Canada 2004 Supreme Court judgment

Condemnation of corporal punishment in schools but endorsement of its (limited) use by parents – Canadian Foundation for Children, Youth and the Law v. Canada (Attorney General), [2004] 1 S.C.R. 76, 2004 SCC 4

In this case, the Supreme Court examined the Constitutionality of section 43 of the Criminal Code, according to which the use of “reasonable force” against children is not a criminal offence: “Every school teacher, 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 circumstance.”

The Court condemned all corporal punishment in schools, but upheld the legality of corporal punishment of children in the home, with certain limitations, and thus failed to find that section 43 of the Criminal Code was unconstitutional under the Canadian Charter of Human Rights. The Court stated that section 43 justifies “minor corrective force of a transitory and trifling nature”, and that it rules out corporal punishment of children under 2 or over 12, as well as degrading, inhuman or harmful conduct, discipline using objects such as rulers or belts and blows or slaps to the head.


Subsequent law reform

Since the Supreme Court ruling, prohibition of corporal punishment in schools has been confirmed in education law in Saskatchewan (2005) and Ontario (2009), but as at April 2018, still not all states have achieved the necessary law reform.


Further information

  • The full text of the Canadian judgment is available here.
  • For further information on the law relating to corporal punishment, see the Global Initiative country report for Canada.