August 2003

Coalition on Physical Punishment of Children and Youth

A coalition of national organisations brought together by the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario aims to raise awareness about ending physical punishment.  The group 'Coalition on Physical Punishment of Children and Youth' has put together a "Joint Statement on Physical Punishment and Youth" that has been distributed to a large number of organisations in Canada for endorsement. The statement is authored by Joan Durrant (an academic with a significant interest in ending physical punishment, who has studied the Swedish experience), Ron Ensom and Susan Wingert.

The Joint Statement is an extensive document of over 30 pages, covering what physical punishment is and is not, attitudes, risk factors, alternatives, human rights and information about how other countries have addressed the issue.

The conclusion states:

Physical punishment has been consistently demonstrated to be an ineffective and potentially harmful method of managing children's behaviour.  It places them at risk of physical injury and interferes with parents' and caregivers' goals of healthy psychological adjustment, socialization, moral internalization, non-violence, and positive adult-child relationships.  Its use is a violation of children's rights to physical integrity and dignity.

In order to reduce the prevalence of physical punishment of children and youth, three broad national initiatives must be undertaken.  First, public awareness campaigns must deliver a clear message consistently and persistently that hurting children as punishment is unacceptable and places them at risk of physical and psychological harm.  Second, public education strategies be launched to increase Canadians' knowledge of child development and effective parenting, and existing programs supported.  Third, the Criminal Code of Canada must provide the same protection to children from physical assault as it gives to adults; and the Government of Canada must meet its obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.