Recently a popular news story in the media has been in regards to a boy in Japan whose parents left him in the woods ‘as punishment’. While bizarre cases like this one can be classified as unreasonable in any country, it is interesting to note what our own legislation says about child discipline in Canada.
Section 43 of the Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46. is considered by some to be Canada’s “spanking” law and provides an exception to the law on assault. Section 43 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.
This means that parents and teachers may have a defence to criminal prosecution when they use reasonable force to control a child or keep the child, or other children, safe.
Because of increased recognition of the rights and best interests of children and youths, many groups have called for a repeal to Section 43 to align with an end to any form of physical punishment of children in Canada. Other groups have argued that minor physical discipline is acceptable in certain situations and that those who do fall under this category should not be at risk of criminal prosecution as a result of these parenting methods. Whatever your public opinion, it is important to note that Section 43 cannot be used as a defence when a child is harmed or abused.