House of Commons Hansard #256 of the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was labour.


Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

moved 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.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start off by acknowledging that Parliament is built on the unceded Anishinabe Algonquin territory. The peoples of the Anishinabe Algonquin nation have lived on this territory for a millennia. Their culture and presence have nurtured, and continue to nurture, this land, and we honour the people's land of the Anishinabe Algonquin nation.

That land acknowledgement is part of what we are attempting to do as a country in the reconciliation process of moving to put in place calls to action to ensure that we achieve lasting and meaningful reconciliation with first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples. We know about the horrific conditions in the residential schools. We know about the cultural genocide that killed thousands of children. Therefore, we know that as a nation we must respond.

I note that eight years after the tabling of the landmark truth and reconciliation report, we have still to implement many of the calls to action. That is what is before us today, call to action 6 on education, as a result of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which reads as follows, “We call upon the Government of Canada to repeal Section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada.”

Section 43 is what permits physical punishment of children. It has yet to be implemented, which is fundamentally a repudiation of our attempts as a country to achieve that reconciliation. I believe that the adoption of this bill will take that meaningful step with respect to call to action 6 and its implementation, and it should be supported by all members of Parliament.

I reference that former senator Murray Sinclair believes that the death count that came from those residential schools could be five to 10 times higher than what was submitted and recorded as the number of children who died at the schools. The official figure is 4,100, but he believes it could be much higher.

I quote from the Toronto Star. It states:

When the churches and the government began the IRS system, the goal was to “kill the Indian in the child.” They aimed to assimilate these children into the new “dominant suppress the Indigenous Peoples and begin appropriating the land and resources of this vast land. At the same time, the people suffered the loss of their most precious resource – their children.

It goes on to say, “To “kill the Indian in the child”” meant that it was “stolen from the children, literally cutting them off from everything they knew and should have learned. Corporal punishment is a polite “label” for the atrocities that were done to these children.”

Former national indigenous bishop Mark MacDonald of the Anglican Church of Canada has said this about section 43 of the Criminal Code, and the churches have responded, in their own drive for reconciliation, in supporting the idea that we would repeal section 43 once and for all and ban the legal physical punishment of people. He said:

Section 43 of the Criminal Code is a living and dangerous remnant of the system that caused such damage to Indigenous Peoples...Its repeal not only addresses the damage of the past, it safeguards the future of Indigenous children by removing the justification for the use of force in the discipline of children.

I note that on the website today, the Government of Canada, in its follow up to the 94 calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, it says with respect to call to action 6:

Next steps

The Government of Canada continues to explore how best to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Call to Action 6 to repeal section 43 of the Criminal Code.

The step forward is obvious; it is voting yes on Bill C-273. It is banning the use of physical punishment against children. It is taking that important step as a nation, and Parliament to do that in the next few weeks. In the vote that we will have in the New Year, all members of Parliament could join together to take that important step on reconciliation by voting yes to Bill C-273 to remove section 43, which permits the legalized use of force, the legalized use of physical punishment against children.

The bill is entitled, “Corinne’s Quest and the protection of children” because of Corinne Robertshaw. She passed away in 2013. As a lawyer working for the federal government, she was concerned about the reports of child injuries and deaths caused by parents and caregivers. She stated that the cause was physical punishment of children, and she was determined to end this practice. She founded Corinne's Quest.

Kathy and John Lynn from New Westminster, have been involved since the very beginning. Dawn Black, former member of Parliament of the House, is involved as well. Corinne's Quest has a network across the country.

The support in my community also comes from the Spirit of the Children Society. Ruth Weller, executive director wrote the following:

Good parenting begins by treating children with dignity and respect. In the past, Indigenous children were not given this right. Through the Residential Schools, a culture of pain and hurt was inflicted upon too many innocent children. These children were not given dignity nor respect. Instead, they were treated as property, forced to be bent to the will of the church and Government. Today, the Canadian Government has learned that this was wrong. Now, we can fix another wrong, by eliminating the pain-based behavior of child rearing. This is why we strongly support Bill C-273, as this is a Bill to meet the fundamental human needs to belong.

It is not just local organizations in my community that are calling on Parliament to adopt this bill. The joint statement on physical punishment of children and youth, which predates the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, was adopted 20 years ago, and continues to add signatories today.

Just some of the organizations that are calling on all members of Parliament to repeal section 43, just some of the organizations that are saying, “Let us ban physical punishment of children”, include: Amnesty International Canada; the Anglican Church of Canada; the Canadian Association for Community Living; the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies; the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists; the Canadian Association of Paediatric Health Centres; the Canadian Association of Paediatric Nurses; the Canadian Association of Social Workers; the Canadian Centre for Child Protection; the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport; the Canadian Child Abuse Association; the Canadian Child Care Federation; the Canadian Council of Child and Youth Advocates; the Canadian Dental Association; the Canadian Federation of University Women; the Canadian Foundation for Children, Youth and the Law; the Canadian Home and School Federation; the Canadian Institute of Child Health; the Canadian Medical Association; the Canadian Mental Health Association; the Canadian Nurses Association; the Canadian Psychological Association; the Canadian Public Health Association; the Canadian Red Cross; the Canadian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

Over 700 national organizations, important regional organizations, are calling on all members of Parliament to adopt this bill. This is not something that comes with only the support of child advocates, but it is a universal truth that organizations that understand the negative impacts of physical punishment are all calling on members of Parliament to adopt the bill.

It is not just in Canada where the debate is being held. Over the last couple of decades, we have seen a massive shift in how people perceive physical punishment of children.

The following countries have banned physical punishment of children include South Korea, Japan, South Africa, France, Argentina, Brazil, Poland, Costa Rica, Greece, Ukraine, Germany, the Scandinavian countries, Scotland and Wales. Sixty-five countries and other regions around the world have all banned the physical punishment of children. By adopting this bill, Canada would become the 66th country internationally.

