Nine Canadian organisations including UNICEF Canada, First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, the National Collaborating Centre for Indigenous Health and the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of the Child have launched a Rationale for Repealing Section 43 of Canada's Criminal Code.
Section 43 states that using corrective force against a child is justified “if the force does not exceed what is reasonable under the circumstances”, and must be repealed in order to give children legal protection from violent punishment. This colonial law has been in the Criminal Code since 1892 and its repeal is one of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.
Dr. Joan Durrant of the University of Manitoba is an international expert on corporal punishment and its effects. She notes the importance of this issue:
“A large body of research has found that physical punishment predicts increased child aggression, antisocial behaviour, and mental health problems. It erodes parent-child relationships and can disrupt brain development. It has never been found to improve children’s health, development or well-being.”
The campaigners say that research demonstrating the negative impacts of corporal punishment continues to grow. In response to these findings and to uphold child rights standards, 63 states to date have prohibited physical punishment in all settings, but Canada has yet to achieve this reform.
Four papers were launched setting out the rationale for repealing Section 43 based on
research findings and human rights principles. The first paper summarized the literature on the outcomes of corporal punishment, the human rights foundation for prohibiting it, and findings from three countries that have implemented prohibitions (Sweden, Germany, New Zealand). The second paper focused on Canada, outlining the history of Section 43, the unsuccessful attempts to repeal it, and Canada’s domestic and international human rights obligations to children. The
third paper told the story of Ireland, which prohibited all corporal punishment of children in 2015. Ireland’s broad similarities to Canada make it a compelling case from which we can learn valuable lessons. The final paper addressed the obstacles to law reform in Canada, focusing on the legacy of colonization.
Read our country report for Canada here.