An Act to amend the Criminal Code (Corinne’s Quest and the protection of children)

Sponsor

Peter Julian  NDP

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

In committee (House), as of Feb. 14, 2024

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-273.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to repeal a provision that authorizes the correction of a child by force if certain criteria are met.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

Feb. 14, 2024 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-273, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (Corinne’s Quest and the protection of children)

April 11th, 2024 / 9:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Tako Van Popta Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Thank you to the witnesses for being here.

We're talking about a private member's bill, Bill C-273, that would ban corporal punishment by repealing section 43. We heard in earlier testimony today that section 43 is a codification of the common law of defence for parents and teachers who would discipline their children.

Mr. Zekveld, in your testimony, you quoted from paragraph 62 of the Supreme Court of Canada decision of 2004, which actually upheld the constitutionality of section 43. I'm just going to reread one sentence from there and ask you to comment on it. This is what the chief justice said: “The reality is that without s. 43, Canada’s broad assault law would criminalize force falling far short of what we think of as corporal punishment, like placing an unwilling child in a chair for a five-minute ‘time-out’”.

To use the example from the lively exchange between my colleague Mr. Caputo and the sponsor of the bill, Mr. Julian, a gentle slap on the wrist would be criminalized given the broad wording of section 265 of the Criminal Code. Can you comment on that? Are we casting the net too widely by eliminating the section 43 defence altogether?

April 11th, 2024 / 9:25 a.m.
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Past Chair, Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children

Dr. Kate Butler

In these opening remarks, I’m going to speak about why Bill C-273 is an important step toward Canada meeting its international human rights obligations.

This colonial law allowing corporal punishment dates from 1892 and is a clear violation of children's protection rights, yet it remains in the Criminal Code. Canada has fallen behind the other 65 countries globally that have met their Convention on the Rights of the Child's obligations by prohibiting physical punishment in all contexts.

I speak to you today in my role as past chair of the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children and as a recognized children's rights expert with a Ph.D. in sociology. I've authored numerous articles and reports on children's rights in Canada and globally, with a specialization in protection rights.

The CCRC is a national umbrella group of organizations and individuals across Canada who promote the rights of children and the full implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. We have led the civil society role in each of the four UN reviews of Canada under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, including leading the youth engagement part of the most recent UN review. We engaged hundreds of young people on behalf of the federal government. These young people, who are not here today, told us that violence in the home is an incredibly important issue to them. I wanted to bring along their voice with me today.

Members of the CCRC include such organizations as UNICEF Canada, which currently co-chairs the coalition, along with academics from all disciplines, indigenous groups, health groups and faith organizations.

As you've heard, corporal punishment refers to any form of punishment that is intended to cause physical pain to a person. It's the most common form of violence against children.

April 11th, 2024 / 9:25 a.m.
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Dr. Kate Butler Past Chair, Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children

Thank you so much, Madam Chair, for having me today to speak about Bill C-273. I'm so sorry not to be there in person. Instead, I'm calling from Toronto, which is on the traditional lands of the Mississaugas of the Credit—

April 11th, 2024 / 9:20 a.m.
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Daniel Zekveld Policy Analyst, Association for Reformed Political Action Canada

Good morning. Thank you for inviting us to speak to you today regarding Bill C-273.

ARPA Canada believes Parliament must not repeal section 43 of the Criminal Code. I want to address this topic of corporal discipline in three brief points.

The first point, which underlies the rest of the conversation on corporal discipline, is about parental authority. The family has both natural and pre-political authority. That's why the Canadian Bill of Rights refers to “the position of the family in a society of free men and free institutions”, and why the Universal Declaration of Human Rights calls the family “the natural and fundamental group unit of society”. Respecting parental authority and family integrity means not interfering in families, particularly through the criminal law, without clearly compelling reasons.

