'All for ourselves and nothing for other people' seems in every age of the world to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind. -Adam Smith "All the 'truth' in the world adds up to one big lie." Bob Dylan "Idealism precedes experience, cynicism follows it." Anon

December 14, 2011

Respecting a Child's Point of View


Chain The Dogma       December 14, 2011

Respecting a Child's Point of View         


Kids would rather play than pray

by Perry Bulwer


“This post is part of a series inspired by the Prevent Abuse of Children Today (PACT) campaign, hosted by Stepping Stones Nigeria. Please add your name to the PACT petition to prevent abuse of innocent children in the Niger Delta and visit the site to find out more: www.makeapact.org

An Australian professor of child and family health nursing, Cathrine Fowler, caused a minor controversy this past August when she suggested that sitting babies faced forward in pushchairs or carrying them in slings in that position is selfish, may stunt their development and causes unnecessary stress which can turn them into anxious adults. She said:  "In not considering our baby’s perspective, we are inadvertently quite cruel to children."

That insight goes far beyond the practical question of how best to push or carry a baby, and into the legal territory of the 'best interests of the child' standard, which is the guiding principle of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (the Convention). It is important to keep in mind that the best interest of a child is also the best interest of the adult that child will become, so that standard protects not just children, but adults as well. If an inadvertent failure to consider a child's point of view can cause harm in such a pedestrian matter as the correct position to carry them, then far greater harm, even death, can be caused by parents who deliberately act to subsume their child's rights and perspective. And that is exactly what religious parents do when they indoctrinate their children so that they conform to their beliefs. Indoctrinating children into one religion before they are capable of making their own free and informed decision whether to believe or not is a direct denial of their human rights. Protecting the right to religious freedom for children, which includes freedom from religion, is one of the best ways to protect that right for adults.

All children are born atheists. If allowed to develop without having a belief system imposed on them through constantly reinforced direct and/or cultural indoctrination, most children eventually reach the stage where they abandon belief in fantastical figures. Given the time of year I'm writing this, Santa Claus is a perfect example of that, and belief in God would follow that pattern too if children were free to grapple with belief in the supernatural on their own without interference from dogmatic adults.  Unfortunately, most children in the world are not allowed to exercise their inherent human right to develop free from religious impositions. However, I am certain that if given a free choice unhindered by dogma or superstition, all children would prefer playing to praying.

Kids just want to have fun and be happy, which is their right recognized in Article 31 of the Convention:

Article 31
1. States Parties recognize the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.

2. States Parties shall respect and promote the right of the child to participate fully in cultural and artistic life and shall encourage the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity.

Many children never get the chance to play and have fun, however, let alone enjoy their own right to religious freedom. The unlucky ones are burdened with supernatural religious beliefs, either imposed on them or targeted against them. In extreme cases,  children who have religion forced on them are denied even the most simple childhood pleasures. Some are forced to become adults before their time. Parents indoctrinate them with their own beliefs that forbid playing with toys or riding bikes,  or deny educational opportunities, or worst of all reject medical care; religious groups target them for unethical proselytising  or exorcisms; and child-traffickers abduct, maim and murder them for body parts used in witchcraft rituals.

I recently wrote an article arguing that corporal punishment by parents is an abuse of authority  and an infringement of children's rights. In the course of that argument, I touched on the issue of a child's right to religious freedom. It is an important point that is worth repeating over and over, because although all countries except for the United States and Somalia have ratified the Convention, the denial of religious freedom for children is still rampant around the world. Here is what I recently wrote about Article 14 of the Convention, which sets out a child's right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion:

