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Parents to be Criminalized
June 20, 2007 permalink
To achieve the worthy goal of reducing the level of spanking of children, reformers are proposing a change that would criminalize the most trivial use of force on a child. In the future all parents will be criminals.
Parents could face spanking charges
Justice department lawyers warn. Strapping toddlers into car seats could lead to assault prosecutions if law changed
Removing the parental defence in the Criminal Code to prevent parents from spanking their children could lead to parents being slapped with assault charges for something as simple as trying to strap a screaming toddler into a car seat, Justice department lawyers warned a senate committee yesterday.
Testifying before the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights yesterday, justice department officials Gillian Blackell and Elissa Lieff warned the threshold for charges of simple assault is very low and the Criminal Code is a very blunt instrument.
Technically, all that is needed is the intent to apply any force against someone's will, they said.
Thus, without Section 43 of the Criminal Code which allows parents to use reasonable force by way of correction, parents could easily face criminal charges, they warned.
"If Section 43 was simply repealed, any non-consensual force that a parent or teacher uses on a child or pupil could be an assault, given the broad definition under the Criminal Code," Blackell said.
"There would no longer be a statutory defence to criminal charges where the force used is minor corrective force of a transitory or trifling nature," she said.
"Parents who physically put a reluctant child in a car seat or remove a child to their bedroom for a time-out are applying non-consensual force and could be convicted of simple assault," Blackell added.
The Supreme Court has already put limits on the way in which parents can use force to correct their children's behaviour, they added.
The justice officials were the last to testify yesterday as the committee wrapped up its hearings into a bill tabled by Quebec Liberal Senator Celine Hervieux-Payette, which could open the door to parents who routinely spank their children facing charges of assault.
The bill, which goes to clause by clause consideration, would remove the defence currently contained in Section 43 of the Criminal Code for parents and educators who resort to corporal punishment as a disciplinary measure.
In a comprehensive report tabled in April on the rights of children, the committee recommended that Section 43 of the Criminal Code be repealed by April 2009.
The committee also recommended the government launch an information campaign on the negative effects of corporal punishment, research alternative methods of discipline and examine whether alternate defences should be made available to those charged with assaulting a child.
Conservative Senator Raynell Andreychuk, chairwoman of the committee and a former judge, said the challenge for the committee will be how to balance its desire to prevent corporal punishment while still allowing parents the possibility of using reasonable restraint.
Currently, following a Supreme Court ruling, it is illegal for parents to strike a child under the age of 2 or over the age of 12.
However, it is legal to use reasonable force "by way of correction" for children between those ages.
Many members of the committee, however, questioned whether corporal punishment was acceptable at any age.
"There's no such thing as reasonable force," said Senator Jim Munson, pointing out many countries around the world have banned corporal punishment of children.
"You either hit a child or you don't hit a child."
Recalling his own experience in school, Senator Romeo Dallaire said times have changed and so should Canada's law.
"If I wrote with my left hand, the brothers smashed me with a ruler because God didn't want me to write with my left hand."
Source: Montreal Gazette