Professor Melissa Moschella uses the analogy of intervening by force in another sovereign nation. She explains that the international community must respect the authority of sovereign states, but also has an obligation to help their people when they need it. Coercive interference in any circumstance requires extremely strong justification, such as serious human rights abuses or threatening the peace of other sovereign states. Likewise, every political community consists of families with their own authority. Although parental authority may be imperfect at times, the state must not intervene coercively, except in cases of serious abuse and neglect where parents are clearly failing to fulfill their role.

As mentioned already, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, writing for the Supreme Court of Canada in 2004, said:

...without s. 43, Canada’s broad assault law would criminalize force falling far short of what we think of as corporal punishment, like placing an unwilling child in a chair for a five-minute “time-out”. The decision not to criminalize such conduct is not grounded in devaluation of the child, but in a concern that to do so risks ruining lives and breaking up families—a burden that in large part would be borne by children and outweigh any benefit derived from applying the criminal process.

My second point is that there is no adequate evidence that parents who use careful, measured corporal discipline are failing in their role as parents in a way that would merit state intrusion or prosecution of parents, which would cause serious disruption and harm children. Studies on corporal discipline often confuse the cause-and-effect relationship between corporal discipline and children's outcomes. Some studies assume that corporal discipline causes aggressive behaviour based on a correlation. However, it could be that aggressive children were disciplined more because they were more aggressive, rather than the reverse. Many studies fail to distinguish between harsh physical punishment and the measured physical discipline permitted by Canadian law. Not all forms of physical discipline are the same or have the same effects.

Before criminalizing corporal discipline, lawmakers should at least have strong evidence to demonstrate that it is much less effective than other methods. However, some studies have shown that physical discipline within reasonable limits is as good as or better than many other disciplinary tactics. The outcomes for children who receive corporal discipline depend on the type of discipline and on whether the family has a consistent set of guidelines for when and how corporal discipline is used.

Finally, other jurisdictions reveal that banning corporal discipline causes problems. For example, one Swedish psychiatrist argues that banning corporal discipline may make parents less willing to discipline or correct their children in any way. Since Sweden banned spanking, its rate of assaults of minors has increased dramatically. Examples from Austria and Germany show that parents who thought mild forms of corporal discipline were legal were less likely to resort to severe punishment than those who thought it was illegal. When no corporal discipline is permitted, parents may be more lenient until they reach a breaking point. Prohibitions on corporal discipline may also increase verbal hostility by parents, or increase the number of parents who are unable to control their children's behaviour. As such, permitting corporal discipline within reasonable boundaries, as Canada does, may prevent negative consequences.

In conclusion, this committee should support retaining section 43 of the Criminal Code. Doing so would align with the Supreme Court of Canada in respecting the responsibility of parents and the different ways parents may choose to raise their children. That said, if the committee believes further clarity is needed in section 43, the Criminal Code could be amended to include the Supreme Court's clarification about what constitutes reasonable force. These limits strike an appropriate balance that allows parents to raise their children as they see fit while also ensuring children are protected.

Thank you again for the opportunity to appear today. We're looking forward to any questions.

April 11th, 2024 / 8:20 a.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

To begin, I would like to say that we're meeting on the unceded traditional territory of the Anishinabe Algonquin people. It's extremely important to recognize this because we're talking about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's call to action 6. So it's extremely important to take that into account at all times.

The purpose of Bill C-273 is to repeal section 43 of the Criminal Code, which gives justification to use “force by way of correction” towards children. Section 43 was codified in 1892, having descended from English common law, which allowed parents and schoolmasters to inflict physical punishment “for the purpose of correcting what is evil in the child”.

Section 43 violates children's basic human rights to protection under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Canada ratified in 1991. Nine years ago, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada called physical punishment “a relic of a discredited past [that] has no place in Canadian schools or homes”, and called for the repeal of section 43 to remove the green light that has enabled so much violence against children.

The research on physical punishment is robust. Physical punishment consistently predicts solely negative developmental outcomes: higher aggression, more mental health problems, slower intellectual development and weaker parent-child relationships. More than 75 peer-reviewed studies have indicated this, and after I testify today you will hear from Professor Durrant and Ms. Butler, who will speak more to that.