Article 14 is crucial for establishing the proper balance between parental and children's rights. Clearly, children have the right to freely form their own thoughts and conscience, and choose their own religious beliefs, or none. After all, freedom of religion for children, and for adults, would be no freedom at all if it did not include the right to be free from religion. Since parents also have the right to the same freedoms, it is inevitable that conflicts between those rights will arise. As it must and does throughout, the Convention sides with children. Sub-section 2 clearly states that the rights and duties of parents in this regard must not be directed towards protecting their own freedoms, but towards ensuring their children are able to exercise their personal religious rights in accordance with their evolving capacities. Anticipating objections from parents who only read the first few words in sub-section 2 and insist that their own religious freedom gives them a right to indoctrinate their children, sub-section 3 clarifies that the right to religious freedom is not absolute. A parent's right to religious freedom does not give them the right to deny that same freedom to their child, regardless of the child's age. Or, as the U.S. Supreme Court famously said: "Parents may be free to become martyrs themselves. But it does not follow they are free, in identical circumstances, to make martyrs of their children before they have reached the age of full and legal discretion when they can make that choice for themselves."
That quotation also touches on the principle of the "evolving capacities of the child" as well as the concept of a child's right to an open future. That is a right that is not specifically set out in the Convention, but is implied in this Article and elsewhere. After all, if a parent makes an irreversible religious decision on behalf of their child, such as to rely on faith alone and refuse necessary medical treatment and the child dies, then that child has no future at all. Circumcision of both boys and girls is another common example of a religious decision made by parents that causes irreversible harm to children. But even where death or injury does not occur, a child's right to an open future can still be easily denied them through indoctrination that cuts off their capacity for critical thinking and ability to freely form their own thoughts, conscience and beliefs.
If a child is indoctrinated into a particular religious dogma by authoritarian parents from the earliest age, their right to freedom of expression and information denied through restrictive, narrow-minded 'education', and they are unaware of the full extent of their human rights, it becomes impossible for them to exercise those rights, either as a child or later as an adult. I have encountered countless believers who are so unaware of their own rights that they insist that religious freedom does not include the right to be free from religion. But if the right to freedom of religion has any meaning at all, it must mean that everyone, including children, is free to choose their own religious beliefs or none. When that freedom is denied to a child, it is also denied to the adult that child will become. Protecting a person's rights while they are a child is the only to way to protect that person's rights once they are an adult. That's what a child's right to an open future means, reaching adulthood with their capacity to exercise all their rights still intact. Protecting the full range of children's rights protects human rights for everyone.

Imagine, John Lennon exhorted, a world where there is no religion to kill or die for. That would be a world where all children were truly free to be children -- to play, laugh and have fun without fear or threat.

A child is forced to be a Hindu
A child is forced to be a Jew

A child is forced to be a Buddhist
A child is  forced to be a  Zoroastran
A child is forced to be a Sikh

A child is forced to be a Mormon

A child is forced to be a Muslim






A child is forced to be a Scientologist


A child is forced to be a Christian

A father tortures his child as a witch 








RELATED ARTICLES ON THIS BLOG:


Child sacrifice: a review of the documentary All God's Children - the ultimate sacrifice


Corporal Punishment, the Abuse of Authority and the Rights of Children








December 7, 2011

Red Cross emergency mission to Indian reservation exposes Canadian apartheid

Chain The Dogma    December 7, 2011

Red Cross emergency mission to Indian reservation exposes Canadian apartheid

PM Harper's prohibition propaganda of fear ignores children living in poverty

by Perry Bulwer



I have previously written on this blog about how Canada's Christian fundamentalist Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, is an ideologue who insists on implementing public policy based on political dogma rather than scientific evidence. His insistence on not only perpetuating but expanding the disastrous war on drugs  is a glaring example of that.

Evidence from around the world conclusively demonstrates that the prohibition of drugs has been one of the most perverse, deadly, costly and ineffective public policies ever.  All the myths, lies and propaganda propping up prohibition have been exposed  and scientific evidence proves that decriminalization and/or legalization of all drugs achieves the goal of harm reduction prohibition sought but failed to achieve for the past 70 or 80 years. The only country to abandon prohibition policies so far is Portugal, where all drugs were decriminalized 10 years ago, but based on the results more countries are certain to follow. In Portugal, where drug addiction is now treated as a public health issue rather than a criminal issue, drug use by youth is steadily declining, drug related deaths are down as are rates of communicable disease.  When decriminalization was first proposed most Portuguese were opposed to it, but now with such obvious benefits no one is clamouring for the bad old days of prohibition.

