There are many measures in place to help protect children from abuse and violence but some of the most important are child protection laws. In Canada, there are both federal and provincial/territorial child protection laws.
Federal child protection laws
Federal child protection comes in the form of criminal laws. There are quite a few laws that deal with family violence and children which include:
- Failure to provide necessaries of life;
- Abandoning child;
- Criminal negligence.
Other criminal law sections that prohibit specific wrongful and/or violent behaviour against children are: sexual offences against children and youth, child pornography and abduction of a young person. There are many other criminal laws that also cover prohibited behaviour against children, though they may not be specifically geared towards children.
s. 43 of the Criminal Code, the “spanking” law
S. 43 is considered a controversial because it allows some correctional force to be used against children.
The law reads: “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.”
The law was challenged on the basis of whether it was constitutional or whether the law infringed upon the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the law by a 6-3 ruling in 2004.
However, since the decision there have been calls to remove the law and the law may be challenged again in the future.
Provincial/territorial child protection laws
Every province and territory has their own child protection laws. These laws mandate state intervention where children are in danger or are being neglected.
The gist of these child protection laws, besides allowing for state intervention is to prevent child abuse by imposing the “duty to report.” Not every law necessarily spells it out but it still a duty that is imposed on people by other laws, rules or regulations and it exists in all of Canada.
Duty to report child abuse
The duty to report means that a person has a legal responsibility to report instances of child abuse if the person knows, has seen and/or if the person has a reasonable suspicion that a child is being abused. Usually that duty is heightened for professionals that deal with children frequently such as doctors, nurses and schoolteachers.
Failing to report child abuse could see a person face serious consequences under the law. For example, in Manitoba a person who has been found to violate the duty to report could face a fine of up to $50,000 and/or a jail term of up to 24 months. Not to mention you would leave a child in a situation of injury, neglect, abuse, and possibly even death.
However, there is no consequence to a person who reports child abuse, as long as the person didn’t do so out of malice or without reasonable grounds.
If you think that a child is being abused call your local child welfare agency, your local police department of the Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868.
Family Violence Laws
Child Welfare Legislation