Skip to main content
Start of content
Start of content

e-4265 (Justice)

Initiated by Marc Levasseur from La Tuque, Quebec

Original language of petition: French

Petition to the House of Commons in Parliament Assembled

  • It is unacceptable that in 2023, section 43 of the Criminal Code, which came into force in 1892, authorizes parents and their representatives to use force to inflict corporal punishment as long as the force is reasonable;
  • The definition of “reasonable force” is subjective and variable;
  • Canadian legislation must evolve to reflect society’s values;
  • Canada abolished the use of corporal punishment toward adults in 1972;
  • Research shows the negative effects of corporal punishment;
  • Canada has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, article 19 of which requires that children be protected from all forms of physical or mental violence, abuse and maltreatment;
  • The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has repeatedly recommended that Canada prohibit corporal punishment;
  • Ninety-two countries have already abolished or are in the process of abolishing corporal punishment;
  • The long history of violent corporal punishment in Indigenous residential and day schools, as well as in church-run residential schools, schools and orphanages across Canada, has harmed and scarred hundreds of thousands of children;
  • The Government of Canada has committed to implementing the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, including Call to Action No. 6 calling for the repeal of section 43.
We, the undersigned, Canadian citizens and residents, call upon the House of Commons in Parliament Assembled to repeal section 43 of the Criminal Code.

Response by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): The Parliamentary Secretary Gary Anandasangaree

The Government is committed to protecting children from all forms of violence, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Criminal Code contains general criminal offences to protect all persons from violence, including children. Further, the Criminal Code contains a number of offences that specifically protect children. When an offence of any kind is committed against a child, a court must treat this as an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes. This means that the crime is treated more seriously and can result in a longer sentence.

It is a crime to assault or threaten to assault someone, no matter their age. Assault is broadly defined in Canadian criminal law to include any intentional use of force against another person without their consent. This includes any non-consensual touching, directly or indirectly, of a person regardless of the amount of force used. Slapping, shaking, punching, pinching, kicking, or any other form of unwanted touching are all examples of actions that constitute an assault. It is also a crime to unlawfully confine a person against their will, for example by restraining them or restricting their movement, either physically or by controlling conduct, such as through fear, intimidation or other similar psychological means.

Section 43 of the Criminal Code is a limited defence to criminal liability for parents, persons standing in the place of parents, and teachers for the non-consensual application of reasonable force to a child. This defence is only available in a narrow set of defined circumstances. In 2004, the Supreme Court of Canada limited the availability of that defence to reasonable corrective force that is minor and reasonable under the circumstances. Importantly, the Court also held that teachers may not use force for physical punishment under any circumstances.

Parents, persons standing in their place, and teachers have a critical role to play in the daily nurturing, education, care and protection of children.

All 94 Calls to Action made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada are important to the Government and they serve as one of many pathways to reconciliation. While progress has been made, there is more work to do and the Government remains committed to this effort. The Government continues to explore how best to respond to Call to Action #6.

The Government opposes the use of physical discipline on children and continues to support parenting education and discourage such practices, including through investments in family violence prevention initiatives and the development of publications such as ChildAbuse is Wrong: What Can I Do? and Criminal Law and Managing Children’s Behaviour.

In addition to protections under the Criminal Code, every province and territory has laws to protect children from family violence and abuse. These laws allow the state to take action where a child is in need of protection from physical, emotional or psychological harm or neglect. Many provinces and territories also have laws and policies that prohibit the use of physical punishment of children in foster homes, childcare settings such as daycares, as well as in schools.

Our Government will continue to monitor Bill S-251 and Bill C-273 as they make their way through the legislative process.

Open for signature
January 19, 2023, at 12:43 p.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
March 20, 2023, at 12:43 p.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Alain Rayes (Richmond—Arthabaska)
March 29, 2023 (Petition No. 441-01218)
Government response tabled
May 12, 2023
Photo - Alain Rayes