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Date: JUL-20-01
Source: Tim Bloedow
Keywords: unaccountable bureaucrats, secrecy, spanking
Posted: JUL-22-01
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Letter published in Ottawa area local paper.

Dear Editor,

Loving parents who use spanking as part of the discipline regimen for their children need to be very worried. On July 5 in southern Ontario, the police took 7 children from a Christian family under an order from the Children's Aid Society. Three police officers had to drag off the 14-year-old because he didn't want to go. According to news reports, the offence was that the parents sometimes spank their children - with an inanimate object (e.g. a belt or switch).

No reports are forthcoming claiming that the parents abused their children, and neighbours told the media that their experience with the family indicates that the children are loved and well cared for. In fact, according to the Globe & Mail, some neighbours and church members from the family's church tried to get involved to prevent the authorities from taking the children. According to another news report, the Aylmer police chief said, "the children were inspected for bruises and obvious signs of abuse before they were taken but none were found."

Whether or not you agree with spanking should be beside the point - there are some very troubling aspects to this incident which should disturb all people. Most importantly, spanking is not against the law. It is absolutely horrific that in a free and democratic society, children can be taken from their parents because unaccountable bureaucrats think they know better than the law. And the law has been tested more than once in recent years, yet the courts and our legislators continue to support the law as it stands at the moment. They have concluded that it is sufficient (although perhaps not perfect) at distinguishing spanking from abuse.

This situation is not isolated. In home schooling circles, we hear reports fairly regularly of child welfare workers in different parts of the province wanting to investigate families, and often one of the concerns raised in the reports is that the parents spank their children. Home school leaders are saying that child welfare workers are now a greater threat to families than are education department bureaucrats.

This is true. The Children's Aid Society is a threat to good families, not just disfunctional ones. There is no effective accountability for the agency. When they take children away they hide behind a veil of secrecy, refusing to speak about the case. They operate under a second level of law outside the criminal justice system, which gives them the right to flout the principles of justice in a free society such as an assumption of innocence: they are allowed to act first, and ask questions later - supposedly because of the high value our society places on the well-being of children. But they aren't punished when their zeal leads to the breakup of a good family. This despite the fact that the experience in foster homes and other situations often harms the children in ways that they would not have experienced if their families were kept intact.

I used to work on Parliament Hill for an MP interested in such issues as this. I've seen the research and arguments for and against spanking. Whether you believe it is a legitimate form of punishment or not, it is impossible to look honestly at the scientific research and conclude that spanking in and of itself is detrimental to a child's welfare. The CAS has put ideology ahead of the well-being of children. Their ideological extremism is putting children and their families at risk, in part because the agency is not properly accountable to the public or our elected politicians. All legitimate cases dealt with by the CAS could be addressed equally well in a properly functioning criminal justice system. The CAS serves no essential service in a free and democratic society. It needs to be abolished now, or at the very least, radically overhauled.

Tim Bloedow


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