Sweden – the canary in the coal mine

24 Jan 2017 Sweden – the canary in the coal mine

On the feature today, an interview with Harold Hoff from the organization “Keep 43”, about new research he’s done on the effects of a ban on corporal discipline in Sweden. Click here to read the transcript of the interview.

In the news:

Bill C-16: ARPA Canada is mounting another lobbying effort against a federal bill on gender identity and discrimination. Click here to learn more about how you can take part.

Abortion Statistics: New statistics from the United States show the number of abortions has fallen to its lowest level since abortion was legalized in 1973. Click here to read analysis from our WeNeedaLaw.ca director.

Pro-Life nomination: Right Now has notched another success in nominating a pro-life candidate for federal office. Click here to read how another pro-lifer has made the ballot.

Free Speech: The City of Edmonton backs down on a free speech case involving a street preacher. Click here to learn how the JCCF continues to intervene in these free speech cases across the country.


ARPA Canada Grassroots Manager, Colin Postma

ARPA Canada has put together a final lobbying effort to try to stop the passage of Bill C-16 through the Senate. This is the bill that would add the terms “gender identity” and “gender expression” to the prohibited grounds for discrimination in both the Criminal Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act.

ARPA’s grassroots manager, Colin Postma, says the bill is fraught with problems, and there’s one last chance to have it stopped or amended. He says it passed through the House of Commons with no discussion at all, and it’s now before the Senate. “We’ve challenged our grassroots to do two things. The first is to send out an EasyMail letter, making sure that the Senators are aware at this stage of our concerns…and that this is a premature bill.” Postma says people are also being encouraged to call the Senators by phone. “We’ve got phone scripts available on our website, and even if you’re not comfortable in calling the Senators directly, another option we would recommend is to be calling them after hours and leaving a voice mail.”

EasyMail letters and phone scripts are available here. The House and Senate both resume sitting January 30th.


Mike Schouten, Director of Advocacy

There are new statistics out of the USA, showing the abortion rate there continues to decline. The numbers are the lowest they’ve been since the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in 1973. In 2014, there were 14.6 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15 – 44, the lowest rate ever recorded, and the actual number of abortion was just over 926-thousand – a 14 percent drop from 2011.

The Guttmacher Institute, which released the report, is known to favour abortion. It claims the reduced abortion numbers are the result of increased use of contraceptives, rather than the increased number of laws being passed at the State level restricting abortion access.

However, Mike Schouten from WeNeedaLaw.ca says there’s a broader context to these numbers. “You have two things happening. You have laws which are being put into place which not only limit the number of abortions that are happening, but also send this pedagogical message that there is something morally wrong with abortion, and that causes many people to re-think whether or not they’re going to abort an unplanned pregnancy. So I think there are two things going on here. I wouldn’t totally dismiss Guttmacher’s response (that people are) resorting to better use of contraception. I think you do have that, but you have that because the laws are in place.” Schouten says the American statistics again highlight the importance of the work of the WeNeedaLaw.ca campaign. He says the lack of any abortion restrictions in Canada sends the message that “there’s nothing wrong” with the practice. That, he says, leads to “an apathy and a careless use by the Canadian public of the sexual experience because if it results in a child? Who cares? We’ll just go for an abortion. It’s totally legal for any or no reason.” Schouten says that’s why we need to start making progress in the political realm, because “when laws come into place, they are proven to lower the number of abortions that are going to be happening.”


The pro-life cause chalked up a win in a federal Conservative Party nomination contest in Calgary. There’s going to be a by-election this year in the Calgary Midnapore riding – the one left vacant when Jason Kenney resigned to focus his efforts on Alberta politics.

Scott Hayward from the Right Now campaign says his group is taking some of the credit for the fact that pro-life candidate Stephanie Kusie won that nomination earlier this month, because they did a lot of work in getting out the vote. Kusie won the nomination on the second ballot – her margin of victory was just 42 votes out of a total of about 1,100 votes case.

Hayward says his group was able to provide more than 10% of the Get Out the Vote (GOTV) volunteers, which translated into about 57 votes for Kusie on that second ballot. Without those 57 votes, Hayward says, Kusie would not have won the nomination.

Hayward says the win shows that the Right Now campaign is on the right track with the way it’s doing its political activism. “I think we’ve come across a winning formula. It isn’t perfect, and we’re still a long way from perfecting it. We find that when we engage people on the ground – we provide our Right Now volunteers with training – (people) find that it’s really easy to get involved and make that difference.” An example of that, Hayward says, is in Quebec City, where a group of young people has asked for the training. “The pro-life movement has basically abandoned the Province of Quebec, (but) these are young people – pro-lifers – who want us to come there, who want us to engage with them to train them on how to be active politically to get those wins.” More information on the organization can be found at their website, www.itstartsrightnow.ca.


The City of Edmonton has backed down in a case of free speech. It involved a street preacher named Nehemia Smeding. Last May, he was preaching on a street corner in Edmonton, and ended up being charged with violating the City of Edmonton’s noise bylaw. The officers who wrote up his ticket told him they had received a complaint, but that they personally didn’t think he was too loud. The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms took up his case and, last week, the City dropped the charges. JCCF lawyer John Carpay says this was actually the second time Edmonton police had tried to silence Mr. Smeding. A previous ticket was also withdrawn by the Crown before the case was prosecuted. “We’re going to fire off a letter to the Edmonton Chief of Police, asking him to provide some better training and instruction to his officers. You can’t abuse the law to silence the expression of opinion that some people just don’t like hearing.”

