Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank members of the House who have participated in the debate. I think we would all agree it was actually a very interesting debate. Certainly diverse viewpoints were put forward. I welcome that because as other members have pointed out it is important that we debate the issue even if there is disagreement. The debate in public is important.
I have listened carefully to the points that have been made. Beginning with those of the member for Elk Island, I think it is really somewhat misrepresentative to suggest that if section 43 were repealed it would mean that every parent who then strikes or slaps a child would be criminally charged. I am not sure if he was present for the beginning of the debate, but that is just simply not the case.
The problem with section 43 is that, first, in an overall sense it condones the use of force as a means of correction and discipline and I think that is a negative message to send out. Second, and more critically, it has successfully been used as a defence, as was so well pointed out by my colleague, the member for Windsor--St. Clair, when clearly physical correction has gone too far. Removing the section would make sure that does not take place in the future. In fact, I note that the member for South Shore who spoke for the PC/DRC admitted himself that there have been abuses of children through physical correction. However, he then went on to say that is okay because somehow the courts will protect children.
Again, this gets at one of the contradictions we are dealing with. Some of the organizations I have been working with, in particular the National Youth In Care Network, are made up of young people who actually have been placed in foster care under our child protection agencies. The network is clearly opposed to section 43 and wants to see it repealed. It has pointed out that the use of physical force as a discipline method can lead to abuse.
The network states:
It is a common report of youth in care who are child abuse survivors that serious physical abuse escalated out of “discipline” methods such as spanking.
Further, states the network, and again this is where I feel there is a contradiction in terms of what we believe is really taking place here, in actual fact section 43 can impede the work of child protection agencies. It states:
The “discipline excuse” that is created by Section 43 obscures child abuse investigations, making it very difficult for police and child protection workers to make a legal distinction between abuse and discipline.
In regard to what remains in the criminal code, I think we have to be very careful about what we are advocating.
I have to say in response to the comments from the member for Regina--Lumsden--Lake Centre that this debate is not about being politically correct. To suggest that this is about political correctness to trumpet the rights of children is really quite offensive and does not do justice to the seriousness of what is before us. Nor is it about bleeding heart social workers. I think this kind of rhetoric really divides people. This debate is about the well-being and health of children. I absolutely agree and acknowledge that there is a right and a responsibility of parents to raise their children and to discipline their children. What we are talking about today, though, is whether or not this section has allowed an environment to be created which allows physical abuse to take place.
The government member said it was important that we have a balance. I guess life is about a lot of balances, but I do believe that in our society there is one very important balance and that is the right to protect our children, both as parents and as society as a whole. I think there is growing evidence to show that this section has actually harmed children. I believe we should continue the debate. There are important things to look at and consider.
In closing, I would like to thank those who participated and the groups who have done so much work to repeal section 43. I know that their work will continue. I would like to seek the unanimous consent of the House to have this go forward to committee for further debate.