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School CP - June 1996

Edmonton Journal, Alberta, 11 June 1996

Movement to ban strap gains ground

EDMONTON (CP) - Back in grade school, Guy L'Heureux would get 40 lashes on his bare thighs, bottom and lower back for misbehaving, leaving him with welts, bruises and painful memories.

That was 30 years ago, but to this day the dreaded strap rests ominously in the drawers of many teachers and principals across the country.

Just last week, the Black Gold school district in central Alberta reaffirmed the right of its educators to use the strap to discipline children.

School officials insist most teachers choose to spare the rod. But a growing movement of Canadians would like to see the practice banned once and for all. "Even a little bit is not good," said L'Heureux, 42, whose experiences in a Saskatchewan residential school led him to found Canadian Male Survivors of Child Abuse, an Edmonton-based group.

"What it does is teaches people to solve their problems and manipulate others using violence - that's exactly the wrong message we want to send out to children."

As Dickensian as corporal punishment seems in 1996, teachers are still protected under the Canadian Criminal Code's Sec. 43 for "using force in the way of correction toward a pupil or child."

A high school teacher in New Brunswick disciplined a group of male students in January with karate chops, one of them to a boy's face.

The teacher was charged with assault, but escaped conviction with the help of the Criminal Code.

On Tuesday, Liberal Senator Sharon Carstairs will open discussion in the Senate on repealing Sec. 43. Carstairs plans to introduce a private member's bill in the fall to eliminate the section.

NDP MP Svend Robinson also has a private member's bill on the issue awaiting first reading in Parliament.

"All studies indicate that all violence teaches children is to be violent themselves," Carstairs said.

"I think it is somewhat ironic that we can't use corporal punishment against criminals, but we can use it against kids."

Critics of Sec. 43 say corporal punishment is a relic of a bygone era when husbands had the legal right to physically correct their spouses and employees their domestic servants.

"What children learn from this is that force is an acceptable way to deal with conflict," said Corinne Robertshaw, Toronto-based coordinator of the Repeal 43 Committee.

"If people knew what was happening with respect to Sec. 43 they wouldn't be so complacent."

British Columbia, the Yukon, and scattered Canadian school boards in such cities as Edmonton have prohibited corporal punishment.

Alberta and most other provinces leave it to parents and local school authorities to decide on discipline methods.

But a teacher in the Black Gold district said Alberta is defeating its own efforts to stamp out violence by not taking an active role in the issue.

"We already know that many situations at home tend to be violent and children need a safe place to go," said Luigi Gatti, a local president of the Alberta Teachers' Association.

"The moment that we introduce corporal punishment in the schools we close another door on a child that is already probably receiving rough treatment at home."

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