Watch the opening statement in this debate for an excellent overview of the failed drug war

Janus Forum - Should the US Legalize Drugs? from Brown University on Vimeo.



Recently, Prime Minister Harper publicly reiterated his refusal to allow scientific evidence to inform his drug policies when responding to reporter's questions in Vancouver, ironically, at the reopening of Science World. Four former mayors of Vancouver had just endorsed a call by a new coalition of experts in British Columbia demanding the end of cannabis prohibition, which the current mayor later also endorsed.

A new coalition of B.C. health, academic and law enforcement experts is calling for the legalization and regulation of marijuana, saying existing laws only drive the billion-dollar industry underground and fuel gang violence.

Stop the Violence B.C., which comprises dozens of police officials, doctors, university professors, legal experts and more, released a report today titled Breaking the Silence, which aims to show that marijuana prohibition, while well intentioned, has been ineffective — and, in fact, has adverse effects.

All of those professional experts, and many others around the world, have examined the available evidence and come to the only reasonable conclusion possible: prohibition is a drastic failure that makes things worse, not better. But none of those expert opinions or their overwhelming evidence can move an ideologue like Harper. When asked if he would ever consider legalizing and regulating cannabis he responded:

“That won’t happen under our government. We’re strongly opposed to the legalization of drugs. Obviously, we’re very concerned about the spread of drugs in the country and the damage it is doing to our kids.”

[Update April 4, 2012:  the link above where that quote came from is now dead. It was on the Vancouver Sun website, but the article has disappeared. I found another report of that event at this link: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/11/26/marijuana-laws-legalization-canada-stephen-harper_n_1114388.html   The quote above is slightly different in this report: "No, it will not happen under our government," Harper said. “We're very concerned about the spread of drugs in the country and the damage it's doing and as you know we have legislation before the House [of Commons] to crack down."  This issue of link rot, or dead links, is a big problem for bloggers who rely on linking to sources, which is one reason I have archived entire news articles on my other blog.]

First, Harper makes it very clear that he is not interested in science, even though he made that statement at a ceremony for an educational science center. He is definite about it. Nothing could change his mind. Ending prohibition will not happen under Harper's government no matter what the evidence shows. That is the epitome of political dogma, though I have no doubt that it is partly informed by Harper's religious dogma  as a practising member of the evangelical Christian and Missionary Alliance. After all, fundamentalists are not concerned about evidence and facts.

Second, the demagoguery in Harper's statement not only discounts facts and evidence, but it also deceptively gives the impression that he is concerned about the welfare of children. Children are a favourite subject for political fear-mongers because they can imply that anyone who opposes them is endangering children. However, the reality about drugs and children is that the myths, lies and repercussions of prohibition present greater dangers to children and teens than drugs themselves. Canadian children can access cannabis and other illegal drugs easier than legal but deadly drugs such as prescription medication, alcohol and tobacco because those are strictly regulated. Legalizing and regulating drugs now prohibited would both reduce the spread of drugs and protect children, as the Portuguese have found. Furthermore, there simply is no evidence that there is a crisis of drug use spreading across the country and damaging children. Harper just made that up. The real national crisis causing untold damage to hundreds of thousands of Canadian children is not prohibited drug use, but poverty and the hopelessness it creates.

If Prime Minister Harper was truly concerned for the welfare of children he would be proactively doing everything in his power to ensure that no Canadian child lives in poverty. But he is not, even though protecting the most vulnerable citizens should be one of the basic functions of government.  As I wrote in a previous post, on his official website  Harper shows more concern for stray cats than children living in poverty. Oddly, I could not find a search function on that site. I easily found references to protecting cats, but I could find nothing about protecting children through poverty reduction and housing programs. In one of the richest countries in the world hundreds of thousands of children still live in dire poverty without basic necessities of life, and our Christian Prime Minister never says a word about it. Perhaps he misunderstands the scripture that says "suffer the little children".

It has been more than 20 years since the House of Commons unanimously resolved to end child poverty by 2000, but a national advocacy group says it's shocked by how little progress has been made.
While the economy has more than doubled in size since that 1989 resolution, the incomes of Canada's poorest families have stagnated, Campaign 2000 says in its 20th annual report card on child and family poverty released Wednesday.

