Why We Need to Repeal the So-Called “Spanking Law.”


Over the last month there has been a lot of media discussion about physical punishment of children and the fact that Canada has a law which specifically outlines rules for the hitting of our most vulnerable citizens, our children. A few weeks ago I wrote and article for the North Shore News which I am now going to share with you.

Like all articles, it will not answer all your questions but it’s a good start. If you want to learn more go to Corinne’s Quest the website that talks about this issue and also has a place where you can sign up to support our campaign.

 Why Do We Need to Repeal the “Spanking Law”?

What is this so-called ‘spanking’ law and why should we care? Over the past month there has been much discussion in both traditional media and social media about physical punishment of children and many parents are wondering about the issue.

Most parents today understand that hitting children isn’t the most effective or respectful way to handle misbehaviour. As a matter of fact, many parents are flabbergasted to learn that there is a section of our Criminal Code which not only permits the hitting of children, it defines when and how you can hit. So what does this section say?

Section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada

Every schoolteacher, parent or person standing in the place of a parent is justified in using force by way of correction toward a pupil or child, as the case may be, who is under his care, if the force does not exceed what is reasonable under the circumstances.

 Now this was challenged in courts and adapted, although the wording has never been adjusted in the Criminal Code.

So now we live in a country that has specific rules for hitting kids. Imagine!

Under the law, only parents may now use reasonable force solely for purposes of correction but teachers can use reasonable force to remove or restrain a child when necessary. Corporal punishment cannot be administered to children under two or over 12.

The law also says that discipline by the use of objects or blows or slaps to the head is unreasonable. Only minor corrective force of a “transitory and trifling nature” may be used and the physical punishment must be corrective, which rules out conduct stemming from the caregiver’s frustration, loss of temper or abusive personality.

The question of what is “reasonable under the circumstances” requires an “objective” test and “must be considered in context and in light of all the circumstances of the case.

In other words, you can only hit children between the ages of two and twelve, you can only hit them below the neck and you can’t use an object (i.e.: strap, belt, hairbrush) when you hit them. That’s what the law now says.

In this day and age, this is appalling. The research is clear. Any physical punishment of children carries with it clear risk factors. These include an impaired parent child relationship because when fear is the basis for the relationship it creates a block between parent and child. It can lead to poor child mental health because the child cannot understand why this person that loves him is hurting him. He can also start to feel like a bad person. The most obvious outcome can be child aggression. When kids experience their parents hitting them they learn that aggression is an appropriate response to anger or frustration.

And it doesn’t end, just because you grow up. Many adults still carry either physical or emotional scars from the physical punishment they experienced as children.

Not all children who experience corporal punishment turn out to be aggressive or delinquent. But it increases the risk of injury and abuse.

Finally, a very important point is that corporal punishment does not help children internalize what is right from what is wrong. It simply teaches them that if they don’t comply with the rules they will be hit. When we use fear as a motivator, when the fear stops the behaviour is likely to stop. So a child who is no longer afraid of their parent or who is over the age of twelve when physical punishment is not permitted will not have internalized the rules and is more likely to become delinquent.

Section 43 is not necessary. We can simply remove it and support parents to discipline their children in ways that are effective and respectful.

Kids do not ever need to suffer pain from the hands of their parents. They do need to experience positive discipline techniques that will teach them right from wrong.

Forty-eight countries have taken the step to prohibit physical punishment of their children. We no longer want to live in a country that permits parents to hurt kids, so let’s be the forty-ninth country to act to protect our children from physical punishment.

And that is why we need to see an end to Section 43 of the Criminal Code. If you want to learn more, go to our website.

Two kids, two temperaments. Taking their unique temperaments into account.

Sarah is shy, Jared is bossy and Pat is easy-going. What do we need to know about different temperaments?

Every child is unique and different. My mini guide e-book, Vive la Différence: Raising Children with Different Temperaments addresses some of the temperaments we see in our kids.

I looked at my two children who are as different as night and day. Then I consider my siblings and we are a textbook example of different.

But, now I have three grandchildren, all the same age and the differences from their births has been striking.

The result is the e-parenting mini guide, Vive la Différence: Raising Children with Different Temperaments. The guide is available on my website.

How Can I Bring Kathy to My Community?

I offer keynotes and workshops, have written books and have ongoing newspaper columns, books, blogs and newsletters.

And, no matter what the actual topic, they all share a basic value that I call:

P.U.R.E. Parenting.

P — is a parenting plan

U — is unconditional love

R — is respect for your child as he is right now

E — is encouragement

I look forward to working with you for your professional development, workplace wellness or parenting education event.



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2 Responses to Why We Need to Repeal the So-Called “Spanking Law.”

  1. David Gouthro says:

    Kathy, while I totally support repealing the law, I also believe there is a need to better equip parents with the tools they need to parent without violence (conscious or unconscious). Not sure how to best do that, but it would include skills like stress management, creative problem solving, mindful parenting, self-regulation, etc. Perhaps too much to deal with at once! Fixing the law is a great and important piece of the puzzle; however, having speed limits on roads doesn’t stop people from speeding, and prohibiting drinking and driving doesn’t stop people from doing exactly that! Changing the behaviour is more important than changing the law. That being said, all of your great efforts to change the law raises the issue in the public eye and hopefully raises the ability of parents to use (or learn to use) more effective and less damaging parenting choices.

    • Kathy Lynn says:

      David, Absolutely. Our mission at Corinne’s Quest 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”.
      There are already good resources out there to help parents learn to parent children in a positive and healthy way and certainly many parents use those skills on a regular basis. I am convinced that once 43 is repealed many more parenting courses will be provided. During the eighties and nineties there was a raft of parenting support available for parents but then it fizzled out.
      Your comments about speeding etc. are apt but at least we have determined that speeding and drinking and driving are not acceptable in Canada.
      In the past S43 included servants, apprentices, and prisoners but now only children can be legally assaulted in Canada. It is appalling. Violence against children should be against the law, not defined by it
      There are parents who us 43 as a justification for hitting kids and some who even believe it assumes that this is the correct way to raise a child.

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