Canadian Law: Systematic and Methodical Inquiry in to Child Abuse

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The federal government of Canada is responsible for the child abuse. Canada became a U.N. Convention signatory in 1991 and agreed to uphold the rights of children. Canada is therefore accountable with regard to children rights. The rights include protection, safety and a nurturing environment for the development of a child. According to the Canadian law of child abuse, there is no statute of limitations (Sullivan, 1992). The statute of limitation is the grace period from the day the crime is committed to the day a person is charged in a court of law. Child abusers are charged regardless of when the crime occurred. There is a number of legislation that protects the abuse of children in Canada. These include Canadian Criminal code, Canadian Civil Law, Canadian Human Rights Legislation, Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IPRA) 2001, and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations and Rules, 2002.


By definition child abuse refers to any form of harm, or risk of harm, that a childmay undergo while under care of a parent, relative, teacher or a guardian. In most cases, the child is under the care of trusted persons who are to mentor the child. Harm may be direct or indirect. Direct harm is afflicted through physical or emotional means by hitting, kicking, or sexual abuse. Indirect harm is through neglect to provide necessary needs for the growth of the child. In the child welfare field, incidence rates are defined as the number of child maltreatment investigations conducted in a given year by child welfare agencies per 1,000 children under age of 16 years (Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, 2000). Child abuse or maltreatment involves a range of negative behaviors such as physical assault, sexual assault, psychological/ emotional abuse, neglect and witnessing family violence. In most cases, child may be subjected to child abuse while under care of someone they trust or even their parents or relatives. In addition, child abuse may occur at any place even at the child’s home. The following paragraphs expounds on the different types of child abuse mentioned earlier.

Forms of abuse

Child abuse statistics has shown that, physical abuse can occur once or it may happen repeatedly. It involves use of force against a child to an extent of injuring the child or being about to injure him. Physical abuse includes biting, hitting, use of weapon, pushing, knocking, among others. Other child abuse reports have indicated assaults such as holding the child under water, female genital mutilation, or any other harmful use of force or restraint (Dunsdon, 1995). Sexual abuse involves abusing children sexually or using them for sexual purposes to get money. This includes involvement of a child in sexual act or exposure to sexual contact. Penetration, attempted penetration, fondling, sexual talk, among others are termed as sexual abuse. Neglect can be defined as the failure by a guardian or parent to provide basic needs for the development of a child. Neglect occurs in repeated incidents and is often chronic. Examples of neglect are failures to supervise the children, medical neglect, abandonment, allowing criminal behavior, and educational neglect. Among those cases recorded in substantiated investigations, neglect is the most common form of child maltreatment experienced by children in Canada. This may result in harming a child’s sense of self and may result to serious behavioral, mental, mental or health problems. Emotional abuse also includes intimidation, exploitation, and social isolation, verbal threats, making unreasonable demands to the child, or exposing the child to any form of violence (Sullivan, 1992). The abuser uses different strategy to ensure that he controls the child. He/ she can give the child goodies or exert fear to the child. This prevents the children from disclosing the abuse to any other person. Abuse may occur once or in patterns over a period of time, months or years. It is therefore important for the government or the federal laws to develop protective services and prevention programs for child abuse. Prevalence is used to know the number of maltreated children in Canada. Statistical data helps to give details associated with abuse and its outcomes. In addition, the data helps in developing policy and legislation which address the child abuse. Furthermore, health practitioners, educators and child welfare services can employ the data in order to develop effective intervention programs, diagnostic tools, and protocols that meet the needs of abused children (Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, 2000).

Child abuse and good discipline

What is the fine line between child abuse and spanking? Parents know the fine line between discipline and child abuse. To discipline a child, a parent uses some small level of force when a child misbehaves. Later, the force may be increased to a violent force for no reason or to verbal assault, neglect among other abuse. There is a difference between the two forces that clearly shows the difference between spanking and abuse. Spanking a child in Canada continues to bring a lot of controversy among parents and government. The Senate is debating on removing section 43 from the Criminal Code Act, which permits parents to spank their children.

After hearing a testimony on June 18, Senator Carstairs defined ‘abuse’ as hitting a child. On the same note, Senator Munson clearly stated that there is nothing such as a reasonable force. In addition, he went on to say, “You either hit a child or do not hit a child”. According to the law spanking is a form of child abuse and ought to be banned (Mrozek, and Quist, 2007). There has been controversy among parents pointing at spanking. The senate or law should leave spanking to the parents. This is because parents are concerned more to the welfare of their children. Statistics have shown a clear evidence of spanking as a disciplinary tool. Spanking results in neutral repercussions and over 80 percent indicates positive results. However, physical discipline has proven to be good when it comes to tougher lines such as dealing with drug abuse among children. The Senate should retreat from being emotional or having negative memories on spanking. Their bill that spanking is child abuse and ought to be banned is disputed. In 2004, Supreme Court of Canada allowed parents to use spanking as a form of discipline and warned them to use it reasonably. To further support spanking a disciplinary measure and not a child abuse thing, statistics from Sweden where spanking was banned in 1979 shows evident violence among youth who were raised after the ban.