"Every year I am shocked by the lack of progress made in poverty eradication," said Laurel Rothman, national co-ordinator of Campaign 2000. "The gap between rich and poor families has continued to widen, and low-income and average-income families are left struggling to keep up."
The group says 639,000 children still live in poverty in Canada — one in every 10 children. Among aboriginal children, the rate is one in four. [emphasis added]

I do not think anyone aware of Canadian history is surprised that aboriginal children suffer from poverty at higher levels than other children. There has been two hundred years of colonial, institutional, and governmental racism in Canada, epitomized by the Indian Act  under which the Indian reserve system was set up. South Africa frequently looked to that system as an example for their own segregation policies and apartheid system,and when criticized government officials would use the Canadian experience to justify state racism and discrimination.  [Note: CBC has removed the article at that last link from their archive. It reported that South African officials visited Canada to learn from the Indian Reservation system how to implement apartheid. This article in the archive makes a similar argument: http://www.cbc.ca/archives/categories/politics/international-politics/canada-and-the-fight-against-apartheid/apartheid-in-canada-babb-to-visit-peguis-indian-reserve.html

Now, 20 years after South Africa abandoned its segregation program, apartheid in relation to Canada is back in the news.

TORONTO, Nov. 30, 2011 /CNW/ - As the UN climate summit gets underway in Durban, South Africa, a group of anti-apartheid activists and African non-governmental organizations are calling on Canada to restore its reputation as a leader on global issues, which has been tarnished by Canada's active promotion of the tar sands. A full-page ad in the Globe and Mail compares the Canada that was one of the first western countries to impose sanctions against the apartheid regime in South Africa in 1986 with the Canada's failure to date to respond to global warming, which will have serious social and environmental impacts. The text of the ad reads:
"Canada, you were once considered a leader on global issues like human rights and environmental protection. Today you're home to polluting tar sands oil, speeding the dangerous effects of climate change. For us in Africa, climate change is a life and death issue. By dramatically increasing Canada's global warming pollution, tar sands mining and drilling makes the problem worse, and exposes millions of Africans to more devastating drought and famine today and in the years to come. It's time to draw the line. We call on Canada to change course and be a leader in clean energy and to support international action to reduce global warming pollution."

They are right to criticize the Harper government's regressive environmental policy, which ignores facts and evidence, just like its drug and crime policies. But I find it a bit dismaying that those anti-apartheid activists seem to be unaware that a kind of apartheid still exists in Canada,  though to be fair, saving the environment is perhaps more important than saving humans since without a livable environment there will be no humans to save. Yes, Canada did eventually oppose South African apartheid, but did so while continuing its own discrimination policies under the Indian Act, which essentially makes First Nation peoples wards of the federal government. The Indian Act is apartheid legislation in part because it is the means by which the Canadian government segregated the original inhabitants by pushing them onto small reserves after most of their traditional lands were expropriated, while at the same time attempting to assimilate them into settler culture through oppressive laws and institutions that denied many their basic human rights.

At the same time environmentalists were rightfully trying to shame Canada for endangering the planet environmentally, a Red Cross emergency mission to an Indian reservation  may have been an even greater international embarrassment for the Harper government by exposing the deplorable effects of Canadian apartheid today. It has been common knowledge in Canada for many decades, at least to those who cared to look, that conditions such as infrastructure and services on many First Nations reserves are sub-standard compared to the rest of Canadian society. Under the Indian Act, the responsibility for providing those things on reserves falls to the federal government, whereas it is provinces and municipalities who provide them for everyone else. However, while provinces and municipalities have legislation and codes that ensure minimum standards for infrastructure and services, the federal government has no similar legislation to protect those living on reserves, only policies that can be changed at the whim of fickle, dogmatic or demagogic politicians.

