It's Not Illegal To Spank Kids In Canada — But Canadians Are Divided On Whether It's OK

Teachers and parents are allowed to physically discipline children in their care.

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A child's bedroom.

A child's bedroom.

Is it okay for parents and teachers to physically punish children? Well, it depends on who you ask.

A new survey on corporal punishment in Canada has found that over 50% of Canadians think it's time to abolish the laws that protect parents and teachers who spank children in their care.

The online survey, which was conducted by polling Company Research Co., found that 51% of surveyed Canadians think section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada should be abolished.

Section 43 of the Criminal code says that parents and teachers are allowed to use force to discipline a child in their care, as long as the force is not unreasonable.

It reads, "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."

Essentially, this means it's not illegal in Canada to physically discipline children, provided the parent or teacher uses what is deemed "reasonable force."

According to the research, it's younger people who are pushing back the most, with 61% of respondents aged 18-34 agreeing that section 43 of the Criminal Code should be abolished.

Support is slightly lower among Canadians aged 35-54 (53%) and less again among those aged 55 and over (42%).

While the percentage of those who agree varies depending on age, the amount of Canadians who say they agree with physical punishment is changing.

Back in 2018, Research Co. found that just 34% of Canadians wanted to abolish section 43 – a 17-point difference between then and now.

It's a controversial debate in Canada, with some people arguing that the law gives abusive parents a defence for assaulting their children, CTV News reports.

The outlet also notes that the understanding of "reasonable force" is subjective, and it's not clear what is acceptable and unacceptable in the eyes of the law.

In May 2022, NDP MP Peter Julian proposed legislation Bill C-273, which would repeal the "spanking" law and end the physical punishment of children.

Speaking at the time, Julian said, "As we well know, physical punishment of children is still legal in Canada, despite the fact that dozens and dozens of countries around the world have banned the practice."

In December 2023, Saskatchewan Senator Marty Klyne made a similar move to repeal the law with Bill S-251, as part of the Truth and Reconciliation Act's calls to action.

As part of the proposal, Klyne said, "Colleagues, Bill S-251 can be summarized in three words: Every child matters. This is a principle that Canadian society is learning and working to uphold."

If Canada did make the change, it wouldn't be the only country to do so.

As of 2022, 65 countries have made the physical punishment of children illegal, according to the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children.

Among the countries to recently ban corporal punishment of children, including at home, are Zambia (2022), Mauritius (2022), the Republic of Korea (2021), Colombia (2021), Japan (2020) and South Africa (2019).

This article's cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.

Helena Hanson
Trending Editor
Helena Hanson is a Senior Editor for Narcity Canada's Trending Desk focused on major news. She previously lived in Ottawa, but is now based in the U.K.