|The Calgary Herald - August 7, 2001
Abuse of law in Aylmer holds grim
portents for family
It was probably the largest police raid that the town of Aylmer, Ont., has ever seen.
Last month, a dozen officers from two police forces were called in for battle - armed and
wearing SWAT-style bulletproof vests.
This was not an attack on a biker gang's clubhouse, however. This was a home invasion,
called in by social workers, to "rescue" seven children from their parents. A
rumour had found its way to the local Children's Aid Society that the family - religious
Christians - believed in spanking as a last resort for disciplining their children,
occasionally using a paddle.
A social worker was dispatched to the family's home to investigate; though she found no
signs of abuse, the parents refused to promise her that they would not spank their
children in the future. That was when the social worker called police for back-up.
In fairness, she probably needed the burly men to do her job - the children, aged six to
14, were terrified of suddenly being taken away from their parents. They cried and
pleaded, and physically tried to resist. One at a time, they were wrenched away from their
family, and taken to the waiting cars. The whole process took five ghastly hours.
Ernie Timmons is a neighbour of the family, who watched things until he could stomach it
no longer. "I had to go in the house; I couldn't take it anymore," he told
reporters. "I've seen those kids since the day they moved in and there was no abuse
whatsoever. They Rollerbladed and bicycled all day long - they were very, very happy
For nearly a month the children were kept in government custody. Last week, they were
returned home on a temporary basis, but only until a hearing next month. In the interim,
the same social worker who ordered the raid retains the right to make unannounced
inspections of the family at any time. And the children's parents have been ordered to
take re-education classes, where they will be told how to raise their children.
It is stunning that such a raid could happen in Canada - so much so that dozens of members
of the family's church have fled to the United States as refugees. But more stunning is
that this anti-spanking crusade - backed up by the local SWAT team - is without a legal
The most important law governing spanking in Canada is the Criminal Code. Section 43
states: "Every school teacher, 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 in the
circumstances." In other words, child abuse is illegal, but reasonable spanking is
That law was challenged last year by the Canadian Foundation for Children, Youth and the
Law - a pressure group that received a $69,000 grant from the federal government. But the
Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies joined the suit, too.
The social workers argued the spanking provision "contributes to an environment where
violence towards children is accepted" and that it is a "justification for
That is a radical view, and one that would be expected from the unabashedly anti-family
Canadian Foundation for Children, Youth and the Law - they are best known for successfully
suing to lower the age of sexual consent for gay sex to 14. But the Children's Aid
Societies are social workers who are paid to enforce the law as it is, not as they want it
to be. The fact that Ontario's social workers tried to criminalize spanking indicates that
they have a political agenda of their own.
But the Criminal Code is not the only law that appears to have been ignored in Aylmer.
According to Ontario's Child and Family Services Act - the law that governs home invasions
- social workers must "support the autonomy and integrity of the family unit."
They must use the "least disruptive course of action" and respect "stable
family relationships." And Section 4 of the law requires social workers to act
"in a manner that respects cultural, religious and regional differences" -
presumably including conservative Christians.
Moreover, home invasions are allowed under strictly delimited criteria - such as sexual
exploitation, or neglect. None of those criteria seem to have been met in this case.
The Criminal Code permits spanking. The Child and Family Services Act requires abuse
before a home invasion is permitted. Yet seven children went through a shattering ordeal,
all because of a rumour that they were spanked.
Surely the psychological scars left by this fiasco are worse than anything that the
parents might have done.
Attempts to ban spanking have failed in Parliament, and they failed in court as recently
as last year. The fact that overtly political social workers are acting as if they
succeeded is an alarm bell for anyone who believes in the autonomy of families - or even
just the rule of law.
Ezra Levant is a Calgary lawyer