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Making spanking illegal could hurt families and children: Cardus Family

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Making spanking illegal could hurt families and children: Cardus Family
By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News

Photo Caption: Senator Murray Sinclair, with his granddaughter on the day the former Chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its Calls to Action in June 2015. He is shown with the two other commissioners Chief Wilton Littlechild and Marie Wilson. (Canadian Catholic News)

As an anti-spanking bill winds through the Senate, Cardus Family warns passing it could do “more harm than good” and still fail to prevent child abuse.

Bill S-206, introduced in December 2015 by Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette, would remove Criminal Code Section 43, which allows parents and teachers to use “reasonable force” when disciplining children in their care.

“The main problem of repealing section 43 is the use of state coercion to tell parents how to parent,” says Cardus Family in a Jan. 26 publication.

Sen. Hervieux-Payette has since retired, so former Truth and Reconciliation Commission  Chair Senator Murray Sinclair is shepherding the bill, now at second reading, through the Senate.

The physical abuse many Indigenous children suffered in the Indian Residential Schools prompted the TRC to call for the repeal of Section 43 in one of its 94 Calls to Action that Prime Minister Trudeau has promised to implement.

In “Parental Discipline: The Case for Keeping Section 43,” Cardus Family said the abuse experienced by First Nations children “would be clearly illegal even with Section 43.” The abuse started with forcibly removing the children from their homes, Cardus Family argues. “This abuse stemmed from interference with parents, just as repealing Section 43 likewise interferes in the lives of parents.”

In a review of countries where bans on force are in place, Cardus Family found “children have been removed from their homes unnecessarily.”

“The removal of Section 43 will put good parents at risk of criminal sanction and will not help protect children from abuse,” the study says.

“Spanking bans are not an example of evidence-based policy making,” said Andrea Mrozek, program director for Cardus Family. “Repealing Section 43 would give the government another opportunity to intrude into the homes and lives of loving parents seeking to discipline their children reasonably.”

The report shows many of the studies linking spanking to harm fail to distinguish between “spanking used appropriately and abuse.”

Since Sweden banned reasonable force in 1979, criminal assaults by and against minors have “sky-rocketed in Swedish criminal statistics,” and children under seven have experienced an increase in child abuse 21 times higher than previously, the study says. In Sweden minor-against-minor violence is up 23 times higher than just after the ban.

Cardus Family points out fewer parents in Canada are opting for spanking when disciplining their children.

The think tank is not advocating spanking as the only tool in a parent’s disciplinary toolbox. “Those in favour of the limited use of reasonable force do indeed mean limited and are against not only abuse but also the overly frequent use of reasonable force,” the study says.

“Parents struggling to cope with defiant young children, at danger of hurting themselves, who use one or two swats on the bottom should know there is no compelling research to suggest this is harmful,” the study says. “Parents need to be able to decide how they are going to discipline their children, and this may not include the use of reasonable force, but it may.”


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