Causes of child abuse

Any child regardless of race, skin color, gender, or socioeconomic status is vulnerable to maltreatment. Child abuse can be described as a complex problem caused by varying factors such as social, individual, or family. The counselors have linked child abuse to inequalities among people in the society and the age difference between the abuser and the child. In most occasions, the child is in dependent on the abuser and has little power to repudiate. Racism, colonization and social isolation are some of the factors contributing to child abuse. Aboriginal children and those from racial and ethnic minorities are subject to abuse.

Child abuse in Canada

In Canada, child abuse and neglect continues to prevail. However, it is not clear how the stigma is widespread as these information is under the table. When a child is abused, most legal institutions requires those who suspect that the child is maltreated to report the matter to the appropriate child welfare division. However, in most cases maltreatment of children goes unreported as children fear to disclose what happened to them. In addition, a witness may remain mum about it rather than get “involved”. The child may be subjected to abuse for a long period of time if they refuse to disclose what is happening. In some cases, the victims live with the abuse as they do not share with anyone their experience (Department of Justice-Canada, 1989). Other reasons why child abuse in Canada remain hidden is the manipulation of the case by the abuser through bribing, threatening the child or coercing preventing the child from talking. The child may be convinced to believe that, if they tell anyone they will be punished or be removed from home. Some children may feel ashamed and remain mum. Statistical data has shown that in most cases, sexual abuse is reported by adults who experienced the vice when they were young children. The witness may never report the case to avoid being involved or may lack appropriate services to help the child. Lack of visible injuries, signs and symptoms have rendered many abusers to escape the lethal weapon of law (Mrozek, and Quist, 2007).

Statistics of child abuse

Both Badgley and Rogers documented that accurate, trustworthy data on the occurrence of child abuse were essential to developing the acquaintance base for prevention and intervention strategies (Badgley, 1984). The Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child abuse conducted a survey of child abuse in Canada and provided a national picture involving child abuse. The study was carried out all over the country in a period of three month. The study indicated an evidence of abuse which was rated at 22 children in every 1,000 children. Further child abuse investigation by the 1999 General Social Survey on Victimization (GSS) presented invaluable information involving child abuse caused by family violence. The GSS found about half-a-million children are exposed to family violence (Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, 2000).

Society response to child abuse

The first response of the Canadian society to child abuse and neglect is through its provincial child protection systems. According to the provisional laws, all cases of pertaining to child abuse and neglect should be investigated. Different actions can be taken after investigation to help the secure maximum protection. Responses range from support services to the family, temporarily or permanently removing the child or the abuser from home, and counseling. In case the abuse is serious, the abusers may be convicted of a crime if the abuse can be proven under the Criminal Code of Canada. In addition, many intervention and education programs have been set aside with an aim of preventing child abuse and neglect. Prevention programs range from intensive help for families exhibiting a high risk of abuse, to general education programs for school students and the public. Everyone has a role to play in responding to and preventing child abuse and neglect.

Types of charges for child abuse crimes

The supreme Court of Canada issued spanking laws in 2004 that upholds guidelines concerning the child abuse. The guidelines outline child abuse to include hitting a child in the head using a belt or any other object, and assaulting them forcefully. The Canadian law also stipulates the charges against those who abuse children and does not protect or excuse violence against children geared by anger or frustration. According to Chief Justice McLachlin, parents or teachers are allowed to use reasonable force for educative or corrective purposes (Alliance of Five Research Centers on Violence, 1999). The key responsibilities of Child welfare laws are to investigate the child abuse cases and to determine whether the child require protection or not. The Child welfare agencies provide help to abused children through counseling, proving temporary or permanent shelter and giving them moral support. The abusers can be removed from home and criminal charges filed against them (Dunsdon, 1995). Since 1960, there have been remarkable talks addressing the issue of maltreatment in Canada. These include the legal laws requiring one to report when abused, creation of maltreated children registries, making effective changes to the criminal code and the Canada Evidence Act, removing the statute of limitations, and supporting the protection authorities (Mrozek, and Quist, 2007). Stalking can be defined as pestering or annoying harassment. The act is evil and is mentioned in section 264 of Canada’s Criminal Code. The charge was passed over in 1993 to enable police deal with stalkers cases. Those found guilty of stalking usually get a maximum of ten year jail term. The society key responsibility is to safeguard the child and ensure the perpetrators of the law do not go free. Child abuse is a complex issue and requires commitment of the government and the society (Mrozek, and Quist, 2007).

The laws uphold a provisional jurisdiction when it comes to child abuse. The laws acts as a primary measure of child abuse and how protected our children. Children are vulnerable to abuse and can affect them later in life. The jury should give a maximum sentence to those people who abuse children. Section 43 of the Canadian laws condones physical hurting as a form of educative discipline. This has brought issues as the society disagreeing. The regulation allows brutal treatment to children and it needs to be changed. Children have a right and they should be educated and be informed of their rights as well as where to turn for help whenever a need arise (Pittaway, 1993). The U.N convention on the Rights of Children is an international body based on legal systems and cultural. The convention is agreed upon by all its members and upholds non-negotiable standards and obligations to human rights. Canada is a signatory of the U.N. conventions and is therefore required to respect the dignity of the children (Schlesinger, 1998). However, in children rights in Canada are in their early stages of growth. The government should implement these rights and make them effective and practical. Since some people often fear to “involved” in court cases, a toll should been introduced where one can call a report a child he/ she suspects to be a victim of abuse without necessarily leaving a name (Dunsdon, 1995). Members of the society need to be educated about the children right and also be protected by the law in case they report an abuser. When a child is abused, the public should be knowing what to look for, signs of abuse, and what to expect. To help children understand the law pertaining to child abuse, they need to be taught and be well informed by their parents, teachers or other agencies (Durrant, 1995).


