January 29, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 66  

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Spanking: is it only for consenting adults?

By Angela Marie Denstedt
Gazette Staff
Rachel Cartwright/Gazette
TO SPANK OR NOT TO SPANK, THAT IS THE QUESTION. The Supreme Court of Canada will announce their decision Friday regarding physical discipline.

The Supreme Court of Canada release their ruling this Friday on whether to make obsolete laws that allow parents and teachers to use reasonable force when punishing children.

“The law [in Canada] allows force which is considered reasonable; one problem is, though, that ‘reasonable’ is not defined within the law,” said Paul Whitehead, a sociology professor at Western.

The law — coined the “spanking law” — has been the cause of much controversy and debate across Canada for years, Whitehead explained. “There have been many cases where the general public would have agreed unreasonable force was used, yet the defendant was still found not guilty,” he said.

“There are no good lessons to learn from this practice; as a society, we can do much better,” Whitehead said, adding the upcoming verdict regarding this law is unsure.

“Canada is one of the last industrialized countries to still have legislation that allows parents and authority figures to use physical force as a proper use of punishment,” said Allan Lescheid, an education professor at Western.

As an expert on child abuse and youth violence, Lescheid also noted that long term studies have shown children who were disciplined with physical punishment often become adults who practice the same use of force. “Physical abuse is not an effective way to discipline or teach a child,” he said.

“It is very ironic that we try to champion schools as supporters of non-violence, yet we’re allowing them to use means of physical punishment against students. This makes no sense at all,” Lescheid said. Teachers and parents have many ways to learn about proper, effective ways to discipline children, he stated, citing the Children’s Aid Society or the children’s unit at any London hospital.

“A very distinct problem with allowing corporal punishment as an appropriate form of discipline is that it may only begin with a spanking but often escalates in households to a harder spanking or more excessive forms of abuse,” said Diane Cresswell, a spokesperson for the Children’s Aid Society in London.

“Referring to this law as the ‘spanking law’ is totally inappropriate,” Cresswell said, adding CAS does not condone any form of corporal punishment against children. “It needs to be recognized that children learn by example.”



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