Some countries have refused to do this. I note that countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia and Russia still permit the physical punishment of children. However, when we look at our allies, when we look at democratic nations, they stand together in banning the physical punishment of children. Why? Because of numerous deep and profound research that has been done over the last few decades.

The American Psychological Association states:

Many studies have shown that physical punishment — including spanking, hitting and other means of causing pain — can lead to increased aggression, antisocial behavior, physical injury and mental health problems for children.

The Canadian Medical Association Journal makes the link “between “normative” physical punishment and child aggression, delinquency and spousal assault in later life.”

The Australian Institute of Family Studies states:

A meta-analysis involving over 160,000 children found that physical punishment can carry the risk of physical abuse...and can have similar negative outcomes for children: mental health and emotional challenges, lower cognitive ability, lower self-esteem, more aggression, more antisocial behaviour and negative relationships with parents.

The Canadian Child Care Federation talks about the “fear, anxiety, insecurity and anger” and the use of “aggression to solve problems” that come from physical punishment of children.

The evidence is very clear. Other countries, at a rate of one every four months, around the world are adopting a ban on physical punishment of children. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission clearly calls for it. Over 700 important national organizations are calling for it. Now is the time to adopt Bill C-273.

Bill C-273 constitutes an important initial follow-up on all of the work that has been done on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action.

Call to action 6 calls for the repeal of section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada, which currently legalizes the physical punishment of children. That is unacceptable, and it must be changed. Under this call to action, we have a responsibility to state very clearly that we need to eliminate this section of the Criminal Code that allows for the corporal punishment of children.

Over 700 national organizations are calling on the government to repeal section 43 in order to prevent the practice of physical punishment of children. That includes the Association des centres jeunesse du Québec, the Association des CLSC et CHSLD du Québec and the Association des médecins en protection de l'enfance du Québec. It also includes school boards, such as the Center-East Catholic School Council, the Conseil des écoles publiques de l'Est de l'Ontario, the Conseil scolaire catholique Franco‑Nord de l'Ontario, the Conseil scolaire francophone provincial de Terre‑Neuve‑et‑Labrador and the Conseil scolaire publique du Nord‑Est de l'Ontario. All of these organizations want Canada to join the 65 other countries that have already banned the physical punishment of children, including France, Germany, Brazil and others.

Indeed, the World Health Organization said that, “Corporal punishment is linked to a range of negative outcomes for children across countries and cultures, including physical and mental ill-health, impaired cognitive and socio-emotional development, poor educational outcomes, increased aggression and perpetration of violence.” This has been shown by all the studies out there, and 65 countries have agreed this practice must be banned. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has asked us to do so, but this has been dragging on for eight years. Some 700 national organizations have asked the members of the House to vote in favour of Bill C-273.

I genuinely hope that all members will support this bill. This has been dragging on for eight years. Now is the time.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Hamilton Mountain Ontario


Lisa Hepfner LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member opposite for bringing this important legislation to us today.

I understand that some of the opposition to passing the legislation in the past was from teachers who feared that it would take away some of their right to defend themselves in the case of students who became violent. I would ask the member whether he has a response to that concern of different teachers groups.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member may be aware that more than 100 countries around the world have banned the use of physical punishment in schools. When we are talking about a ban on physical punishment, we are talking about the use of it by parents and teachers, and there is a great impetus around the world to ban the practice in schools. As I noted in the French part of my speech, there are school boards and teacher organizations, including early child care educators, that very clearly have said that Parliament needs to adopt the bill and that we need to repeal section 43.

Finally, my father, who passed away two years ago, was a long-time educator, and both he and my mother, who were very involved in the education sector, believed very strongly that physical punishment was not justified. It was a blessing to be in that family. I am hoping we can raise all children the same way.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Luc Desilets Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, with all due respect to my colleague, I am of course completely opposed to Bill C-273.

First, the bill seeks to repeal section 43 of the Criminal Code, which deals with correcting a child. Section 43 clearly states that force must not exceed what is reasonable under the circumstances.

I am a father and an educator, and I was a school principal for 20 years. If I had to put something like this to my teachers, things would not go well. We are talking about reining in children in a school environment like we do when they are running amok and have to be stopped. Section 43 does not take this approach at all. No harm is done provided that an intervention is reasonable. I find it rather absurd that this is being associated with physical punishment.

The current bill talks about physical punishment. The Criminal Code certainly has a lot of provisions to deal with physical punishment. Can my colleague draw the line between physical punishment and a reasonable measure?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, I hope the member will listen to what Quebec’s child care centres are saying. They are asking members to pass Bill C-273. This is also what the Association québécoise des centres de la petite enfance, Association des centres jeunesse du Québec, Quebec local community service centres and nursing homes, and the Association des médecins en protection de l’enfance du Québec are calling for. All of these organizations support this bill. I will not name them all, because I could spend 10 minutes listing all of the Quebec associations and francophone organizations across the country that support this bill.

Certain court rulings were mentioned, and this is important. However, the organizations say that the court rulings create even more confusion regarding the physical punishment of children. This is why all of these Quebec organizations are asking members to vote in favour of Bill C-273.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Alex Ruff Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will ask again the question that our Liberal colleague asked, because the NDP member did not answer it: Would the bill interfere with a teacher's right to self-defence?