In addition to laws passed to punish abusers, there are laws to prevent the abuse. Section 161 of the Criminal Code prohibits any abuse found guilty of sexual offence against a child to attend or visit a public area where children are reasonably expected to be present. The abuser is also prohibited from working or seeking any form of involvement to children under the age of 14 years. Offenders found guilty should get a life sentence. A person suspected to be an abuser should abstain from activities that are likely to bring him close to children. In case he disobeys the rule, Section 810.1 allows having him jailed for 12 months. Section 718 states that if there is a clear evidence of abuse, the Criminal Court can impose harsher sentences.

Protecting the child: Government vs. Society

The government and the society are both responsible for the child’s safety. Prevention means intervening when a child is suspected to be abused. The members of the society have higher chances of intervening and stopping the abuse from further escalating. Prevention also means ensuring that child abuse does not take place in the first place. The government role in prevention is setting up rules and regulations that deal with the right of children. Canada declaration on the U.N Convention is a clear commitment to deal with the rights of children (Hunter, 1996). The document outlines the responsibilities of the society in preventing child abuse. In the same document, the child is entitled to opportunities and facilities that will enable her development either physically or psychologically. Sexual abuse is expensive and therefore offenders should get a maximum jail term. Because of the secrecy of the abuse the children has on their abusers, the cost is estimated to be higher than $3.8 billion. A cost of $8 billion annually is paid to the justice system (Morrow, 1989).

Solutions to stop child abuse

Many studies have shown that, most abusive parents do not consciously set out to harm their children. Therefore, better efforts can be applied to assist troubled families, parents at risk of abusing their children. Preventing is the best bargain of child abuse. Parent should be educated on their relationship with their children to allow normal development of their children. There should be a positive relationship between children and their parents to allow the two live in a nurturing environment. In addition, schools should introduce child abuse programs in the curriculum to allow the children learn more about child abuse and their rights. This will help abused children from turning violent and stop the abuse. If a child reports an abusive experience, be supportive and make sure you report to the authorities. In order to assist children, the counselors or parents should teach them about child abuse and when to recognize the vice. Children should be taught about their rights.

Conclusion Child abuse is a serious public health issue that has significant social and criminal justice implications. The abuse and neglect of children results in substantial costs to Canadian government and society as a whole. It places economic burden on the health, education, justice and service sectors. The harm to the physical, emotional and social developments have both short term and long term implications. Child maltreatment can be fatal, although the rate of fatalities is still under-recognized. Homicide of less than age of 18years has been linked to child abuse. Children respond differently to abuse (Dunsdon, 1995).


The degree of maltreatment that occurs depends on the severity, frequency, and the number of perpetrators as well as the relation between the abuser and the child. The age at which the abuse occurs can also influence the outcome. The line between the government and the society is quite thin. The two parties are working together to ensure safety and protection of the children.


Alliance of Five Research Centers on Violence. (1999) Violence Prevention and the Girl Child: Final Report. Research funded by Status of Women Canada, Canada.

Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (2000). Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile. Ottawa: Statistics Canada; Cat. No. 85-224-XPE, 2000.

Badgley, R. (1984). Report of the committee on sexual offences against children and youths. Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services Canada.

Department of Justice, Canada. (1989). What to Do if a Child Tells You of Sexual Abuse: Understanding the Law. Ottawa: Communications and Public Affairs, Dept. of Justice Canada.

Dunsdon, K. (1995). Child Sexual Abuse: A Comparative Case Comment. Canadian Journal of Family Law, 12(2), 441-56.

Durrant, J. E. (1995). Abolition of Corporal Punishment in Canada: Parents Versus Children’s Rights. Canadian Journal of Family Law, 12(2), 457-8.

Hunter, L. (1996). Who is Responsible? Who Should Be? (Children’s Foundation Case). Law Now, 21 (1), 37.

Morrow, J. (1989). Child Advocate Pushes Rights of Children (Child Welfare Act Amendments). Windspeaker, 7(27), 9.

Mrozek, A. and Quist D. (2007). Spanking is not child abuse. Ottawa Citizen. Web.

Pittaway, K. (1993). Sex Abuse Survivors Now Have More Time to Sue Their Abusers. Canadian Living, 18(2), 121.

Schlesinger, J. (1998). Residential Schools On Trial: a UN-Affiliated Tribunal Could Find Canada Guilty of Cultural Genocide. BC Report, 9(43), 27.

Sullivan, T. J. (1992). Sexual Abuse and the Rights of Children: Reforming Canadian Law. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

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