Here is how a United Nations Special Rapporteur described the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people in Canada in a 2004 report. The summary of that report lists many of the effects of Canadian apartheid on First Nations people:

Economic, social and human indicators of well-being, quality of life and development are consistently lower among Aboriginal people than other Canadians. Poverty, infant mortality, unemployment, morbidity, suicide, criminal detention, children on welfare, women victims of abuse, child prostitution, are all much higher among Aboriginal people than in any other sector of Canadian society, whereas educational attainment, health standards, housing conditions, family income, access to economic opportunity and to social services are generally lower. Canada has taken up the challenge to close this gap.
Ever since early colonial settlement, Canada’s indigenous peoples were progressively dispossessed of their lands, resources and culture, a process that led them into destitution, deprivation and dependency, which in turn generated an assertive and, occasionally, militant social movement in defence of their rights, restitution of their lands and resources and struggle for equal opportunity and self-determination.
Aboriginal peoples claim their rights to the land and its natural resources, as well as respect for their distinct cultural identities, lifestyles and social organization. Current negotiated land claims agreements between Canada and Aboriginal peoples aim at certainty and predictability and involve the release of Aboriginal rights in exchange for specific compensation packages, a situation that has led in several instances to legal controversy and occasional confrontation. Obtaining guaranteed free access to traditional land-based subsistence activities such as forestry, hunting and fishing remains a principal objective of Aboriginal peoples to fully enjoy their human rights. So does the elimination of discrimination and racism of which they are still frequently the victims. In some cases, taking advantage of development possibilities, Aboriginal people have established thriving business enterprises. Much more needs to be done to provide such opportunities to all Aboriginal communities in the country in order to raise employment and income levels.

The date of that UN report, 2004, is important in this context. A year later, in November 2005, then Prime Minister, Paul Martin (Liberal) met with the premiers and First Nations leaders in Kelowna, B.C. The result became known as the Kelowna Accord,  which would have allotted $5 billion towards ending some of the gross inequities faced by aboriginal peoples as identified by the United Nations. However, just days later, Martin's minority government fell, an election was called, and Stephen Harper's Conservative party took over. Harper walked away from the agreements signed in Kelowna, choosing instead to ignore the problems, until forced to face the facts of dire poverty and homelessness on many reserves by one brave band Chief, Theresa Spence, who declared an emergency in her community of Attawapiskat after years of government neglect. That declared emergency, by the way, was ignored by the federal government until the Red Cross and the media became involved. But the government's immediate, patronising response was to blame the victims,  offer unworkable suggestions for emergency shelter  and send in an accountant, rather than expedite an emergency response to protect the lives, including infants and children, of those living in frozen squalor  in one of the richest countries in the world.

After reneging on the Kelowna Accord and being in power for six years, what has Prime Minister Stephen Harper done to alleviate these long-standing problems and disparities his government has legal obligations to ameliorate, both nationally and internationally? Nothing but maintain the deplorable status quo. Here is what the Auditor General of Canada wrote recently, in a June 2011 report:

Lack of clarity about service levels. Most of the services provided to communities throughout Canada are the responsibility of provincial and municipal governments, but this is not the case on reserves. Under the Constitution Act, 1867, the federal government has exclusive authority to legislate on matters pertaining to “Indians, and Lands reserved for Indians.” INAC has been the main federal organization exercising this authority. While the federal government has funded the delivery of many programs and services, it has not clearly defined the type and level of services it supports.
Mainly through INAC, the federal government supports many services on reserves that are normally provided by provincial and municipal governments off reserves. It is not always evident whether the federal government is committed to providing services on reserves of the same range and quality as those provided to other communities across Canada. In some cases, the Department’s documents refer to services that are reasonably comparable to those of the provinces. But comparability is often poorly defined and may not include, for instance, the level and range of services to be provided. [emphasis added]

Prime Minister Harper's failure to make any progress towards dealing with the inequities faced by the First Nations peoples actually makes things worse for them. Lower levels and qualities of service than other citizens receive means that those on reserves slip further and further behind, which the current emergency has made all too clear. But there is another way Harper has made things worse. Speaking in the House of Commons, Harper callously suggested that it was the people of Attawapiskat and their band leaders who were to blame for the crisis of poverty, homelessness and sub-standard housing. If there was an undertone of racism in Harper's comments (they were definitely patronising), his ineffective response to the crisis could be seen as overt racism.  After all, it is difficult to imagine Harper offering unworkable suggestions and sending only government observers and an accountant to a non-reserve community that has declared a life threatening emergency. Moreover, the subtle racism in Harper's speech and actions is reflected by many citizens across Canada, considering the comment sections of online newspapers, which are filled these days with utter ignorance and blatant racist attitudes towards the first peoples. With such attitudes openly expressed by politicians and the public, it is understandable why the Assembly of First Nations just passed a resolution asking the United Nations to have a 'special rapporteur' to once again investigate whether the government is fulfilling its legal obligations towards indigenous people.