The Liberal member indicated that teachers groups have raised the fact that there are situations in which kids can sometimes get a little violent, for a number of reasons. Would the bill interfere with a teacher's right to self-defence and to protect themselves when dealing with violent children in schools?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, it would not impact self-defence. The reason why more than 100 countries have said that banning physical punishment of children in schools is important is that they understand the negative impacts on children and in the school system. That is why we have seen, over the last 20 years, so many studies saying it is important to repeal section 43 and it is important to ensure that we are not legalizing the physical punishment of children.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Ken McDonald Liberal Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join second reading debate on Bill C-273, an act to amend the Criminal Code with respect to Corinne’s Quest and the protection of children, which was introduced by the member for New Westminster—Burnaby on May 19, 2022.

Bill C-273 proposes to repeal section 43 of the Criminal Code, which provides a defence to parents, caregivers and teachers who apply reasonable force to children in their care. For parents and those exercising parental responsibilities, section 43 applies to the use of corporal punishment. This means that parents can use mild physical force, such as spanking or light hitting, to discipline a child in their care. Section 43 also allows parents to use physical control to restrain or remove a child in appropriate circumstances. The defence is more limited for teachers, who may never impose corporal punishment. Section 43 protects only the teacher who uses reasonable physical control to restrain or remove a child in appropriate circumstances.

Bill C-273 engages highly sensitive issues such as parental authority, children's rights, the appropriate role of government and the line between appropriate parental discipline and child abuse. We know that Canadians hold a wide range of views about what constitutes an acceptable level of physical discipline when parenting or teaching a child. These divergent views have prompted debates about what behaviours are harmful enough that they should be prohibited, while keeping in mind that how one chooses to parent their child is a deeply personal matter. I welcome the opportunity the bill before us has provided to consider these important questions.

The government supports Bill C-273 and its important objective of protecting children from violence and abuse. However, we have heard some concerns from parents, especially from over-policed demographics, and teachers that they may be criminalized for reasonable actions such as minor uses of physical control that do not cause harm.

Section 43 has been part of the Criminal Code, and largely unchanged, since 1892. Its origins flow from the parental duty to protect and educate children. The defence typically applies in relation to assault charges, because assault is broadly defined in the Criminal Code as the non-consensual application of force. This definition captures non-consensual touching or even threats against another person, regardless of their age or whether or not physical harm or injury occurs. Section 43 represents Parliament's attempt to avoid criminalizing certain conduct by teachers, parents and caregivers, but its application today is not intended to protect against abusive and harmful conduct.

The Supreme Court of Canada, in its 2004 decision Canadian Foundation for Children, Youth and the Law v. Canada, found that section 43 is consistent with sections 7, 12 and 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and clarified that the defence applies only to parents who impose minor corporal punishment “of a transitory and trifling nature”. The court also set certain parameters on the defence. For example, the defence applies only where the child is aged two to 12 and is capable of learning from the situation. No object may be used when applying force. The child's head must not be slapped. There can be no physical harm or reasonable prospect of harm and the adult must not be acting out of frustration or anger. The court limited the defence even further for teachers, who may use reasonable physical control only to maintain order or enforce school rules, such as removing a child from a classroom or securing compliance with instructions. The court emphasized that corporal punishment by teachers is never permitted. Since the Supreme Court of Canada decision almost 20 years ago, evolving research and information on the harms associated with the physical discipline of children has resulted in increased calls for the repeal or reform of section 43.

The government is committed to implementing all of the calls to action stemming from the 2015 final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Repealing section 43 would be one more step in accomplishing that commitment, as repealing it would be in alignment with call to action No. 6. This call to action was supported by documented evidence of widespread corporal punishment and abuse of children by staff in the residential school system, with the commission noting in its final report that “[t]he failure to develop, implement, and monitor effective discipline sent an unspoken message that there were no real limits on what could be done to Aboriginal children within the walls of a residential school.”

Those who favour the full repeal of section 43, including many civil society organizations and the United Nations' Committee on the Rights of the Child, argue that the current criminal law does not provide children with the same protection as adults. Furthermore, a growing body of medical and social science research indicates that corporal punishment has a detrimental effect on children. Corporal punishment places children at risk of physical injury, physical abuse, impaired mental health, a poor parent-child relationship, increased childhood aggression and anti-social behaviour, and increased violence and criminal behaviour as adults, thus perpetuating cycles of violence. Over 650 organizations in Canada endorsed the position that the physical punishment of children and youth has no positive effects, and they called for the same protection from assault for children as that given to adults.

However, the complete repeal of section 43 raises concerns in some sectors. For instance, some religious organizations, legal experts and organizations representing teachers, such as the Canadian Teachers' Federation, have opposed the complete repeal of section 43, as it may leave teachers and parents vulnerable to charges for minor or trifling physical contact with children, such as preventing a fight between siblings or removing a student from a classroom for their own safety or that of other students. Without a defence for parents, teachers and caregivers who apply reasonable physical force to children in their care, the assault provisions may apply. This is because the assault provisions cover a very wide range of behaviour, which includes minor applications of force that do not result in physical injury. This could capture, for example, a parent restraining a child to put them in a car seat. As I alluded to earlier, it may also have an unintended negative impact on populations that are over-policed and that are overrepresented in the criminal justice and child welfare systems, including the indigenous and Black communities, as well as members of other racialized groups.

International responses to the question of corporal punishment reflect the divergent positions on this issue and the need to achieve a balanced approach. A growing number of countries, including Sweden, New Zealand, Scotland and Germany, have repealed legislative provisions that are similar to section 43, in order to prohibit corporal punishment. By contrast, some jurisdictions, such as Australia, for example, continue to provide protection to parents who use minor corrective force against their children.

It may be worth considering whether the defence could be tailored to address these various concerns by excluding from the scope corporal punishment, while allowing it for parents, caregivers and teachers who use minor physical force that is both transitory and trifling. In other words, forms of corporal punishment such as hitting and spanking would be excluded in all cases. Such an approach would also recognize the shifts in research and evidence regarding the harms that physical punishment poses for children, while trying to ensure that parents, caregivers and teachers can use minor, non-harmful physical force without being exposed to criminal liability. Changes in this area of the law would also impact provinces and territories, given their jurisdiction over the administration of justice, education and the provision of child welfare services. For this reason, it would be important to provide some time before reforms come into force, in order to allow the various parties to prepare for their effective implementation.

