren’t already in place. On Jan 8, Katelynn’s mother was given a conditional discharge on the drug conviction.

Jan 8/09 Preliminary hearing in death of daughter, Aqsa Parvez
Toronto Star – Aqsa’s father, Muhammad Parvez, and her 27-year old brother, face a preliminary hearing to determine whether they should be tried for murder of 16-year old Aqsa. The hearing began yesterday in Brampton, Ont and will likely last several weeks. The case has drawn international attention after friends said she quarreled with her father over her refusal to war a hijab. See our Dec 13/07 news item for initial info on case.

Jan 6/09 Manitoba mother appeals conviction for murder of 5-year old daughter
Toronto Star – The mother of 5-year old Phoenix Sinclair is appealing her conviction of first-degree murder in the death of her daughter. She and her common-law husband were convicted last month and sentenced to life with no chance of parole for 25 years. For some of the details on this horrific case, see our Nov 14/08 news item. On Nov 28/08, the Toronto Star reported a Winnipeg pathologist’s testimony that the child was likely in constant pain the before her death.

Jan 5/09 Australian research says prohibiting CP could reduce fatal child abuse
Herald Sun, Australia – Research by Australian doctors reported in the Jan 5 issue of The Medical Journal of Australia concludes that child homicide rates could be slashed if parents were banned from smacking their children. Of the 165 cases of child homicide in New South Wales between 1991 and 2005, 36% were caused by physical punishment. Saying that the risks associated with physical punishment were too great to allow smacking to continue, the call for reform is being backed by the Australian Childhood Foundation.

As well as being responsible for a third of child homicides, the lead researcher, Dr Olav Nielssen, of Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital, said hitting children created a circle of violence, with abused children often becoming bullies at school and behaving anti-socially in the community. He said smacking bans, combined with strong public education about ways to better discipline children, would make the biggest difference in reducing Australia’s child homicide rates. See Research chapter for info and link to study.

Jan 4/09 US boy convicted of murdering mother for slapping and yelling
Toronto Star – A 12-year old Arizona boy who fatally shot his mother after an argument over chores is found guilty of premeditated murder. His lawyer argued that he did not intend to kill mother but only to get back at her for slapping and yelling at him. On Jan 5, The Independent reports that the mother slapped, cursed and had verbally abused the boy for years. The boy was sentenced to at least 4 years. (This is the second case of an Arizona boy killing a parent. See Nov 27/08 item.)

Jan 1/09 Research finds spanking is common in most maltreatment cases
A study conducted by Canada’s foremost researchers in the field of physical child abuse
finds that ‘reasonable’ spanking of children, as allowed by the Supreme Court of Canada in its 2004 decision redefining s. 43, in fact characterizes most cases of child physical maltreatment in Canada. The research is published in the Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma. See Research chapter for info and link to study.

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