Spanking court case sparks call for more education
A spanking court case in Fredericton earlier this week has a child advocacy group calling for more education on alternatives to corporal punishment.
Jeffrey Kerr Smith, 48, was convicted Tuesday of assaulting his three children with a wooden fork in 2010.
Smith spanked the children after they were quarrelling outside his home over a game of road hockey, the Court of Queen's Bench heard.
Smith, who has a similar previous conviction, is scheduled to be sentenced on June 28 once a pre-sentence report and victim impact statements are prepared.
Justice for Children and Youth took the issue of corporal punishment to the Supreme Court of Canada years ago and the court narrowed the scope of what’s allowed.
But Smith’s case shows that despite changes to the law, some parents still hit their child with objects as a form of discipline, said Martha Mackinnon, the group’s executive director in Toronto.
She contends more education is needed to help parents better deal with the frustrations of raising children.
“You do what you can to persuade people that it is their interest and their children's interest to behave as more effective parents," she said.
Studies show that corporal punishment can lead to more physical abuse, said Mackinnon.
Children can also suffer from low self-esteem, developmental delays and can become more aggressive, she said.
In 2004, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that parents have the right to spank children between the ages of 2 and 12 years old.
A parent can use force as part of a genuine effort to educate a child, but the punishment must pose no reasonable risk of harm and must be reasonable under the circumstances, the country's top court ruled.
It also set out "reasonable limits." One of those limits is that children must not be disciplined with an object, such as a belt or a ruler.
In addition, hits to the head are unacceptable.
McKinnon says the courts are seeing more cases involving corporal punishment than they did a decade ago, largely because people are more aware and are reporting cases of suspected abuse.
“People walking by say, ‘Oh, you’re not allowed to do that.' And more people report to the police and more charges are laid that are bad conduct, I would say, on parents’ part, but charges wouldn’t have been laid in the past," she said.
26 April 2012