Spanking in Canada: a timeline

A timeline of spanking in Canada.

July 31, 2009

New Zealand reopens the spanking debate. The country decides to hold a non-binding referendum on the issue, mailing out three million ballots to voters. The question they are being asked: "Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?"

September 2008

Parliament is dissolved before Bill S-209 can be approved by the House.

June 17, 2008

Bill S-209 passes its third reading in the Senate despite Conservative objections to the legislation. The vote count is not recorded. The bill moves to the House of Commons for approval before it can become law.

Oct. 17, 2007

Bill S-209 passes its first reading in the Canadian Senate. Introduced by Liberal Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette, the bill proposes eliminating Section 43 of the Criminal Code. It is the third version of a bill first introduced in December 2004.

May 16, 2007

New Zealand's Parliament passes legislation that prohibits all forms of corporal punishment on children.  

January 2004

The Supreme Court of Canada rules, in a 6-3 decision, that Section 43 of the Criminal Code is constitutional and that the law should stand. In the ruling, the court issues a number of recommendations, including restricting the use of "force by way of correction" to children between the ages of 2 and 12, disallowing the use of instruments like rulers and belts, and prohibiting the use of force to the head.  

Oct. 27, 2003

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child issues the following statement to Canada: "[The Committee] is deeply concerned that the state party has not enacted legislation explicitly prohibiting all forms of corporal punishment and has taken no action to remove Section 43 of the Criminal Code."

June 2003

The Supreme Court of Canada hears the appeal of a lower court's decision to uphold Section 43 of the Criminal Code. The court reserves judgment until a late date.

April 18, 2003

Former nun Lucille Poulin is released from jail after serving eight months for beating several children at a religious commune on P.E.I. Some people on the Island say they're worried that she will violate her parole conditions. She was also ordered not to live with or care for anyone under 14 for three years after being released.

Nov. 8, 2002

Lucille Poulin is sentenced to eight months in jail and three years' probation for assaulting five children who lived at a religious commune in Hazel Grove, P.E.I. During the trial, Poulin said sections of the Bible suggest using beatings to discipline children and to dissuade them from evil.

Oct. 25, 2002

Lucille Poulin, a 78-year-old religious commune leader in Prince Edward Island who disciplined children by beating them with a wooden paddle, is found guilty of five counts of assault. Judge David Jenkins says the use of "the rod" went beyond spanking, to beating the children. He says he believed the testimony of five children, who said the beatings left them with bruises and led them to pass out. Poulin says she was just doing what God told her to do.

July 12, 2002

In a second spanking case related to the Aylmer, Ont., Church of God, a family comes under investigation for its disciplinary practices. The family is called to the offices of the local Children's Aid Society for questioning. In a previous interview with CBC TV, the mother said that a strap is used only as a last resort, and that her children know the discipline is given with love.

Jan. 2002

The Ontario Court of Appeal upholds Section 43 of the Criminal Code, saying parents and teachers need the option to be able to use physical force in disciplining children. The decision is appealed.

Nov. 26, 2001

Five children taken into custody by the Children's Aid Society of Windsor are returned to their parents. The children had been beaten at their fundamentalist Christian school. The CAS says it will stay involved with the children and the school and may offer counselling on alternative forms of discipline.

Nov. 23, 2001

The Children's Aid Society in Windsor, Ont., seizes five children from a fundamentalist Christian school. The teenaged daughter of the school's supervisor said students were being beaten with a rod.

July 6, 2001

A pastor from the Church of God in Aylmer, Ont., defends members of his church who reportedly beat their children. Four boys and three girls were removed from the family home by Ontario's Family and Children's Services, which says the youngsters must be protected from being regularly hit with belts, sticks, chains or other objects.

Sept. 10, 2001

The Canadian Foundation for Children, Youth and the Law goes to the Ontario Court of Appeal to contest the July 2000 decision of the Ontario Superior Court to uphold Section 43 of the Criminal Code.

July 2000

Ontario Superior Court Judge David McCombs upholds Section 43 of the Criminal Code and says parents and teachers need the option of using some "limited" physical force in disciplining children.


Israel outlaws the use of corporal punishment against children.


A youth advocacy group files application in Ontario Court, General Division, to have Section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada declared unconstitutional. The Canadian Foundation for Children, Youth and the Law argues that corporal punishment infringes on children's rights to security of the person and equal protection under Sections 7 and 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The group says physical punishment is ineffective and serves only to teach physical aggression to children.


American tourist David Peterson is acquitted of spanking his five-year-old daughter in a London, Ont., parking lot after she closed the car door on her brother's hand.


Canada ratifies the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which calls on all participating state parties to ensure children are protected from "all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse."


United Nations International Year of the Child. Sweden is the first country to ban all forms of corporal punishment against children, including spanking in the home. 


Corporal punishment introduced to Canada, modelled after British law.