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Domestic CP - February 1999

London Free Press, Ontario, 9 February 1999

Board backs bid to kill spanking law

By Hank Daniszewski
Free Press Education Reporter

Thirty years after London Catholic schools made history by banning the strap, Catholic trustees are backing a call to scrap the law allowing parents to spank their kids.

Last night the London District Catholic school board voted unanimously to support a campaign to repeal Section 43 of the Criminal Code, the section that allows parents and teachers to use "reasonable force" to discipline children.

The board responded to a request by the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies, leading an effort to repeal Section 43.

Trustee Paul Whitehead noted the former Catholic board in London was Ontario's first school board to abolish corporal punishment in 1969.

"This is an important step forward and very much in keeping with our tradition," Whitehead told the board.

The board still has the last strap ever used in its schools framed and on display at its London headquarters. It was last used Feb. 17, 1969, at St. Robert School.

"I think we all know that parents having difficulty with their kids don't succeed by beating up on them," said Whitehead, a sociology professor at the University of Western Ontario.

John Liston, executive director of the Children's Aid Society of London and Middlesex, said letters have gone out to area school boards and social agencies asking for support in repealing Section 43.

He said Family Service London and Western Area Youth Services have already confirmed support.

Section 43 of the Criminal Code says "every school teacher, parent or person standing in place of a parent, is justified in using force by way of correction . . . if the force does not exceed what is reasonable."

Liston said Children's Aid Societies have found that a loose interpretation of "reasonable force" has sometimes been "a bit of a loophole" for those charged with child abuse.

Background material on the issue, supplied by the CAS, gives many examples of adults who've been acquitted after beating children using the "reasonable force" defence.

The material cites statistics showing 85 per cent of abuse cases result from over-discipline.

But Liston said parents shouldn't be concerned that repealing Section 43 will suddenly make spanking a child a criminal act.

"We recommend raising a child without using physical force. But this does not preclude someone doing that. It just says there won't be a loophole there if someone goes overboard."

He said the CAS prohibits foster parents from using corporal punishment on children in their care.

The London-Middlesex CAS participated in a recent advertising campaign on city buses aimed at discouraging parents from using physical discipline.

Liston said once the support of agencies is gathered, Children's Aid Societies across Ontario will lobby MPs to introduce a bill repealing Section 43.

There are already two private member's bills before the House of Commons to repeal Section 43.

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