Volume 92, Issue 76

Thursday, February 11, 1999


Tuition effects to be surveyed

Nurse shortage due to decrease in health care funding

Weldon academy's exit could aid campus space problem

Apologies not only outcome for Canada

Knighthood bestowed on French professor

Pressure mounts to boot spanking

Caught on campus

Pressure mounts to boot spanking

By Leena Kamat
Gazette Staff

Alleged child abusers soon may no longer be able to pass off physical violence as reasonable punishment.

The Repeal 43 Committee and various other groups across Canada are pooling their efforts in an attempt to repeal section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada.

This section allows parents, teachers and people in place of parents to use "reasonable" force to discipline children.

Lawyer Corinne Robertshaw, founder and coordinator of the Repeal 43 Committee, started this group five years ago after many years of researching the deaths of children caused by physical abuse.

"A number of studies show serious injuries start as parents trying to correct their children," Robertshaw said. "It's outrageous. [Under section 43] you can hit a child if you want."

An application was filed in an Ontario court a few months ago for the repeal by Justice for Children and Youth, another children's welfare group, Robertshaw said. This application, which should be heard before the end of the year, states section 43 contradicts the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"We believe the legislation is constitutional," said Michele Lemieux, press secretary for Canadian Minister of Justice Anne McLellan.

However, Robertshaw disagreed. "This is clearly a case of discrimination against a class of Canadian citizens – discrimination against age.

"I'm confident that the application will be granted and section 43 will be struck down," she said.

The London District Catholic School Board joined Robertshaw's committee Monday following a unanimous vote by the board's trustees.

School trustee and professor of sociology at Western Paul Whitehead said school boards all over Ontario have been asked for support.

The former London Middlesex School Board had a 1969 policy which abolished the use of corporal punishment in schools, he said.

"This practice [of abolishing corporal punishment] is one that we find appropriate," he said. "We find it desirable if all school boards adapted to this policy.

"I think it will [be repealed] because we're talking about changing a law where the practice is already changed," Whitehead said. He added today's teachers use other types of discipline, such as suspension, instead of the strap and striking.

"This will close a few loopholes in the law," said Bill Hall, chair of the London District Catholic School Board.

Several school boards across the country have similar policies but don't have much strength because section 43 is federal legislation, Robertshaw added. "If a teacher uses the strap and is charged, section 43 overrules any policies and can be used as a defence."

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Copyright The Gazette 1999