We all recognize the important role that education plays in encouraging safe and appropriate parenting practices. The current government has always and will always continue to support parenting education programs that promote the non-physical discipline of children and alternative disciplinary choices, and it regularly releases public education material targeted toward parents. Any reforms relating to section 43 would need to be accompanied by an educational campaign informing parents and teachers of the changes to the law and teaching alternatives to physical punishment. The Government of Canada is unwavering in its commitment to ensuring the protection and physical safety of children across the country. Bill C-273 would provide a valuable opportunity to develop a modern approach to the discipline of children, one which would ensure that children are protected from harm, while supporting reasonable choices by parents, teachers and caregivers.

I look forward to studying the bill at committee.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


Damien Kurek Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, as always, it is an honour to be able to enter into debate in this place on the important issues that Canadians face. I do so today on Bill C-273, understanding the complexities surrounding the debate we are having here when it comes to the issues of reconciliation, parenting and parental rights, and ensuring children are given the best and every opportunity to succeed in our country.

As one approaches the important discussion we have here, it is meant to be taken seriously and with a full understanding of what the implications of such a bill would be. I note that it is very simple; it is one line that would repeal section 43 of the Criminal Code. For those watching, who may not have the full breadth of understanding surrounding what section 43 of the Criminal Code is, it states:

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.

We have before us a bill that would take out something that has been the course of debate and a subject of debate in this country for the last half-century or so. In fact, I believe there have been around 30 bills brought forward endeavouring to accomplish this or something very similar to it.

I note first a process challenge that exists when it comes to this conversation taking place in the form of a private member's bill, and that is the limited time we have to address the many complexities surrounding this debate. Certainly, two hours of debate in this place and a short committee study is not nearly long enough to speak to the complexity that exists on a whole host of issues, which I will endeavour to get into during the course of this speech.

Let us be clear: Child abuse, as well as violence against children, is wrong and should always have been wrong. However, we have examples throughout our history where, unfortunately, it has been permitted and even state-sanctioned. What we have here is a disconnect, I would suggest, between what the bill purports to do and what the Criminal Code actually says. I emphasize this because there are no provisions in the Criminal Code that permit violence against children or child abuse.

I find it troubling that this has created a notion that one needs to support Bill C-273 in order to be opposed to violence against children. In reality, in terms of section 43, a number of Supreme Court challenges have taken place that brought forward the legitimacy of this. I note that the member for New Westminster—Burnaby failed to take into account some of the challenging nuances surrounding it, including some of the communities he referenced. That is part one.

I would also suggest that another important element is the process of reconciliation and how important it is to ensure that we continue to have that conversation in this country. In fact, I am very proud to be a part of the party that brought forward the apology for the government's role in the residential process, kicking off the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which led to this report. I am very proud that we have been able to be strong supporters of the process of reconciliation. There is a need for that process to continue in order to ensure it is done in a way that gives every opportunity for meaningful reconciliation to take place.

Specifically, when it comes to Bill C-273, there are nuances in this debate that indigenous communities are concerned about with regard to the possible implications if we do not take into account every aspect of what this would mean for children, parents and educators in our country. Some of my constituents with indigenous heritage have shared this with me. It is unfortunate that, as with many other issues faced in this place, the voices of parents are not being meaningfully heard.

We have seen attempts, time and time again, to diminish the role played not only by parents but also by the family as a fundamental building block of society. Any attempt to see that diminished would be wrong. We can see the implications of this over the course of our recent history. We need to be very careful, as the family has done so much to build this country.

I would suggest that, when it comes to the state's involvement in matters such as this, in terms of removing a parent's right to parent their children as they feel fit and the appropriateness around what is reasonable, there is a fair discussion to be had. One of the most challenging things, when I hear these debates taking place, is that we see that this is a response to, especially, the conversation surrounding reconciliation.

We see how the things that were sanctioned by the state ended up causing such significant harm, specifically to children. Now we have the inability to have a reasonable conversation around a parent's role in raising their children and what could take away some of the tools that are available for a parent to do so. We have the state, the possibility of taking and, in some cases, even criminalization.

In fact, there is a concern raised by many parents, parental groups and a number of teachers, including teachers' organizations. I know that the members raised a host of organizations that support this. I can tell us, very clearly, that the support is not unanimous.

The history of the debate that we are having today speaks to that very thing: We have to have that fulsome understanding of what the implications of this would be. As we endeavour to understand this, it comes back to the need to be able to trust our parents to raise children. That includes ensuring that the reconciliation process is undertaken.

I would note, just in terms of a process question, that there is a similar bill in the Senate. It has passed second reading on division. It has not yet been studied in committee there.

I would suggest that the discussion we are having here is of a limited nature, but the widespread consequences that it could bring about for our nation are profound. If we do not take that seriously, we are certainly not doing our job as parliamentarians.

I would just note that the courts have ruled on this. In fact, the Supreme Court of Canada laid out very clear parameters for the use of physical correction and stated that section 43 does not extend to an application of force that results in harm or, and this is important, the prospect of harm.

I spoke before about how the Criminal Code has very clear and wide-reaching applications of what constitutes abuse and assault. To ensure that parents are able to have the full latitude required to raise healthy and productive citizens is absolutely fundamental.

I find it very concerning. Certainly, my constituents have reached out to me. Moreover, I have heard from a number of groups across the country, which have shared their concern that, if we allow section 43 to be removed without the appropriate conversations surrounding what the implications would be, we open ourselves up to allowing for further state control. This would not end up benefiting the children.

