Legal Eagle: Law of Spanks
- Dawn Dumont | January 27, 2016
Here’s a question that many parents may be considering now that they can no longer use Santa Claus threats: Is it legal to spank your child?
Not only is it legal for you to hit your child, it’s legal for other people to take a crack at them. The “Spanking Law” or more specifically, section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada reads as follows:
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.
Before everyone goes on a wild spanking spree, the Supreme Court restricted this law to parents, guardians (standing in the place of parents) and teachers in the 2004 case, The Canadian Foundation for Youth and Children v. Canada. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, babysitters etc. are not allowed to spank (or use force.) Also, because the force is supposed to have a “corrective’ or “educative” purpose, you cannot spank a child younger than two because they wouldn’t understand the point of the spanking. And you cannot spank a child over twelve because the court did not believe there would be corrective value over that age (also you’d probably put your back out trying to get a 14 years old over your knee.) In addition, parents must use reasonable force. They cannot, for instance, strike children with the intent to harm them – although I’m sure most children would argue that even a mild spanking harms the hell out of them.
The judges also ruled that parents could not hit children with belts, rulers or other objects, nor slap them anywhere on the head – although if you need to be told not to do that…yikes. Finally, the court ruled that teachers are not able to use corporal punishment but they could use force to restrain a child.
So as the law stands right now, it is still legal to spank your kids. However, there is a movement to get the government to repeal the Spanking Law. Last month, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) released their final report and their list of recommendations; number six on the list was repealing section 43 which would mean it would be illegal to spank your child. On this subject, the TRC says that “corporal punishment is a relic of a discredited past and has no place in Canadian schools or homes.” Prime Minister Trudeau says he will implement all of the recommendations, including the Spanking Law.
There may be opposition to the repeal. The Canadian Teaching Federation argues that teachers may need to use force to restrain students to protect them from harm. Without section 43, these teachers could be charged for doing something like breaking up a fight. Also, some argue that repealing the law impedes parent’s ability to parent their children effectively or in the manner that they choose.
And too, there are those that say that parents are already too easy on their children, that it is permissive parents that are dragging society down. The holders of this opinion are usually elderly men sweeping their driveways. They also, reportedly, would like you to stay off their lawns.
However, spanking is banned in over 50 countries in the world without a measurable increase in the world going to hell. For instance, Sweden banned spanking in 1979. Since that time, youth crime has neither increased nor decreased, but theft convictions and suspects in narcotics crimes among Swedish youth have all significantly decreased; youth drug and alcohol use and youth suicide have also decreased.
I would also argue that spanking isn’t an effective deterrent. When I was spanked, it did not improve my behaviour. I would momentarily stop whatever bad thing I was doing while I screamed and cried for a few minutes. But then I would resume my behaviour but in an underhanded manner. So if you want sneaky kids, then spanking may be the way to go.
Parenting is the most difficult job in the world – and I include stripper for the vision impaired in that – which means parents have to employ innovative solutions to problems. A friend of mine says that instead of spanking, her husband would threaten to fart if their child didn’t start behaving immediately – and the weird thing is, that threat always worked. So maybe its time to give your spanking arm a rest and break out the beans.