The optics are not good for Canada, which is slowly losing its progressive reputation  under the dogmatic, backward looking, conservative government of Stephen Harper. It is an international embarrassment that twenty years after the government of South Africa ended its apartheid program, Canada still has its reserve system that inspired that apartheid. The fact that this current crisis exposing Canadian apartheid is happening in the community of Attawapiskat is extremely ironic considering that there is a De Beers  diamond mine just 90 kilometres away. Reminiscent of South African apartheid wherein the state enabled exploitation of indigenous peoples by corporations, De Beers has so far extracted about half of the estimated $1 billion worth of diamonds the mine is expected to yield. The company has pledged just $30 million, or three percent, of that total yield to the original inhabitants of the land the mine is on.

Perhaps it is time for the world community to pressure Canada into ending its colonial policies  and apartheid system under the Indian Act, just like it did to end South African apartheid.

RELATED ARTICLES ON THIS BLOG:


Canadian Indian residential schools designed to assimilate natives traumatized individuals and generations



Aboriginal Teen May Be Charged with Assaulting RCMP Officer With Her Face 


Faith, Evidence and the Immoral Drug War

A modest proposal to end homelessness in Canada

Canada's Christian fundamentalist Prime Minister tells millions of poor no need to protest

Asbestos, Abortion and the Canadian Prime Minister's cats

The Order of British Columbia is Out of Order

November 29, 2011

Sexual harassment in the RCMP and the failure to catch a serial killer

Chain The Dogma    November 29, 2011

Sexual harassment in the RCMP and the failure to catch a serial killer 


Rogue Cops: A few bad apples or a rotten barrel? - Part 2

by Perry Bulwer



The previous post on this blog concerned corporal punishment of children as an abuse of authority. For four years, from June 2007 to June 2011, I archived news articles at Religion and Child Abuse News  related to another type of abuse of authority, namely religiously motivated child abuse, which sometimes includes corporal punishment. I archived well over 3000 news articles on the subject, which represents only a small fraction of such abuse that occurred around the world during that period. I am certain that if I had focused instead on another kind of abuse of authority that appears in news reports almost daily, a similar archive would contain at least as many articles. I am speaking of police misconduct, and I touched on the subject in a previous post, Rogue Cops: A few bad apples or a rotten barrel Part 1.

In that article I used a few examples, one from California and one from Ontario, to support my contention that police misconduct, whether it is outright criminal behaviour or unethical, unprofessional conduct, is often indicative of systemic problems. In other words, the problem is not confined to just a few rogue cops, or 'bad apples', as organizations often describe problem members rather than admit to systemic failures. The larger problem is that the barrel itself is rotten, which inevitably creates more rotten apples.

I realize now that the reference to a rotten barrel in the title of this article and its predecessor is somewhat ambiguous, since it could refer to either all of the apples in the barrel or the barrel itself. In the original article I did attempt to clarify what I meant by that reference, writing:

If he was a bad apple, so were his superiors, which suggests the entire barrel was rotten. There are just too many cases of police misconduct (I'm referring to the U.S. and Canada) for it to be a matter of a few corrupt cops. The problem is rooted in police culture and training.

To be more clear, what I mean is that it is the barrel itself, and the barrel makers that are rotten. Professor Zimbardo's classification of evil activity is instructive here: "... individual (a few bad apples), situational (a bad barrel of apples) or systemic (bad barrel makers)".

