Calgary Herald, December 4, 1999

Law gives adults defence to assault children, group says

TORONTO (CP) - Child advocacy groups will go to court next week to fight Canada's corporal punishment law, which allows the use of reasonable force in correcting a child.

The Canadian Foundation for Children Youth and the Law, which represents a number of children's rights groups, is asking Ontario's Superior Court to repeal Section 43 of the Criminal Code.

It says the law creates a defence for teachers, parents and caregivers such as babysitters charged with assaulting youngsters, and has been used to justify hitting children and teenagers with belts, electrical cords, and plastic rulers.

In one case earlier this year, a child was beaten with a horse harness, which resulted in welts, the groups say.

If the groups succeed in having the law declared unconstitutional, parents are still unlikely to be charged for delivering a mild spanking, says Paul Schabas, a lawyer representing the foundation.

"This case is not going to result in the criminalization of spanking," he says.

"We don't approve of spanking. And what this case is about is trying to get rid of the message that hitting kids, which includes spanking, is all right."

The Attorney General of Canada, who will oppose the challenge, says Parliament must recognize the family as a fundamental unit in Canadian society and parents should not be criminalized for the form of discipline they choose.

In its court brief, however, the federal government says it shares the foundation and children's aid societies' goal of protecting children, and agrees parents should be educated not to strike kids in the name of discipline.

The Canadian Press, 1999

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