Carpay concedes that “there are people who don’t like the preaching of the Gospel on a sidewalk, and you’re (allowed) to dislike that. But to abuse the law by silencing somebody because of the content of what they’re saying is completely unacceptable.”

The Justice Centre is now launching another legal appeal of a similar case in Toronto.


On the feature this week, some new research on the societal effects of a ban on spanking. It comes from the “Keep 43 Committee”, a group that is dedicated to opposing efforts to remove Section 43 from the Criminal Code. That is the section which allows parents to use “reasonable force” in the administration of discipline on their children.

The Keep 43 Committee has released a new report on the effects of a ban on spanking in Sweden. This week, Al interviewed the committee’s Harold Hoff on some of the particulars of that research.


LN: The last time we spoke, you had succeeded in getting the federal government to change some of its literature around the issue of corporal punishment. That was based on some anecdotal information at the time, from Sweden. Now, you’ve done more research on the reality in Sweden. Can you first of all give us a brief overview of what’s new in this research?

HH: Ok well, I rely on research from various unrelated sources. Not just my own. What we’ve done is we’ve looked at…there’s a whole bunch of claims basically against using any physical discipline, and there’s a lot of science out there which attempts to denigrate it (discipline). So it’s very difficult to weight the different types of sciences back and forth. People argue methodology and all these types of things, so it appears probably one of the best ways to actually suss this out is to look at societal experiences. It would make sense that if something is causing a societal harm, then the longer that it has been removed, the more those harms that it was claimed to cause would also have been removed. And so Sweden was the first country which – in 1979 – banned all physical punishment of children and the use of physical force in disciplining. So it would follow that if all these claims against spanking are valid, then Sweden should exhibit all these improvements, being one of the most peaceful countries on the planet. And yet from a variety of different perspectives, the exact opposite has manifest.

LN: The common objections to corporal punishment – things like the notion that we’ll be raising kids who are more prone to violence if we spank them, the notion that spanking inevitably leads to child abuse – some of those objections are dealt with in your research, and the numbers actually show – since 1979 – that it’s actually quite different. Can you run through some of those stats for us?

HH: One oft-cited fallacy is that 75% of abuse stems from physical punishment gone too far. Well, the simplistic implication in this is “if you ban spanking, then child abuse will drop dramatically.” That’s logical. Yet that opinion is repeatedly proven false, and Sweden is the best laboratory to actually show this. Within one year of their ban, the physical child abuse rate actually doubled. By eight years out, that rate was already triple the US per capita rate, and by 2010, the child abuse rate was about 22 times what the 1981 rate was.

LN: OK that seems counter-intuitive. Any reasons behind this in terms of some of the research?

HH: Well, the first reason is that parents need effective management tools to manage their children’s behaviour, and physical discipline has already been proven by a very broad study to be vastly more effective in altering behaviour for pre-teen children than any other consequence type. So when parents are barred from using this, often-times their inability to manage their children’s behaviour leads to such frustration that eventually, some of them lash out in explosive rage. And when they do this, it’s not what you would consider discipline or spanking. Now it’s a full-on assault. That’s one of the reasons.

LN: One of the things I found interesting in this latest research was the connection between laws on corporal punishment and declining birth rates. It seems that as the laws get stricter, people are less inclined to have kids because they figure “you know what? It’s just too much trouble and there’s too much risk of the State getting involved.”

HH: Yes. We actually published on this in 2015. We did a study looking at this question. People are afraid of police intervention and having Social Services seize their children, and this is culminating in some resentment and fear. And it is shown to be a material deterrent to (having children). As a matter of fact, if you break out the countries… the longer these laws are in place, it can add up to the loss of up to one-half child per female in a society. And most of the countries that have this collapsing fertility rate are countries that also have imposed bans on parents using any force to reasonably manage their children’s behaviour.

LN: All of this is in the context of Bill S-206. That’s a bill in the Canadian Senate that would repeal Section 43 of the Criminal Code – that of course is the section that allows reasonable parental force. Just to update our listeners, what’s the status on that bill? The Senator who sponsored it, Senator Hervieux-Payette, has retired, but the bill is still alive. Where is that in process, and how can we see that moving forward this year?

HH: Senator Hervieux-Payette tabled one of these bills almost every year since 2004. She retired in April of 2016, and typically if there’s no sponsor to take up a bill, the bill just dies. However, Prime Minister Trudeau has filled all the vacant – well, most of the vacant Senate seats, appointing, I believe, 20 new Senators. And one of the new Senators is Senator Murray Sinclair. And why that’s important is because Murray Sinclair was the Chair of the former Truth and Reconciliation Commission (on residential schools) which put out 94 recommendations on Canada’s reconciliation with First Nations peoples. And Mr. Trudeau said that he will adopt all 94 recommendations. Recommendation number 6 is under Education, and is the repeal of Section 43. Senator Sinclair then said that corporal punishment had no place in education and in schools. Now we informed the Senator that in fact in 2004, the Supreme Court removed physical punishment and physical discipline from any educational setting in Canada, and severely tightened up the definitions of what was allowable for parents. So we were surprised that it showed up in “education” in the first place.

But at any rate it seems that he has taken up sponsorship of this bill anyway. So we are now waiting for him to give his report on the bill.

LN: The report is entitled “Sweden; the Canary in the Coal Mine.” You can read it in its entirety, at this link.

Enjoyed this article?

Never miss an article!

Sign up for our newsletter to stay informed about everything ARPA!

No Comments

Post A Comment