In conclusion, in fact, I noted that my Bloc colleagues and Liberal colleagues had noted a number of concerns that they have with the bill. However, I believe that the Liberals said that they would be supporting the bill going to committee. Those concerns should be taken very seriously. They necessitate further conversations and reasonable dialogue to ensure that we are doing what is best for our country and for the future of our children, as well as to ensure that we can have those reasonable and sometimes difficult conversations, so that we strike the right balance in this place.

I would simply say that I have followed this debate closely over both my years in Parliament and the years before as a parent. As somebody who cares deeply about our nation's future, my concern is that this bill simply does not facilitate the conversations that are required to have the meaningful dialogue about what raising children in Canada should look like in the future.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


Rhéal Fortin Bloc Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, our children are usually what gives our lives the most meaning. They are the apple of our eye. They make us laugh, cry and dream. They are society's most precious asset. None of us would want to see them hurt or saddened by the words or actions of others for anything in the world. All we want is to protect them from harm. Anything less would be concerning.

Guiding and nurturing them sometimes requires a bit of strictness and discipline. Because we love them, we sometimes have to protect them from themselves, or from the harm they might cause others and then soon regret. The Criminal Code states that every parent or schoolteacher “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.”

Should we be concerned or happy about this provision? That is the question. I think that if we really love our children, we should thank the legislator who included this provision. There are many examples showing that words, hugs and sweetness are not enough to discipline a child. Sometimes they need to know that if they step out of line, a responsible adult will look after them.

There are many examples of this. Imagine a child who loses it and has a tantrum in the classroom, then destroys equipment around them and forces the teacher to leave the classroom with the rest of the class. Imagine a number of children fighting and punching each other in the face. Imagine a child hitting, spitting on or biting a teacher. I am not making this up. I did not see it in a horror movie. My wife experienced something like this again this morning and she was just telling me about it before I arrived in the House. This was not an exceptional morning. It was not an isolated incident. This is a reality that all teachers face almost every day.

Teachers are in tears and they no longer know what to do to discipline children. We now have specialized educators who are called into classrooms to take control when kids run amok.

Last week I was reading a Radio-Canada article that said school personnel in New Brunswick increasingly have to resort to protective equipment. When long-sleeve jean jackets are not enough, teachers turn to Kevlar clothing. When I read that, I felt like I was reading science fiction, but this is not science fiction. It is happening now, today, in 2023, in our classrooms in Quebec and in Canada.

What do we do with that? Of course I am against physical punishment. I do not think you should hit a child to get even or punish them, but using reasonable force to discipline them and keep them on track is something I think should remain. I do not know how we will function without it. Are there parents in the House who never had their arm squeezed by their mother or father? Are there parents in the House who never did that to their own children to calm them down during a meltdown?

Once again, we are talking about reasonable force. We are talking about “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.”

Of course, a teacher hitting a child with a ruler makes no sense. It is not reasonable or necessary and should be prohibited. The Criminal Code already contains provisions dealing with assault, which apply as much to parents and teachers as to anyone else.

What we are talking about here is what goes on in a family, in a home or in a classroom when a child loses control. It takes an adult to help them regain control. If we let children do whatever they want, we should not be surprised later to find we live in a chaotic society, and it will be our own fault.

Currently, teachers in Quebec are in negotiations with the government. That does not concern the federal Parliament. I would not ask it to resolve the dispute. They are asking for a number of things and I am convinced it is the same everywhere in Canada. They are asking of course for better salaries, as well as a better teacher-student ratio. Increasingly, there are too many students in classrooms and teachers have trouble controlling their classes. They are also asking for support. In classrooms, there is an increased need for specialized professionals in every field.

Today, the NDP, the party we are accustomed to seeing side with union members, working to improve their living conditions, finds itself on the other side of the fence. I was very surprised to read this bill and see that it came from the NDP. To my mind, it would be logical and reasonable for the NDP to side with parents who have trouble controlling their children and to side with teachers, who are asking for support, who are asking to be able to control their classrooms. Teachers are asking for time to teach; they cannot take it any more.

I mentioned my spouse earlier. There are plenty of other people who have told me that they have trouble spending even half their class time teaching. They spend all their time disciplining the kids. They have no choice. Teaching math is impossible when everyone is shouting and arguing. This is not normal. We are going to have to make drastic changes in our society, but we are not there yet. We are not here to decide how to educate children.

Still, regarding the idea that acts of parental or teacher protection should be considered criminal acts going forward, in other words that teachers should be prosecuted if they decide to separate two boys who are punching each other in the face in the schoolyard, I doubt anyone would even want to send their kids there. What would we say if, as parents, we went into the schoolyard and saw our daughter or son being punched in the face by another child, while the teacher was looking on and simply telling the kids to stop, because it is not nice? We would tell that teacher to step up and do their job and that we have entrusted them with the responsibility of looking after our children; we would ask that teacher to look after the children properly. That would be perfectly normal.

I do not see how we could support such a bill. I do not even see how we could it refer to committee to debate it and try to amend it, because there is nothing to amend. One clause in the bill says it would repeal section 43 of the Criminal Code. Not only can this not be amended, but, with all due respect to the sponsor, this would be a waste of our precious time in committee. There are so many things we need to address at the Standing Committee on Justice. We do not have time to look at everything. I have submitted requests for us to work on certain topics such as criminal groups. We do not have time to deal with that. We do not have time to deal with judicial appointments. There are so many things we are having a hard time working on because we do not have enough time. We would have to work on this for who knows how many meetings. As I was saying, we would not even be able to amend this bill. We have come to the conclusion that this does not make sense. We cannot stop parents and teachers from raising children. The world has gone mad.

