Presentation by Senator Hervieux-Payette
June 1, 2005
SOURCE: Repeal 43 Committee at

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Repeal 43 Committee

June 1/05 Presentation by Senator Hervieux-Payette
Senator Payette addressed the Committee in support of her Bill, reminding senators that at the time s. 43 became part of our Code, our population was small, mainly rural, and the social sciences of psychology, psychiatry, and pediatrics in their infancy. Corporal punishment was widespread in many institutions. Among other arguments in support of her bill, she referred to:

  • seat belt laws as a successful example of prevention, stressing the difficulty and expense of dealing with problems after the damage is done. S-21 seeks to prevent problems associated with corporal punishment before they arise

  • the UN Committee overseeing the implementation of the UN Convention has twice reminded Canada that s. 43 violates the Convention

  • Quebec’s amendment of its Civil Code (1980) to remove the parental authorization for corporal punishment gave both adults and children equal rights to civil protection against assault

  • the government does not support spanking yet won’t end s. 43 that justifies it. One can’t be both for and against it at the same time

  • Canadian public opinion has learned from various studies, and opinions have evolved in favour of repeal as evidenced by the Oct 2003 Decima survey

  • the Justice Minister’s claim that bodily harm is not allowed by s. 43 ignores the psychological harm and humiliation that repetitive slaps — even light slaps — can cause, especially when they are rationalized as “loving” slaps

  • the argument that the family must not be interfered with was the same argument used against intervening in cases of wife assault. Police will not lay charges for minor slaps. Quebec practices extensive consultation on whether charging is appropriate. There is a high standard of proof in criminal law and prosecutors are not going to embark on inappropriate proceedings

  • even in very severe cases, such as a recent one in BC (Korean father beats son 100 to 300 blows), there is no jail sentence. In this case, the court tried to educate the father by requiring him to write an article for a community newspaper to show that this kind of force is not allowed under our law

  • in the constitutional challenge, Justice Arbour was right in holding that the meaning of “reasonable” was uncertain and subjective in the context of a parent striking a child. The definition of what is “reasonable” will vary according to age, region and religion. It is important that everybody understand the law, especially the criminal law, in the same way.

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