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Steve Weatherbe

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Trudeau’s Liberals pledge to repeal law allowing spanking

Steve Weatherbe

OTTAWA, December 22, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – An election vow by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to implement all 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has parents and parenting experts concerned he will “throw the baby out with the bathwater” and abolish corporal punishment.

The sixth of the 94 “calls to action” from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission states that “corporal punishment is a relic of a discredited past and has no place in Canadian schools or homes.”

Trudeau's office did not respond to LifeSiteNews’ inquiries, but the office of Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould confirmed to the Globe and Mail that they are committed to implementing each of the calls to action.

A spokesman, Christian Girouard, added to the Toronto Star, “At this point, we cannot speculate on potential legislative or policy approaches to address this issue.”

The Criminal Code, in Article 43, allows parents and teachers “reasonable” use of force. It 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.”

Several attempts have been made over the years to remove Article 43 from the Criminal Code via private members’ bills in the House of Commons, but all have failed.

The Supreme Court upheld article 43 in 2004, but limited its scope, particularly by restricting the use of corporal punishment to children between the ages of two and 12.

The Conservative government under Stephen Harper supported the law out of respect for parental rights. Another opponent of repeal is the Canadian Teachers Federation (CTF), which argues that it would remove protections for teachers.

“There are times that teachers need to physically intervene with students,” CTF president Heather Smith told the Globe and Mail. “Section 43 certainly does not give teachers or any other adult a licence to abuse, but what it does do is provide some protection if physical intervention is required.”

Another major opponent is the parental rights movement. “I don’t want to be criminalized for being a loving and firmly guiding parent to my nine-year-old,” Harold Hoff, founder of Keep 43, told LifeSiteNews. “The commission conflated abject child abuse against First Nations children with constructive physical discipline engaged in by 80% of Canadian parents.”

Hoff told LifeSiteNews that academic studies in recent years that track children into adulthood show that parenting that integrates corporal punishment into a consistent system balancing reasonable limits and love produces the happiest, most successful children.

On the other hand, Hoff warned, “If you handcuff parents and force them into permissive parenting models that don’t work on the more oppositional children, it leads to explosive situations, and rampant abuse.”

On the other side of debate, Kathy Lynn of Corinne’s Quest argues that corporal punishment is akin to “assaulting” children. “In 2015, no child needs to be assaulted in order to learn how to behave appropriately. If we truly want Canada to be a non-violent society we should not be assaulting our children,” she told LifeSiteNews.

“30 years of research shows that the bottom line on corporal puinishment, no matter what the demographics, no matter what the social strata, corporal punishment is associated with certain risk factors. Children learn to use violence on each other and they have reduced self-esteem and develop a bad personal image,” she continued. The explanation for this, Lynn said, is that corporal punishment teaches children that “violence is a way to solve problems.”

While Lynn’s view is that of many researchers, mental health and medical groups, there are holdouts who view this research as badly skewed by lumping considered use of spanking with angry outbursts of physical abuse.

Among them is Robert Larzelere, an expert on parenting discipline at Oklahoma State University’s Human Sciences College. His decades of research lead him to conclude that “corporal punishment is an appropriate option for oppositional children. If you take that away then those children are more likely to misbehave and grow up to a life of crime.”

Both Hoff and Larzelere cite studies on what happened to the children raised in Sweden after it a criminalized corporal punishment in 1981. Reports Larzelere: “Adult abuse of children increased 22 times, physical abuse of minors by minors went up 24 times, and rape of children rose 73 times. If you get rid of corporal punishment,” he warned, “you are throwing out the baby with the bathwater.”

Larzelere said corporal punishment was used best as a backup between the ages of two and six, when milder forms of correction, such as time outs or withdrawal of privileges, were met with defiance. Some children are inherently “oppositional,” he said, and corporal punishment had been shown by experimentation to be the most effective way to bring them into compliance. “If you don’t, some boys will learn that they are more powerful than their mother and that they don’t have to take no for an answer from anyone who is weaker than they are.”

Research conducted by Larzelere and Diana Baumrind indicated that the worst parenting style was the “authoritarian” approach, which combined impulsive violent reactions to misbehaviour with a lack of consistent rules and of love. The second worst was the “permissive” model, which combined love with a lack of limits. The “authoritative” approach was the best in terms of the children’s later happiness and success. It balanced love with firm and reasonable limits, enforced by corporal punishment.

Mark Penninga of the Association for Reformed Political Action said Parliament has been right so far to reject efforts at overturning article 43. “Parliament has to respect the jurisdiction of other institutions, in particular the family,” he told LifeSiteNews.

Penninga too cites the Swedish experience, noting that the year after corporal punishment was criminalized, 22,000 children were taken by the government from their families. How wrongheaded the Canadian government would be, said Penninga, if it took an action leading to removal of children from their homes “in the name of First Nations children taken from their homes and forced into residential schools.”

But parents’ rights advocates like Hoff worry that this is exactly what could happen. Hoff has sent every new MP a compendium of research on corporal punishment. This appeal to reason may prove inadequate, however, given the disrespect for his MPs’ freedom of conscience and mind that Trudeau has already displayed when he ruled prior to the election that no candidates could stand for Liberals who did not share his enthusiasm for abortion.

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