(Canada) Supreme Court to consider spanking
By Kirk Makin
October 17, 2002

Globe and Mail Update

The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear a case involving the legality of parents and teachers spanking their children for disciplinary purposes.

The court granted the Canadian Foundation for Children, Youth and the Law leave to appeal in the spanking case yesterday, setting the stage for a final battle over the issue.

Last January, the Ontario Court of Appeal disappointed a coalition of anti-spanking advocates by ruling that parents and teachers are free to spank children for disciplinary purposes - provided they use reasonable force.

A 3-0 majority conceded that the worth of spanking remains unproved, but they also said it is equally unclear that there is any direct link between corporal punishment and negative developments in a child's future.

The appeal court concluded that the law strikes a fair balance between the state and the interests of children.

Child advocates were stung by the ruling, having hoped it would become illegal to strike a child for any reason.

An umbrella group - the Coalition to Repeal Section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada - issued a release on Thursday applauding the Supreme Court for agreeing to hear the case.

"The Repeal 43 Committee has worked to end this dangerous and unjust defence to assaults on children and welcomes the Supreme Court decision to hear this appeal," the group said.

The government, however, is not without allies in attempting to uphold the spanking provision. Some teachers groups are among those who believe there must be provision for occasional use of force.

In a letter to the editor of The Globe and Mail earlier this year, Canadian Teachers Federation president Doug Willard said the elimination of the section would prevent teachers from dealing with potentially dangerous or disruptive situations.

"Why should teachers risk criminal prosecution for assault for returning a student to line, restraining a cognitively challenged student during a physical outburst, of removing a disruptive child from the classroom," Mr. Willard asked.

"Separating a taunting bully from a student or placing an unco-operative child on a school bus are other examples of daily situations confronting teachers during which 'reasonable force under the circumstances' may be required." Copyright 2002 | Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc.


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