Mild physical punishment easily escalates into more severe violence. Children who are slapped or spanked are seven times more likely to experience severe violence than those who are not slapped or spanked. Section 43 tells us that hurting another person is an acceptable and justifiable way to resolve conflict. Children who are physically punished are more likely to engage in dating violence and partner violence in later life because they have learned to respond to conflict with physical aggression.

Parenting groups and teachers argue that section 43 serves as a protection when they need to physically restrain a child, but defences are already available to parents, teachers and caregivers when they use force to defend themselves or another person: section 34 of the Criminal Code to protect property, section 35 of the Criminal Code to prevent the immediate commission of an offence and section 27 of the Criminal Code in response to imminent peril or danger when there is no available legal alternative, which is the common law defence of necessity.

There's strong support for change. Seven hundred organizations across all sectors support the repeal of section 43. They include all major organizations in health care, dentists, doctors, nurses and all of the major organizations in Canada that have taken on the development of kids as their fundamental role.

To date, 65 countries and 18 other regions have prohibited all physical punishment of children. In countries where research has been carried out, there has been no increase in criminal prosecutions or child welfare apprehensions in minor cases. Decreases have been shown in the support for and use of physical punishment. That is important. Why are we lagging behind in banning the physical punishment of children?

My bill has also received support overseas. Members of this committee would have received from organizations in the past few weeks support for Bill C-273, including Human Rights Watch and the World Health Organization. We also have a number of international individuals who have written to this committee expressing support for Bill C-273. It's important to note that countries and regions like Wales, New Zealand and Ireland did not see an increase in prosecutions against parents and teachers since the passing of their legislation to ban physical punishment to children.

Finally, I'd like to quote the Honourable Murray Sinclair, who spoke to this issue seven years ago when we were looking at a previous iteration of the same bill. Murray Sinclair said the following:

At one Indian residential school in Alberta, a teacher was charged with assaulting a student by punching him three times in the face, causing serious injury. The teacher had been convicted of assault at trial but was acquitted on appeal by a court which held that the degree of force that he used was reasonable. That case set the tone for how all children in residential schools were treated thereafter.

It's time to repeal section 43. I look forward to your questions.

Thank you.

Thank you very much.

April 11th, 2024 / 8:20 a.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Lena Metlege Diab

Thank you, Madame Gladu.

(Motion agreed to)

That's unanimous. Thank you so much. I love this. I hope it will continue throughout the morning.

Welcome to meeting number 100 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Pursuant to the order adopted by the House on February 14, 2024, the committee is meeting in public to begin its study of Bill C-273, an act to amend the Criminal Code (Corinne's Quest and the protection of children).

Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format, pursuant to the House order of June 15, 2023. Members are attending in person in the room and remotely using the Zoom application. Those on Zoom have been tested for the sound, and it is in order.

First, I want to welcome Peter Julian, the member of Parliament for New Westminster-Burnaby and the sponsor of Bill C-273.

Welcome to the committee. You have five minutes to present to the committee, which will be followed by questions, in the normal course, from members of the committee.

Mr. Julian, the floor is yours.

April 11th, 2024 / 8:20 a.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Lena Metlege Diab

Good morning, everyone.

I have one small item before we start the normal meeting. That is to approve the budget request for the study we are starting today on Bill C-273, which has been circulated to all members.

Children's RightsStatements by Members

February 16th, 2024 / 11 a.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Madam Speaker, Bill C-273 passed, by a vote of 209 to 115, this week for a second reading in Parliament. I thank all those MPs who spoke up for this bill and for the repeal of section 43 of the Criminal Code.

Canada is finally taking our first steps in joining 65 other countries around the world that have banned the use of force against children. More than 700 organizations across Canada, including every major organization that works for children's health and well-being, have called for the repeal of this legalized use of force against children.

