Canada's Pediatricians Weigh In... But Lightly

by Ivan Gowch, December 1997
Canada's pediatricians had some good news and some bad news for us in the spanking debate.

In a paper setting out its guidelines on child discipline, the Canadian Pediatric Society came out strongly against all forms of corporal punishment of children.

The guidelines are for doctors who are asked by parents about disciplinary matters, and suggests its members recommend time-outs and other alternative methods of behavior modification.

"Overall, we are strongly discouraging any kind of spanking, in 99 per cent of cases," said Emmett Francoeur, the society's vice-president.

Those last six words, of course, represent the bad news.

Showing themselves to be shamefully chickenhearted in the face of continuing public support for hitting children, the pediatricians declined to throw their support behind the growing movement to repeal Section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada.

Section 43, of course, expressly authorizes parents, teachers and guardians to use "reasonable" force in the "correction" of children, and many parents and educators believe it is this tacit approval of child abuse that has led to countless cases of injury and even death to children.

Leaving no doubt that it was the fear of negative public reaction that prompted the doctors to hold back from urging a complete ban on corporal punishment, Francoeur added, "There has to be the one per cent, because we have to be open to families that really feel this is important."

The paper argues against embarrassing and humiliating children, and says spanking infants and adolescents is particularly harmful.

Despite the society's pusillanimous hesitation to urge a complete ban on hitting children, however, Francoeur partially redeemed the doctors by leaving no doubt about how they really feel about the practice.

Noting that attitudes towards spanking have changed in the past several decades, he said, "I think a lot of grandparents nowadays probably feel kind of guilty when they hear all these discussions. I mean, this is very novel to them, to hear that this really is abusive and humiliating and crushing for little children to be spanked."

Too bad the docs allowed one per cent of the population to intimidate them from prescribing the medicine they so obviously know is necessary.

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