In December 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his plans to revoke a law that allows parents to spank their kids. The news came after the Liberal government agreed to meet all recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which was established to rebuild the relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians.
The repeal of section 43 of Canada’s criminal code means spanking or using reasonable force to discipline a child would be illegal for both parents and teachers.
This change does not come without controversy. The topic of spanking has long been debated and Trudeau’s announcement added fuel to the fire. While many applauded the decision, others strongly disagreed.
“This is silly,” one Facebook user wrote in regards to the ban. “I was spanked. My brothers were spanked. The ‘conditions’ for the spanking were pretty specific... we had to do something that caused serious potential or actual harm to ourselves or someone else, repeatedly.
“I had and still have an excellent relationship with my parents, as do thousands of other children who experienced similar methods of correction. I can't help but feel this is a case of government trying to dictate how I raise my child. Spanking is not abuse if it is used correctly.”
Child psychologist Dr. Gerald Robert Farthing, of University of Saskatchewan, agrees that spanking should be allowed by parents, but only under certain circumstances.
“For me I think the context is very important,” Farthing told Global News. “If we have a loving parent relationship where along with it comes the instruction or the training or the talking, then spanking as a resource along the line can be a very effective strategy.”
Despite this, a number of studies have proven that spanking has a negative impact on kids, such as making them more aggressive later in life or making them more prone to develop mental disorders. This research has added to why many countries have banned the corporal punishment of children.
As of 2014, countries who banned spanking included Germany, New Zealand, Kenya, Greece, Brazil, Finland, Spain and more. (See the full list above).
According to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, corporal punishment is defined as “any punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however slight.”
Sweden was the first country to ban spanking in 1979. CNN reports that this ban was a longtime coming as children’s human rights were first recognized in the 1920s. Then, in 1958, spanking became prohibited in schools and in 1966, parental rights to give out physical punishments were revoked.
According to Staffan Janson, a pediatrician and professor of public health at Sweden’s Karlstad University, by the 1970s, people’s attitudes towards spanking were changing. “When parliament voted on the issue in 1979, two-thirds of parents were already in favour of a legal injunction,” he said.
Without the ban, Janson explained that parents would be “tempted to use harsher and harsher means [as punishment], which in a stressful situation may turn into brutal child abuse.”
While Canada could be added to the list of countries where spanking is banned, corporal punishment is still legal in many others, including the U.S.
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