Again, with all due respect to the sponsor, I am sure that this bill was well-intentioned and done in good faith. Unfortunately, this bill is as bad as the children running amok in classrooms, if not worse. I invite members to vote against the bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


Lori Idlout NDP Nunavut, NU

Uqaqtittiji, I am proud to support Bill C-273. I thank my NDP colleague, the member for New Westminster—Burnaby, for introducing this bill in honour of Corinne's Quest. Bill C-273 will do great things if it is allowed to pass. It will protect children. It will end allowing adults to physically punish children. It will implement call to action number six from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

In my statement, I remind Canada that since 1892, the Criminal Code still allows for the physical punishment of children. I outline why the Truth and Reconciliation Commission would have introduced call to action number six. I remind Canadians about international law and conclude with Corinne's Quest to ensure her story remains alive as long as the physical punishment of children is legally allowed.

Spanking or hitting children as a form of punishment should never have been legally allowed in the first place. Section 43 of the Criminal Code allows it, and that is why, through Bill C-273, this section of the Criminal Code must be repealed. The current law in Canada states:

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.

Instead of protecting children, this section creates arguments for adults to make justifications for physically punishing children. Canada's history of making justifications for hitting children is deeply rooted. For indigenous peoples, it remains a part of federal genocidal policies.

For more than 150 years, Inuit, first nations and Métis were taken from their parents, families, homes and familiar environments and sent to attend schools run by churches. According to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, the first church-run Indian residential school was opened in 1831. By the 1880s, the federal government was funding church-run residential schools. The aim, as we all know, was to “take the Indian out of the child”. Indigenous children were beaten, sexually abused and forced to be ashamed of who they were. They were beaten if they spoke even a word of any of their first nations, Métis or Inuit languages.

Survivors of residential schools only recently, in the last few years, have started openly sharing their experiences. We must honour their stories. I still remember vividly experiences shared with me from former students like Monica lttusardjuat, Ernie Bernhardt, Marie-Lucie Uviluq and Marius Tungilik, just to name a few. Horrid traumas were inflicted on them. Their stories guide me to this day.

I remind members that these stories were only allowed to be shared because of the great work of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, which was so cruelly cut by the Conservative Party. This is at a time when so much healing is still much needed to this day.

In 2020, the University of Manitoba Press said that records showed everything from speaking one's aboriginal language to bed-wetting to running away provoked whippings, strappings, beatings and other forms of abuse and humiliation. This pattern continues in the foster care system. According to Indigenous Services Canada, 53.8% of children in foster care are indigenous, despite the fact that they make up only 7.7% of the Canadian population.

In November 2018, the University of Toronto said that, in many of these situations, children are taken from their home communities and raised elsewhere without regard for their language and culture. It also said that reports of maltreatment, neglect and abuse in the foster care system are rampant and that indigenous children are more than 3.4 times more likely to have a substantiated case of maltreatment in comparison to non-indigenous children. Also, the sixties scoop has been well know by indigenous peoples for generations. This phenomenon is only now becoming understood by mainstream Canada and reported by academics.

Canada's reconciliation with indigenous peoples still requires dedicated, well-invested and true commitment. Indigenous peoples have yet to experience active reconciliation. Banning the physical punishment of children would be a positive step. Justification for harming children can end. It can be the 44th Parliament that achieves this.

According to Indigenous Watchdog, a federally registered non-profit organization dedicated to monitoring and reporting on reconciliation, the government has only completed 13 of the 92 Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action. It is obvious that reconciliation is not a commitment of this and past governments. Passing Bill C-273 would be a step in the right direction. It would be a small but important signal toward reconciliation.

In 1989, the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and Canada signed on shortly thereafter. The convention states, among other things:

States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that the child is protected against all forms of discrimination or punishment on the basis of the status, activities, expressed opinions, or beliefs of the child's parents, legal guardians, or family members.

The Library of Parliament published “The ‘Spanking’ Law: Section 43 of the Criminal Code”, under its “HillStudies”, in June 2016. I note:

By maintaining Section 43 on the books, Canada is clearly in violation of a treaty it signed, and Canada has been repeatedly reminded of this fact by the UN. This, and other reasons provides Canada with ample reasons to repeal s. 43.

Canada must do its part. Sweden was the first country to ban it, in 1979, France banned it in 2018 and Scotland in 2019. Even China proposed legislation in 2021.

The main driver behind Bill C-273 has been an organization called Corinne's Quest. Corinne's Quest was founded in 1991 by retired lawyer Corinne Robertshaw, who was concerned with reports of child injuries and deaths caused by parents and caregivers. She fought for decades to repeal section 43 and finally end the physical punishment of children. While Corinne sadly passed away in 2013, her legacy lives on as Corinne's Quest. It has grown into a national collective of lawyers, pediatricians, social workers and teachers. Corinne's inspiring work and that of so many others can be completed with the passage of Bill C-273.

For these reasons, I urge all parliamentarians to support this bill. It is unacceptable that the Criminal Code still justifies the physical punishment of children. I remind Canadians of our responsibility to have reconciliation with indigenous peoples and to complete the TRC's calls to action. We must respect international law, especially with Canada's adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. We must finish Corinne's work to protect children. More than anything, we must protect the indigenous children who are still in the foster care system.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business



The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

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12:05 p.m.


Marie-Claude Bibeau Liberal Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to speak on a point of order.

Last Thursday, in my answer to a question from our colleague from Calgary Confederation, I told this House, “2.45 million people used their tax returns to indicate they wanted to be donors.” I want to offer a clarification by explaining that it is indeed 2.45 million people who indicated their interest in becoming organ donors by requesting additional information, which they can now do through their tax return, as per Bill C-210, in participating provinces.