The repeal of this provision of the Criminal Code was one of the first recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Call to action no. 6 of the TRC calls for repeal of the provision, which legalizes the use of force against children. This provision was put in place in 1892, when all kinds of abuses were legal. It is high time to change that and time to repeal section 43.

Canada Early Learning and Child Care ActGovernment Orders

February 14th, 2024 / 5:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Ben Carr Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I am very sorry to interrupt the current affairs of the chamber. I am back again, this time with a tie and jacket on as per House rules. I tried to tell you before, when I was not dressed appropriately, that I had a technical issue on the last vote being held today, which was on Bill C-273, and my intention is to vote in favour.

Therefore, I am asking for unanimous consent from the House to register my vote in favour of Bill C-273, and I apologize for the delay that this has caused in House proceedings.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 14th, 2024 / 4:15 p.m.
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NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C‑273 under Private Members' Business.

The House resumed from February 13 consideration of the motion that Bill C‑273, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (Corinne's Quest and the protection of children), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

JusticeOral Questions

February 14th, 2024 / 3:20 p.m.
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Papineau Québec

Liberal

Justin Trudeau LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for the question. This is an issue we are all concerned about.

I can assure everyone that the government is unwavering in its commitment to ensuring the protection and physical safety of children across the country. We therefore support Bill C‑273 and its important purpose of protecting our children against violence and abuse. We look forward to hearing the experts during study in committee of this important legislation that we will support in a few minutes.

JusticeOral Questions

February 14th, 2024 / 3:15 p.m.
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Independent

Alain Rayes Independent Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, after question period, every member will have the opportunity to rise to vote on the NDP's Bill C‑273 to repeal section 43 of the Criminal Code, which allows an adult to use corporal punishment on a child for so-called educational purposes.

More than 65 countries in the world have done this and 27 others have initiated the process. It is what the UN committee on the protection of children has called for. Call to action 6 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada is calling for it, as is the Canadian Medical Association.

Can the Prime Minister confirm that his government will support this initiative to protect our children?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 13th, 2024 / 6:20 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Madam Speaker, tomorrow, we have an important task. We are going to hold a vote on the principle of Bill C-273, which seeks to ban corporal punishment of children in Canada and repeal the section of the Criminal Code that has existed since 1892 that allows for corporal punishment of children. One of my colleagues just said that this bill needs to be amended. Tomorrow, we will vote on the principle, but amendments can certainly be presented in committee.

In addition, it is important to mention, as my colleague from Winnipeg Centre just did, that 700 organizations across the country want MPs from Quebec and across Canada to vote in favour of the bill tomorrow. Dozens of those organizations are in Quebec, such as the Association des centres jeunesse du Québec, the Association des CLSC et des CHSLD du Québec, the Association des médecins en protection de l'enfance du Québec, the Association québécoise des centres de la petite enfance au Québec, and many others. They want us to vote in favour because they understand the impact of these punishments. Corporal punishment is linked to widespread and lasting personal and societal harm. As the organizations point out, 75% of substantiated cases of physical abuse in Canada are linked to corporal punishment. These organizations make it abundantly clear that section 43 of the Criminal Code must be repealed.

Other countries are doing the same. It is important to point that out. Countries like Korea, Colombia, Japan, South Africa, France, Ireland, Argentina, Brazil, Poland and Spain have abolished corporal punishment of children. Tomorrow's vote in principle on the bill will allow us to join 65 countries around the world that have already held these debates and decided that section 43 of the Criminal Code should be abolished.

I wanted to shout out to Corinne's Quest; Kathy and John Lynn of New Westminster, British Columbia; and all the organizations that have called for the abolition of section 43 of the Criminal Code. They have done that as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission tells us to in its call to action 6. After the horrendous genocide that happened in residential schools, they are saying now is the time to move forward on call to action 6. As my colleagues have mentioned, it has been eight years since those calls to action were issued.

