Canadian Liberal Senator Seeks to Criminalize Spanking as a Form of Discipline

OTTAWA, June 7, 2005 ( – A private members bill currently before the Canadian Senate seeks to criminalize spanking as a form of discipline by parents. Introduced as Senate Bill S-21 in December, the private member bill was sponsored by Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette – a Chretien-appointed Liberal.

The bill seeks to amend the criminal code, Clause 1: Section 43, which states, “Every schoolteacher, parent or person standing in the place of a parent is justified in using force by way of correction toward a pupil or child, as the case may be, who is under his care, if the force does not exceed what is reasonable under the circumstances.”

The Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs debated the bill Thursday, with Conservative Senator Anne Cools defending the status quo. At one point, according to an unrevised transcript of the meeting, Liberal Senator Lorna Milne implied that because Americans have the right to bear arms and spanking is not criminalized in all states, “let us hope that they do not shoot their children.”

“To make a statement which assumes that ordinary, average parents wish to shoot their children is really quite objectionable,” Senator Cools responded. “We must distinguish at all times between deviant behaviour,” she emphasized in defence of the bill. “For the most part, parents who are excessively mean to their children are deviant. The majority of human beings fall into the middle of the bell curve. For the most part, most parents are not excessively mean or nasty to their children. I think we should respect that. This bill should not be going ahead on the premise that ordinary parents are nasty to their children. I have a lot of problems with this enlightened view that the whole world is out there to be remade in the image of the enlightened.”

“I have made it my business to study many cases and to read many judgments,” Senator Cools added in defence of allowing parents reasonable corrective force. She expressed her concern that removing section 43 of the criminal code would lead to frivolous charges against parents who have nothing but the best interests of their children at heart. “The potential for mischievous and vexatious prosecutions is enormous. This country has had a plethora of wrongful convictions in the last many years, and a plethora of false accusations, particularly in the field of family violence. This concerns me.”

“What concerns me is that ordinary parents who may slap a child as a manner of correction, and not even in excessive rage, will suddenly find themselves subject to the risk of prosecution,” she continued. “It is an act of arrogance on our part to believe we can place laws and then say to people, ‘Follow them, because we are so enlightened that we will teach you how to be good, kind and gentle people.’”

“I hate to tell you, but despite the existence of all laws against assault and against murder, there is still that child abuse, and there is no law that will stop that,” the Senator added. “I do not believe that every parent who may slap a child is an abusive parent or a parent who should be exposed to the weight of criminal prosecution.”


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