I apologize if my answer caused any confusion.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

I thank the minister for her clarification.

The House resumed from November 24 consideration of the motion that Bill C-58, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code and the Canada Industrial Relations Board Regulations, 2012, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

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12:05 p.m.


Chris Lewis Conservative Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, as always, it is an honour to rise in the House to represent the amazing folks of Essex. I give all my thanks to God for giving me the opportunity.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I lost my momma. If the House would allow it, I would like to share a few words before I dive into Bill C-58.

Mom would text me during question period to say, “Christopher, you are not wearing a tie today, so you must not be speaking.” Mom would also text me to say, “Christopher, stop chewing gum”, “Smile”, or “Christopher, wake up.”

The little things in life get us through, and the real little things in life were mom's chocolate chip cookies. Mom was known on the Hill for her chocolate chip cookies. However, if a member did something bad, I would get a text saying that the member would not be getting a chocolate chip cookie that day.

She was a servant. She served beyond belief. She is the great reason I am where I am, and why I am who I am.

Although those texts have come to a very abrupt end, after she spent only 13 days in hospital battling cancer, her legacy lives on. If my dad and my brothers Jeff and Kim are watching, I want them to know that Helen, our momma, is in the House of Commons with us all here today. As I promised momma at her bedside, I will make her proud and live to serve. I love her. I thank the House for indulging me.

Bill C-58 has two main elements. First, it would ban the use of replacement workers in federally regulated workplaces, such as banks, airports and telecommunications, but not in the federal public service. It would replace an existing, albeit much more limited, prohibition on the use of replacement workers in the Canada Labour Code.

Second, Bill C-58 would amend the maintenance of activities process to encourage not only quicker agreement between employers and trade unions on what activities should be maintained in the case of a strike or a lockout, but also faster decision-making by the Canada Industrial Relations Board in this connection. The provisions of Bill C-58 would only apply to federally regulated workers. If enacted, the provisions of Bill C-58 would enter into force 18 months after royal assent has been received.

It brings forward a lot of questions and a lot of discussion. I would start by saying that I am very proud to be the shadow minister, the critic, for labour. I have travelled across this country, literally from coast to coast to coast, speaking with both unionized and non-unionized workers in places such as Halifax; St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador; Vancouver, at the Port of Vancouver; and Montreal.

I have been across this country, meeting with both unionized and non-unionized workforces, their management teams, and the folks with their boots on the ground. What I hear all the time is them saying, “Just let me go to work. I want to go to work. I don't really want to be on strike. What I really want to do is have a good-paying job so I can ultimately feed my family, put diapers on my babies, fill their little mouths with pablum and afford to buy my wife some flowers. I can't do that when I'm on strike.”

At the end of the day, we have seen an unprecedented amount of strikes across this country over the last number of years. Every time I turn around, we are dealing with another strike. Why is that? One has to really wonder if it is the cost of living. Is it the cost of food, which our workers cannot afford? Is it the high interest rates? Is it the carbon tax on fuel and food? Is that the reason why? It always goes back to the same question: Why are we seeing an unprecedented amount of strikes? We have to believe that it is due to inflation. It is due to the cost of living, as well as uncertainty, no doubt.

I will speak quickly to the topic of the Stellantis battery plant in Windsor. One good thing about Air Canada is that it is almost always delayed, which allows me more time to speak to my constituents back home when I am at the airport.

Last night, I spoke to someone at IBEW, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, who said what the problem is. We have an amazing workforce here in Canada of electrical workers. They are bringing them in from Manitoba and Alberta. They are there in Windsor. They are literally in Windsor to start to work. However, they are very concerned about all of the folks potentially being brought in from South Korea to do all work. In the past, those workers did all the work at tier 2 and tier 3. They have done all that work. He said he understood that 10, 20 or 30 people may need to be brought in to program the computers, but the rest of it they already know how to do.

Then I spoke to the carpenter's union, and they said the same thing. They have the whole workforce there. Why are folks being brought in from other places to do the work that they, quite frankly, are trained to do?

The part of this bill that is somewhat confusing to me is that it is only for federally regulated workers. It does not apply to federally regulated public sector workers. If the government is going to tell businesses that there will be no replacement workers, why would the government not do it for itself? It makes one wonder.

We have had amazing, amazing yields in southwestern Ontario this year from our farmers. Some of the highest bumper crops that we have see in a long time. About 90% to 92% of our grain is exported. If we cannot get the grain onto the ships and overseas, we have a major issue, and we have a major issue right now.

There was just an issue on the Great Lakes, which, by the way, got solved. It is like what was reported yesterday in the news about No Frills. The issue with workers at No Frills was solved yesterday, just like at the Port of Montreal and the Port of Vancouver. How were they solved? They were solved at the table through democracy. There is always a solution when we speak. There is always a solution when people come to the table to have good, fair, strong, respectful dialogue. That is how things get solved.

Because I sit on the transport committee, am a bona fide farmer and was a businessman, my concern is that this potential legislation could drive fewer jobs for the country. It is a matter of fact that this could drive potential Canadian business investment away from Canada, which would ultimately mean fewer jobs.

Ironically, at 9 a.m. tomorrow, I head to the Senate to do my darnedest to get Bill C-241, my private member's bill, through committee. Bill C-241 is a bill that would allow the writeoff of travel expenses for both unionized and non-unionized skilled trades workers. I do not know of anyone in the House who would disagree with me when I say that Canada is absolutely in a major housing crisis, and Bill C-241 would allow the mobility of our skilled trades, both unionized and non-unionized workers, to travel across the country.

I look at Stellantis and the entire project, the upwards of $50 billion for the three battery plants, and I know one thing for sure: We need skilled trade workers at those sites. However, I also know that we need to build homes from coast to coast to coast. Hopefully, tomorrow the Senate will give us the green light, so to speak, and Bill C-241 will get through the Senate to support our skilled trade workers.

