July 2004


Canada's law is now confusing and unclear following the Supreme Court decision that limits physical punishment.  The decision forbids the use of implements or physical punishment of children who are under two years old and over 12 years old; but it did not declare the Canadian equivalent of section 59 unconstitutional.

Canadian survey into attitudes toward section 43 of the Criminal Code (Canadian equivalent of section 59 Crimes Act 1961)

In 2003 Toronto Public Health commissioned a national study to assess Canadian's attitudes on section 43 of the Criminal Code.  The study was conducted through phone interview by Decima Research and used a representative sample of 2,003 English and French speaking Canadians, 18 years of age or over.

All respondents were read the following preamble;

"Canada's Criminal Code no longer allows physical punishment of adults, but section 43 of the Code allows physical punishment of children by school teachers and parents.  The section provides a defence to a charge of assault if the courts consider the punishment reasonable for correction.  Recent examples of physical punishment that the courts have considered reasonable include hard spankings, slaps to the head and face, and hitting the buttocks with belts and sticks."

A majority of Canadians are in favour of ending section 43 for parents and schoolteachers (around 69%). The findings indicate that the majority of Canadians in favour of ending s.43 for parents would grow by 10 to 20% if there was reassurance that prosecutions for minor spankings would be prevented and if Canadians were shown that physical punishment is harmful, ineffective and linked with child abuse.  66% of Canadians who agreed to ending section 43 for teachers also agreed to ending section 43 for parents.