A few years ago Mr. Harold Hoff, a former stock broker and resident of Southern Ontario, noticed that the Department of Justice and the department of Health were circulating incorrect information on the subject of corporal punishment.
“There were several statements that were egregious,” Mr. Hoff pointed out in an interview for ARPA Canada’s Lighthouse News, “for example, ‘why spanking doesn’t work,’ ‘experts say that spanking is not an effective form of discipline,’ ‘spanking can make children angry and resentful,’… and ‘it teaches them that hitting others is ok.’ Now a lot of these things have scientifically and empirically been proven false with a large amount of real-time data.”
After seeing the information online, Mr. Hoff ran a two-year study of his own on the subject to provide more empirical evidence. His study of 18,000 minors in 13 institutions where corporal punishment is the main method of correction answered questions such as: ‘is corporal punishment effective, and to what degree is it effective?’ and ‘does corporal punishment create bullies or does it deter them?’
“I looked at children punished for hitting and bullying others,” Mr. Hoff continued, “and if you look at the effectiveness which is measured by recidivism, physical punishment was three times more effective in stopping children from hitting others than all other misbehaviours combined. So it’s the complete opposite of what they were saying [on the website].” Hoff’s work does not advocate for parents to spank their children, but does find that the Canadian laws on corporal punishment that derived from the Supreme Court ruling are empirically correct and optimally balanced.
In January of 2004 the Supreme Court ruled on use of physical punishment in Canada and created a comprehensive corporal punishment guideline, but the debate around corporal punishment has continued. Earlier this year Member of Parliament Joyce Murray rose in the House of Commons to argue that the current status quo on corporal punishment is morally corrupt, “shockingly, Section 43 of the Canadian Criminal Code still permits this cruel form of punishment – an archaic flaw in our legal system to say the least.” She then called on all MPs to ban physical punishment of children. ARPA Canada Director Mark Penninga wrote an article for the Vancouver Sun response to Joyce Murray’s statements and was also able to be part of a discussion on CBC Radio about the issue.
Responding to the incorrect information he had discovered, Mr. Hoff contacted his Member of Parliament who helped him get the research to the Minister of Justice and the Minster of Health. “About a year later,” Mr. Hoff pointed out, “the department of Justice website has been updated and certain comments that were there which were really editorializing – or actually they misquoted what the court ruling was – those have now been removed. And by the same token the Health Canada agency has updated this pamphlet…at least they’ve updated it and toned down the language and removed a few of these totally false statements.”
“This is what makes Canada the best country on the planet to live in,” Mr. Hoff concluded, “the fact that we can still go and speak with leaders, and effect change through research or just identifying some basic underlying problems, that is something that is pretty rare.”
*This article is based on an extended version of the interview Harold Hoff had with Al Siebring, host of Lighthouse News. You can listen to a portion of that interview on Lighthouse news here under the title “Public Education – Cultural Genocide.”