Last week there was a flurry of media activity discussing the question of physical punishment of children. The Vancouver Province covered it as a front page article with a short video on their website. Come and take a look.
This is not a new issue. The question of whether children need to suffer pain at the hands of their parents has been on my agenda throughout my career.
Today I thought I would take a bit of a trip down memory lane and talk about my experiences with social policy issues as they affect families.
Children’s Rights Come First
I remember being in a car with a social work supervisor over fifty years ago when I was a young, green child protection worker. The ink was hardly dry on my university certificate. Now I was being introduced to the reality of day-to-day work in the field.
As we drove around Calgary this woman quietly said the words sexual abuse. She told me in hushed tones that there were actually some people who abused children in this fashion. To both of us, this was unbelievable.
This was an experienced worker who had been working with families for years. But this was a new and awful discovery for her. At that time it was still being whispered. Social workers were becoming aware that children had been abused for generations but no one looked, no one saw and no one recognized the problem.
I remember discussions about spousal abuse. That was in the 1970s. Women were being battered in their homes and at first no-one knew quite what to do about it. Once it is seen and recognized, what next? One argument said that if we started to deal with this and sent the offenders off to jail, we would break up families and clog up the courts. Was that a good decision? There was also some discussion about ethnic variations. Was it more acceptable for men from some cultures to beat their wives than those from others?
Today these thoughts seem unbelievable. No child should be sexually abused and keeping a family together is not a reason to protect abusers from their child victims. Abusers are criminals, plain and simple. No spouse should be beaten no matter what the situation. Violence is not an answer and battering is a crime.
Today the discussion is the same but the situation has changed. Now it’s children. Should we decide that the smacking, swatting, hitting and spanking of children is assault? Well actually, more and more of us do believe that hitting kids just isn’t appropriate or effective. But too many of us are unwilling to take a stand because we don’t want to see parents get in trouble.
The reality is that the goal of ending physical punishment of children is not to criminalize parents; it is to protect children. And the law considers that. The law simply does not prosecute minor offenses. For example, if I am in a bar with a friend and having an argument and I reach over and slap him, that is technically assault. The reality is that if the police were called; they would send me home and tell me to calm down and sober up. It would not be prosecuted because of the common law de minimus rule against prosecuting trivial breaches of the law. So, in the case of physical punishment, banning it would not change this. The rule against prosecutions for trivial breaches of the law would still apply.
Do you want to learn more? I am the chair of a campaign called Corinne’s Quest: End Physical Punishment of Children. Our mission is to promote the raising of children in a positive, non-violent manner and to press for repeal of Section 43 of the Criminal Code.
It’s time for us to take a stand. It’s time for us to tell our new government to stand up for children. To protect them from physical punishment.
Come to our site, read over the information, sign on as a supporter.
Our children deserve our support. They are our most vulnerable citizens and protecting them is our responsibility.