There has not been one call to action that has been advanced since 2022, and this means that members of Parliament tomorrow will have the ability to vote in principle on moving forward on call to action 6; removing section 43 of the Criminal Code, which dates back to 1892; and finally putting in place the kind of atmosphere for kids that we need to see in our country.

I mentioned earlier many of the national organizations that are calling on parliamentarians to abolish section 43. They include the Anglican Church of Canada, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, occupational therapists, pediatric health centres, pediatric nurses, social workers, the Canadian Mental Health Association, the Canadian Red Cross, the YMCA, the YWCA and more than 65 countries that have called for the same thing, because they know that 75% of substantiated physical abuse cases in Canada arise from incidents of physical punishment.

They say very clearly that it is time for Canada to move beyond an aspect of the Criminal Code that was put in place in 1892. It is time to heed the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It is time to put in place call to action 6. It is time to learn from the past.

Tomorrow, members of Parliament will have an important vote, the vote in principle to move forward from this aspect of the Criminal Code that justifies physical punishment of children.

I hope that all those voices are heard and I hope that members of Parliament vote yes on Bill C-273.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 13th, 2024 / 6:20 p.m.
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Green

Mike Morrice Green Kitchener Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to start by noting that, this evening and in past debate, we have heard really clear calls for how important this bill is, in particular from our hon. colleague the member for Nunavut tonight. The member for Winnipeg Centre further made clear that case.

With the limited time that I have, the contribution I would like to make to this debate is really focused on the importance of listening to indigenous leaders, particularly with respect to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action.

In my view, Bill C-273 is an offer to all parliamentarians to move ahead with the TRC's calls to actions. For my part, I have committed to fully implementing them, as has the Green Party of Canada.

I will read out, once again, call to action 6: “We call upon the Government of Canada to repeal Section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada.”

This is exactly what Bill C-273 seeks to do.

As background, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission issued 94 calls to action back in 2015 and progress has been absurdly slow. At the current pace, the calls will not be completed until 2081, yet every party in this House of Commons has committed to fully implementing the calls.

I will summarize them now. In 2015, then-leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, now the Prime Minister, said, “On behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada and our parliamentary caucus, I affirm our unwavering support for the TRC’s recommendations, and call on the Government of Canada to take immediate action to implement them.”

That is being applauded by a member from the governing party. I would remind that member that call to action 6 is exactly what this bill is calling for. I certainly hope that this government will be supporting Bill C-273.

As for the Conservative Party, in 2021, Erin O'Toole, then-leader of the Conservative Party, pledged a plan to implement all Truth and Reconciliation calls to action. I assume that included call to action 6.

As for the Bloc Québécois, in 2021, in their platform, Bloc MPs would pressure the federal government to implement all recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

In the same campaign, 2021, the leader of the NDP committed to fully implement all outstanding recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. An NDP MP, in fact, is bringing forward a bill here to work toward doing so.

The leader of the Green Party of Canada, the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, pledged the same thing.

In short, I hope that my colleagues follow through on the commitments of their parties and those that I know they personally, I am sure, have also made.

Certainly, I hope, at the very least, that this would get to committee. This is the second time now, in my time as an MP, that I am seeing this gap between commitments to follow the TRC calls to action and opportunities that MPs have to do so.

The last time was on Bill C-5. One of the TRC calls to action, call to action 32, is to remove mandatory minimum penalties. Of course, Bill C-5 removed some but not all of them. That was not what was in call to action 32. It was to follow through on removing all of them.

Once again, though, in this vote on Bill C-273, parliamentarians will have another opportunity. For those who have pledged to pressure the government to do so, this is now being offered. An MP has put forward a bill that would directly call to repeal section 43 of the Criminal Code. That is call to action 6.

I would hope that colleagues would support this bill and, in doing so, move us one very small step closer toward following through on all 94 calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission from back in 2015. We are now in 2024. We need to move more quickly. Here is one chance to do so.