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A United Nations committee has ruled Canada should bar parents from spanking their children.
As a signatory of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Canada is obligated to make periodic appearances before the U.N.’s Committee on Rights of the Child, which said the country should “adopt legislation to remove the existing authorization of the use of ‘reasonable force’ in disciplining children,” the National Post reported.
The U.N. body says Canada should “explicitly prohibit all forms of violence against children, however light, within the family, in schools and in other institutions where children might be placed.”
The ruling cannot supersede national law, the Post said, but Ottawa wants to comply with the regulations to bolster the U.N.’s attempt to encourage international norms.
The United States and Somalia are the only countries that have not signed the convention, which routinely tells members appearing before its committee to pass laws banning spanking.
“This ruling is another example of the U.N. infringing on our own national concerns,” said John-Henry Westen, spokesman for LifeSiteNews.com, an online monitor of family values, according to the National Post.
“When a child is young and cannot understand, a tap on the hand is essential for training,” he said. “We have a wood-burning stove that gets very hot. It’s ridiculous that I can’t save my child from burning himself by tapping his hand away from it.”
However, a member of the committee responsible for communicating with Canada argued, if the child “puts his hand on a hot oven, he will be burnt and he will not do it again.”
The Post said Moushira Khattab of Egypt admitted she lightly disciplined her own two children when they were young, but says now she knows better.
“There are other means,” she said. “Children are very smart, and even when they are as young as two or three months old, they will understand if you have a tough look, or change the tone of your voice, or turn away from them.”
A poll published yesterday showed Canadians evenly split on the question of whether parents should be allowed to spank their children, the Canadian paper said. Overall, according to the survey, Canadians are against the use of corporal punishment by teachers.
The Supreme Court of Canada also is considering a petition to repeal a federal law that lets parents, teachers or guardians apply “reasonable force” to discipline a minor.
At a hearing June 6, the Canadian Foundation for Children, Youth and the Law argued the federal law violates the right of all Canadians to be treated equally.
“If you hit an adult, it is an assault, but if you hit a child in the context of discipline, it is justified under our current law,” said Cheryl Milne, the lawyer who argued the case, according to the Post. “The U.N. committee … agrees with that very strongly – that countries should be prohibiting all forms of corporal punishment of children.”
The Post said groups that regard themselves as children’s rights advocates likely will ratchet up their calls for stricter laws against spanking.
The Canadian government seemed to play both sides of the issue.
“While the government does not support spanking of children, it is also against the criminalization of parents for lightly disciplining their kids,” said Chris Girouard, spokesman for the Department of Justice, according to the Post. “It’s whatever is in the child’s best interests.”
The paper said the ruling came after 18 experts of the Committee on Rights of the Child questioned a Canadian delegation of experts and government officials in Geneva.
The committee also urged Canada to do more about helping aboriginal children, who suffer disproportionately high suicide and drug abuse rates, and to provide affordable child care for working families across the country.