A bill that would expose parents to criminal prosecution for spanking their children has cleared the Senate, bound to reopen wounds still sore from a Supreme Court ruling four years ago.
Sponsored by Liberal Senator Celine Hervieux-Payette, the bill passed final reading in the Senate on Tuesday night.
Approval in the upper house followed debate and three days' of committee hearings at which criminal defence lawyers and the Canadian Bar Association argued against the criminalizing impact it could have on parents, as well as teachers and caregivers.
Hervieux-Payette, however, was backed by the children's-rights group that lost the Supreme Court challenge against a provision allowing parents and teachers to strike children for "corrective discipline.'' She said that if the Commons does not pass the bill she will continue to reintroduce it until it becomes law.
In other words, Hervieux-Payette has no regard for democratic process. She doesn't care what parents in this country feel is best for their families. She believes she knows best, and we should all abide by her judgement.
How very Liberal.
And, by the way, Senators are not elected. This woman was appointed at some point. She doesn't speak for anyone but herself, yet she feels she can impose her views of family and parenting onto the entire country.
Again, how very Liberal.
If there was ever an argument for electing Senator's, this is it.
"What I'm saying is every citizen in this country will have their physical integrity preserved," she said in an interview Wednesday, adding she believes she will get the support of party Leader Stephane Dion to pass the bill if the Liberals form a majority government after the next federal election.
Which they won't.
Don't even bother hoping. Dion will never win, especially not a majority.
But even Hervieux-Payette's own caucus is divided over the legislation, which the Liberal Senate majority passed over Conservative objections with no recorded vote.
Read that again.
How does a bill "pass" when there is no vote, but some people still have objections? Pardon my thinking this was a democracy.
The bill proposes to eliminate Section 43 of the Criminal Code, which says any parent, schoolteacher or a person standing in the place of a parent "is justified in using force by way of correction toward a pupil or child'' over age two and under age 13 "if the force does not exceed what is reasonable under the circumstances."
In a split decision, the Supreme Court ruled in 2004 that the provision "adversely affects" security of the person for children who would be protected by the Charter of Rights, but only to a limited extent that does not offend fundamental principles of justice.
The majority judgment also rejected arguments that spanking and striking children was "cruel and unusual punishment" and cited safeguards in other Criminal Code sections against abusive or harmful conduct against children.
In response to concerns from the Canadian Bar Association and the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers, Hervieux-Payette modified the bill before final reading to allow "reasonable force other than corporal punishment" to prevent children from harming themselves or other children and from engaging in conduct that would be criminal or "excessively" offensive or disruptive.
That would allow parents and caregivers "to interfere, but they cannot hit them or spank them," Hervieux-Payette said.
So that allows a parent what?
"No, Johnny. We don't do that."
Even before the bill reached the Commons, set to adjourn for the summer, MPs were split.
"I'm a traditionalist," said Conservative MP Daryl Kramp, once an Ontario Provincial Police officer. "I believe that parents should be able to make the decision best for their own family."
And Kramp is right.
The government can barely run itself. It has no business whatsoever dictating how a parent may or may not run their home, how a parent may or may not discipline their child.
Calgary Conservative MP Art Hanger, another former police officer agreed, saying "I believe the status quo is very acceptable."
Liberal whip Karen Redman was conflicted, saying she understood the need to protect children from physical abuse, but also that she believes physical force is sometimes necessary.
And she is totally right.
There is a huge difference between spanking and abuse.
"When I think back, when my children were little, there were times when you smacked them on the bum, but it was a diapered bum and it was as much to get their attention," she said.
Both Kramp and Hervieux-Payette recalled being spanked when they were children, each now staking out a different position on the value of the experience.
"I think it was only once, but I remember it very well,'' said Kramp, who added he could not recall why his father disciplined him but "I learned that when my father said no, he meant no."
Hervieux-Payette, who acknowledged having struck her own daughter once on the arm...
So, in other words, thsi woman is a total hypocrite!
Don't miss that folks! What's good for us was not good for her. She feels the need to impose a mode of behaviour that she did not even adhere to herself.
...said her father spanked her when she was just over the age of two for following a church band for two kilometres in the family's small Quebec village.
"You build a certain fear, in that case it was my father, and certainly it's breaking something between you, even if they tell you that they love you.
You are obviously doing very well in life, Senator. Your father kept you in line and out of trouble. You were well-educated, cared for and taught how to be a relatively upstanding citizen. Maybe you ought to be grateful that your parents did discipline you. Maybe the reason you are doing so well is, dare I say it, because you were disciplined.
The head of the Foundation for Children, Youth and the Law, which mounted the Supreme Court challenge against Section 43, argued children should have the same right to protection from physical violence as parents.
"There is a simple, fundamental dignity issue that would say children should be treated as people who are entitled to be free from assault, the same as anyone else,'' said Martha Mackinnon, the foundation's executive director.
Children are already protected from physical violence under the law.
Child abuse is, already, a crime under the law.
Spanking is not violence, neither is it a criminal act (nor should it become one) and it is not child abuse. It is also not assault.
Beating your kid? Now that's a crime! Breaking bones, leaving bruises, neglecting them, starving them, those are all crimes. They are not disciplinary or punitive in nature. Parents who do genuinely beat their kids have something wrong with them. They are not concerned about their kids well-being, and they don't do it as a method of behaviour modification. They do it because they can.
Parents who spank their children have an entirely different motivation, however. Parents who spank their kids are concerned about teaching their kids right from wrong. They are concerned about protecting them from either immediate or future harm. Small children simply do not have the capability to rationalize or think about the potential impact of their actions. As such, logical arguments and repetitive "no's" don't work. A parent must be able to take immediate action. Furthermore, children who are not given proper boundaries simply do not develop properly, be it socially or mentally. Children have to be taught, at a very young age when their brains can absorb the most, how they must behave.
But let's give a practical example, just to highlight what this law means for the common person.
If your child is about to touch the hot stove, such a law would make it illegal to smack their hand.
If your child is about to grab a glass jam jar off the shelf in the grocery store, sending it shattering into a thousand sticky pieces, such a law would make it illegal to smack their hand.
If your child is about to run across the road into oncoming traffic, such a law would make it illegal to smack their bum. But hey, death is ok, right?
If your small child is about to put a stone in their mouth, run off a dock into the lake, grab a nail (rusty or otherwise), walk on a balcony rail, eat a fish hook, climb a tractor, shove a pencil up their nose, hurl a teacup, pick up dog poop or a dead animal, stick their finger in a socket, attempt to drink bleach, grab a set mousetrap, bite their sibling, steal someone's toys, toboggan down flight of stairs holding their baby brother on their lap, you, their parent, will not be allowed to smack either their hand or their bum under this law, which was proposed by one Liberal Senator and not voted on.
And if you are reading that list thinking "But kids don't do those things," it's because you aren't a parent.
Those of you who are parents, are probably laughing, thinking "So it's not just mine!"
If this law is introduce to Parliament, and I will be watching for it, I would strongly urge all parents to immediately contact their MP.