If Canada’s Minister of Justice is looking for a good starting point to reduce jail populations, she can begin by repealing Section 43 of the Criminal Code.
“The use of force to alter the behaviour of others is at the core of much of the violence which results in jail time,” said Kathy Lynn, chair of Corrine’s Quest, which is a campaign under First Call.
“All the research is crystal clear on this point; assaultive behaviour – be it bullying, beating people up, or hitting children to force them to do as you wish — is harmful. Hitting children in an attempt to control their behaviour increases the probability of anti-social behaviour, delinquency and ultimately criminality,” she said.
Lynn was responding to reports that Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould had convened a group of judges and other lawyers who recommended she give top priority to reducing jail populations.
Modern parenting practice offers a host of non-violent means of raising children in a disciplined manner, said Lynn. There is absolutely no reason to hit kids. It’s the easy way out for parents who want to believe they are doing the right thing.
Corinne’s Quest is a national organization focused on the repeal of Section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada, which states:
Every schoolteacher, parent or person standing in the place of a parent is justified in using force by way of correction toward a pupil or child, as the case may be, who is under his care, if the force does not exceed what is reasonable under the circumstances. R.S.C., 1985, c .C-4
Canada abolished corporal punishment in our jails 45 years ago and 40 years ago we abolished the death penalty. Section 43 is now the only section of the criminal code which not only condones violence against children, it offers a defence for those strike children.
“Children’s rights are human rights,” said Lynn. “This is 2016. Why are Canada’s laws still advocating violence against children? It should be prohibited by the law, not defined by it.”
On Dec. 31 1991 Canada formally ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, an extremely wide-ranging statement of the standards of treatment for children within our borders. The Canadian government thereby committed to make Canadian laws comply with the convention. Article 19 states:
States Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.
The UN has repeatedly expressed concerns that Section 43 is still in force, and has urged Canada to repeal it, most recently in 2012.
This solution can be part of the answer to the problems of crowded jails. If we raise children who are less likely to see violence and assault as an appropriate response to misbehavior, we will simply see fewer violent criminals.
“We made these points to the Justice Minister’s staff in a meeting on Ottawa last April, and again in a meeting with the minister herself last month,” said Lynn. We recently forwarded the research on this subject to the minister and her staff so they can have the scientific background to the need to repeal Section 43.