By Dina Kok
A private member’s bill currently before the Canadian Senate seeks to criminalize spanking as a form of discipline by parents. Introduced as Senate Bill S-21 this past December, the bill was sponsored by Senator Celine Hervieux-Payette, a Liberal senator appointed by Jean Chretien.
The bill is seeking to amend Clause 1 of Section 43 of the Criminal Code, which currently states that any school teacher, parent, or person standing in place of the parent is justified in using reasonable force by way of correction of a pupil or child.
The private bill was debated in the Senate in early June by the Senate Committee of Legal and Constitutional Affairs. Conservative Senator Anne Cools stood in defence of the Criminal Code as it is, wishing to maintain the status quo.
Liberal Senator Lorna Milne commented about Americans, their right to bear arms and their lack of strict regulations on spanking: “Let us hope that they do not shoot their children.” Senator Cools responded to the flip remark: “To make a statement which assumes that ordinary, average parents wish to shoot their children is really quite objectionable.”
Cools continued in defence of the present spanking law: “We must distinguish at all times between deviant behaviour. For the most part, parents who are excessively mean to their children are deviant. The majority of human beings fall into the middle of the bell curve … This bill should not be going ahead on the premise that ordinary parents are nasty to their children.”
This is not the first time Canada’s spanking laws have been called into question. Last year, after numerous court challenges, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the spanking law does not violate the rights of children. The court affirmed that the negative impacts of turning parents who employ reasonable physical punishment on their children into criminals goes far beyond what is required to protect children. The court said that the destruction caused by family disruption is far more traumatic to children than physical discipline.