And if you think 'evil' is too strong a word to use in relation to police misconduct, consider Zimbardo's definition of evil in The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil:

Let's begin with a definition of evil. Mine is a simple, psychologically based one: Evil consists in intentionally behaving in ways that harm, abuse, demean, dehumanize, or destroy innocent others—or using one's authority and systemic power to encourage or permit others to do so on your behalf. In short, it is "knowing better but doing worse."

To abuse one's authority is to abuse the power, or perceived power, one holds over another, which is what misbehaving police do, and such abuse is evil. I think most people reading this blog will not need much convincing that police brutality is evil, but if you do need convincing just look at the photos in this article about a teen girl battered by a police officer in the back of a police car with two or three other police officers watching.

That the victim in that case is an Aboriginal woman in a town and province with a history of racist police misconduct ought not to surprise anyone. But police bigotry is not confined to race, as the current Missing Women Commission of Inquiry (the Inquiry)  is hearing from various witnesses. That Inquiry is examining the neglectful role of police forces, particularly the Vancouver Police and the RCMP, that enabled a serial killer  to continue disappearing and killing women, most of whom were street sex trade workers, for years after he was first identified as the prime suspect. I am very familiar with that case because I lived in the neighbourhood where many of the victims were working and disappearing from, and know all too well the disdain many police officers had for street prostitutes and their advocates. In fact, I told a parliamentary committee examining the issue of prostitution  how the police aided residents with the NIMBY attitude who organized to push prostitutes into a dark and dangerous industrial area, but that advocates such as the resident group I was working with were ridiculed and hampered in our efforts to protect women from the more dangerous aspects of street sex work.

While the police were still in denial that a serial killer was preying on vulnerable street workers, at least until he was finally arrested in 2002, those street workers and their advocates had every reason to believe the police were denying the obvious because of who the missing women were. The attitude of police, as well as many residents, towards street prostitutes and advocates trying to protect them from harm was the same attitude now being exposed by an RCMP whistleblower who has made damning allegations of sexual harassment within the RCMP  as well as claiming that police indifference towards the missing women  led to the bungling of the case and more murdered women. As I told that parliamentary committee, for example, at several meetings on this issue held in community policing offices in my neighbourhood I and other advocates were sometimes prevented from speaking and ridiculed by name calling such as "hooker huggers" (like environmentalists who are called "tree huggers"). I personally wore that as a badge of honour since I think trying to save a human is at least as noble as trying to save a tree, but the point is that name calling like that is intended to denigrate the other, to demean them, to dehumanize them, which is evil. And now the Inquiry has heard evidence from "... Vancouver police Deputy Chief Doug LePard, author of a 2010 report  critical of the Vancouver Police Department and RCMP, [who] admitted that former Vancouver deputy police chief John Unger referred to the dozens of missing women as “just hookers.""

That misogynistic, sexist attitude of the police regarding the dozens of missing women was not just confined to street sex trade workers. The RCMP whistleblower, Cpl. Catherine Galliford, who was the RCMP spokeswoman on the missing women investigations, has blown the door wide open on sexism and sexual harassment inside the RCMP. She has filed a formal complaint over 100 pages long with the RCMP, is planning to sue the RCMP, and will testify in 2012 before the Inquiry. Here is what Galliford has said about the sexual harassment she faced:

"Everything that came out of his [a supervisor's] mouth was sexual," Galliford said. "If I had a dime for every time one of my bosses asked me to sit on his knee, I'd be on a yacht in the Bahamas right now."

Galliford says she faced constant sexual advances from several senior officers from the moment she graduated from the RCMP Academy in 1991.

She outlines years of harassment in a 115-page internal complaint that the RCMP has yet to respond to, including allegations a supervisor on the Missing Women's Task Force lied to colleagues when he said they were intimate and that he even exposed himself to her.

"He said, 'I have something to show you' ... and pulled out an appendage. He wanted to show me his mole because he wanted to know if I thought it was cute," she said.

"I said, 'Let's go back to the office. We're late. Put it back in your pants.'"

According to Galliford, a supervisor on the Air India Task Force was even more direct.

"One of my bosses kept trying to be intimate with me throughout my time on Air India and kept on taking me on the road trying to have sex with me," she said.