For clarity, for anybody watching at home, and I am sure a lot are watching me, this is only for federally regulated workers. This does not dive into the provinces and their regulations.

This is going to sound goofy, but during the Port of Vancouver strike, a message was left at my office, and I called the gentleman back. He said he owns a coffee shop, but he cannot get any cups for the coffee, so he will have to shut his doors because he ordered the cups from overseas. It sounds small and insignificant, but that is one more business that shut its doors, is not paying taxes, that is not employing people or laying them off. It is one more business that Canada is, quite frankly, bleeding.

There is nothing more important than our labour force. My father always said it best. Someone can have the greatest widget in the world, but they cannot build it and they cannot sell it without people. There is not a business I know of that is not about the people, and they only ever will be.

The answer is very simple: Get to the table, get the folks at the table and have a conversation. Deliberations have worked in the past. That is where the answer lies.

In closing, I will just finish with the following. I come from the business world but I also was boots on the ground. In my role as shadow minister for labour, I met some pretty extraordinary folks. I think about the folks at the ILWU out in Vancouver, who treated me with so much respect when I visited them two or three times. I think about the folks out in Halifax and St. John's, Newfoundland. I think about the folks in my own backyard in Essex. Again, it is resounding that it is only about the people.

There is only one way that we are going to rebuild Canada, that Canada is going to be built, that we are going to have enough homes, that we are going to have the manufacturing and we are going to be on the front line in leading-edge technology, and that is with people. However, they need to be Canadian people. They cannot be folks from overseas who are taking away the jobs of Canadians.

I want to thank the Speaker for allowing me to celebrate my mother and allowing me to have a bit of freedom in my speech today. I am so darn passionate and compassionate when it comes to our labour force and it means the world to me.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

All of us give you our best and our condolences on the loss of your mom. Many of us probably have the same stories about our moms sending us a little note to say to straighten our tie, look a little more lively or that we are looking tired. “Why do you look so tired?” is one I get a lot from my mother. I'm sure your mom did the same thing.

Questions and comments, the hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader.

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, we do extend our most sincere condolences to the member and his family.

It is interesting trying to draw Conservatives out on how they are going to vote. Here we have labour and others who want to see this legislation pass to committee. I have listened closely to the member opposite, and I cannot tell exactly what the Conservative Party is going to do on this. This is Bill C-58.

Just last week, we had debate on Bill C-57, the Canada-Ukraine trade agreement. The Ukrainian heritage community was very excited about that legislation and wanted the House to pass that legislation. Like today, we were left wondering why it was that the Conservative Party did not seem to support Ukraine.

Can the member give a clear indication as to why he voted against the Canada-Ukraine trade agreement?

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12:20 p.m.

An hon. member


Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

There is a relevance issue that we are looking up, but I will let the hon. member make his comment.

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12:25 p.m.


Chris Lewis Conservative Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, this was one of the examples where somebody would not get a chocolate chip cookie from mom. I am just teasing.

I guess I will answer the question, and the question is really an easy one to answer. If the Liberal Party and the Prime Minister are so friendly with labour, why did only one Liberal in the entire caucus vote for Bill C-241? That is a really easy question, so I will answer a question with a question. Why do they not support skilled trades?

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, my deepest condolences to the member and his family. It was very moving when he shared the story about the passing of his mother. My own mother passed away one year and 22 days ago, in November last year. There is not a day I do not think of her. I know it will be the same for him. I wish him all the best in honouring her memory and in working through the grief that comes from her passing.

I want to come back to Bill C-58 because the member spoke very movingly about his mother, as well as other issues, like housing and other bills, but did not actually speak to Bill C-58. The NDP has pushed so hard for this and forced the government to table the bill because of the use of replacement workers in the Windsor area, for example, and Essex County. I know he is familiar with this. Right across the country, Rogers has locked out workers for Shaw cable. Dozens of steelworkers are on the picket line because of the Rogers' lockout, which is using replacement workers in the federal sphere of jurisdiction. It is simply untenable.

As has been pointed out, Bill C-58 would seek to bring a more rapid close to labour disputes because it would mean that CEOs of major corporations would not be able to run roughshod over the rights of their workers, but would have to negotiate in good faith.

What remains a question for me is whether Conservatives will stand with working Canadians and vote for Bill C-58. Could the member tell me if they will vote in favour of the bill?

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12:25 p.m.


Chris Lewis Conservative Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member so much and really appreciate his compassionate and very thoughtful comments about momma.

At the end of the day we have to ask why the federally regulated public service is not part of this legislation. Why is it that the government, which with all due respect is supported by the NDP, does not have its own employees as part of this legislation? We really have to question whether it is trying to hide something or whether there is something that we do not know. Perhaps if it would open the book and tell us the rest of the story, then we would know exactly where we stand.

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12:25 p.m.


Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, earlier this year, for a really long period of time, the screen actors guild's labour dispute with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers impacted the Canadian film industry in a major way. One of the major sticking points in negotiations was the use of artificial intelligence to act as replacement workers for many people in that situation.

Could the member comment on how the federal Liberal government's inability to articulate a strategic vision for artificial intelligence writ large in Canada, particularly with respect to the impact on labour in the future, could make this legislation moot?

Canada Labour CodeGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Chris Lewis Conservative Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, every time we turn around it almost looks like the legislation that comes from the Prime Minister and the Liberals is made from band-aids pieced together.

I think there is a much larger solution available to us, which is that all parties get together to come up with a solution. I would suggest that, whether it is with respect to AI, mines to the north or the busiest international border crossing in Canada, each and every one of those is equally vital to what the member has spoken about. We have a really long way to go and a lot of work to do.