Presbyterian Church in Canada formally opposes corporal punishment of children

Children play in the snow in Canada.
Children play in the snow in Canada. Photo: UNICEF/UN046256/Bindra

The Presbyterian Church in Canada has come out against corporal punishment of children, formally calling for full legal protection for children across the world.

“The wellbeing of children and the care of their bodies, minds and souls should be at the forefront of the church’s pastoral care,” said the Church.

This announcement comes after the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada endorsed the Joint Statement on Physical Punishment of Children and Youth in June of 2021. With this endorsement, the Church also agreed to lobby the Government of Canada to repeal Section 43 of the country’s Criminal Code, which permits parents, teachers and other carers to hit children in the name of discipline.

The wellbeing of children and the care of their bodies, minds and souls should be at the forefront of the church’s pastoral care

The Presbyterian Church in Canada

Developed by a coalition of seven Canadian organisations, the Joint Statement provides an overview of the harms of corporal punishment. It also highlights resources, information and material to guide positive parenting and educate caregivers, and calls for the repeal of certain legislations in Canada to protect children. By endorsing the statement, the Church is not only throwing their support behind it – they are calling for churches across the country to use it as a tool for education on positive parenting. In-line with that, the Church is prioritising increased awareness on the topic for congregations, worshiping communities, social ministries, camps, presbyteries, synods and colleges.

To date, the Statement has been endorsed by over 650 organisations, including those from religious, medical and educational sectors. Such support showcases the widespread push to prohibit corporal punishment, the leading form of violence against children across the world. Given the essential role that faith communities – and faith leaders – play in societies across the world, the Church’s endorsement marks a powerful step forward for children Canada and beyond.

“It is wonderful to know that so many people in the national Presbyterian community are supportive of the information in the Joint Statement and its messages regarding the harms of violent punishment – and the need for positive discipline of children,” said Ron Ensom, co-author of the Joint Statement.

Today, 87 per cent of the world’s children are not protected from corporal punishment by law, and 137 countries – including Canada – allow corporal punishment in the home. The End Violence Partnership calls on all governments, communities and institutions to follow in the footsteps of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, and ensure that all children are effectively protected from the practice by prioritizing the enactment and implementation of laws to prohibit corporal punishment in all settings.

Learn more about our work to protect children from corporal punishment.