Ottawa Citizen

The law of the hand

- Shelley Page

Since Sweden first outlawed spanking in 1979, an increasing number of mostly European countries, including Austria, Germany and Spain, but also South Sudan and Kenya (in 2010) have followed.

In all, 32 countries now ban physical discipline of children.

In the United States, many African and most Asian countries, spanking, whipping, smacking or slapping by parents is legal, along with the use of paddles or belts.

In Canada in 2004, the Supreme Court, in a split decision, upheld the constituti­onality of Section 43 — the so-called spanking law — but narrowed the grounds on which this law can be used as a defence in the assault of a child.

Parents and caregivers can use reasonable “force by way of correction” as long as the child is not under 2 years or over 12 years of age, the head is not hit or slapped, and no implement, such as a belt or a paddle, is used to strike the child. The force cannot be used out of frustratio­n or loss of temper and the child must be capable of learning from the discipline. Teachers can use force to remove a child from a classroom or make a child comply with instructio­ns.

In 2010, Senator Celine HervieuxPa­yette tabled her fifth private member’s bill to amend or repeal Section 43. There have been a total of 14 private member’s bills — from the Senate and the House of Commons to amend or repeal the section. None have succeeded.

Meanwhile, the Joint Statement on Physical Punishment of Children and Youth was published in 2004.

It has been endorsed by over 400 Canadian organizati­ons, including the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, the Canadian Institute of Child Health, Child Welfare League of Canada, as well as children’s aid societies across the country. Endorsemen­ts are posted at www.cheo.on.ca/en/physicalpu­nishment.

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