"We don't have any new information to share with the Air India families right now, so why are we going on this trip? And no one said anything, but it was because he wanted to give the perception that we were a couple."

Galliford says the command and control structure at the RCMP means Mounties are instructed to do as they're told, or risk getting reprimanded.

"If they can't screw you, they are going to screw you over. And that's what it became like and so I started to normalize the harassment because I didn't know what else to do," she said.

"It just got to the point that after I had about 16 years of service, I broke. I completely broke."

In 2007, Galliford joined the ranks of 225 B.C. Mounties who are currently off duty on sick leave.

Obviously, her lengthy complaint contains many more details, but that brief account is enough to reveal a disgusting environment of sexism and abuse of authority. It is that kind of environment I refer to when I write of rotten police culture. Cpl. Galliford has also revealed some details of her planned testimony  before the Inquiry, exposing the indifferent attitude of police officers investigating the missing women case:

Cpl. Catherine Galliford, who was the RCMP spokeswoman on the Air India and Pickton investigations, said Thursday that police could have obtained a search warrant for convicted serial killer Robert Pickton years before they arrested the B.C. pig farmer.

She said she's read a 1999 Coquitlam RCMP file that nobody seems to be able to locate now.

RCMP Sgt. Peter Thiessen responded in a written statement, noting it would be inappropriate to comment on anything related to the inquiry.

"You know what? I'm not an armchair quarterback, I'm not," said Galliford. "Never have and never will be. But the minute I read that file I could have put everything together for another search warrant and nothing was done. It was concluded.

"I have to be very careful about what I say right now," she added. "I'm sure that when I testify on behalf of the missing women inquiry, I'll be able to be more forthcoming."

Galliford said the file she read included information that would have allowed police to obtain a search warrant for Pickton's farm.

She said the file had been "purged" from a 1997 file, noting a purge takes place when a file is too big so the information inside is carried over to another year.

"You had a lot of other potential suspects, but in this certain file, we had enough for another search warrant. He wasn't a potential suspect. He was a suspect and there is a difference in the police world."

Police consider a person a suspect, said Galliford, when they have found evidence and can put the person at the scene of a crime.

"At that time in the investigation, Pickton was the only one," she said. "There were potential suspects, but Pickton was the only suspect."

Cpl. Galliford places the blame for that failure of police to connect the dots, stop the killer sooner and save lives squarely on police indifference, in other words on police culture:

 Galliford says she saw numerous problems inside the investigation, including investigators who were more interested in padding their paycheques and drinking alcohol than catching a serial killer.

"They would break between noon and 2 p.m. PT to just drink and party and go for lunch, but then they would go back to work on Friday and claim double-time," she said Wednesday.

"There was a police indifference and that, I believe, is why it went on for so long [to catch Pickton], and why so many women lost their lives."

The indifference of the police towards the missing women -- denying a serial killer was on the loose; denigrating the missing women as "just hookers"; neglecting to follow up solid leads and making connections that were obvious to citizens and their own spokesperson -- is directly related to the misogynist attitudes directed at and exposed by Cpl. Galliford. If you have any doubt about that, consider these cruel comments that she was subjected to by fellow officers:

At Pickton’s trial, eyewitness Lynn Ellingsen gave key testimony that she saw Pickton hang a woman from a meat hook in his barn and gut her.

Ellingsen and Pickton had picked up the woman, whom Ellingsen believes was Papin, earlier that night in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

RCMP Cpl. Catherine Galliford, who was the spokeswoman for the Missing Women Vancouver police and RCMP Task Force, revealed in an interview Tuesday with the Vancouver Province, and in a 115-page statement, that male officers told her they had a “fantasy.”

“They fantasized about Willie Pickton escaping from prison,” Galliford said in her statement to RCMP Insp. Paul Darbyshire and RCMP Supt. Dave DeBolt.

“He would escape from prison, track me down, strip me naked, hang me from a meat hook and gut me like a pig,” Galliford told the Vancouver Province.

Galliford, who emphasized she knows many police officers who cared deeply about the missing women, said only one other officer in the roomful of men seemed as shocked and horrified as she did.

At the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry on Wednesday, Vancouver police Deputy Chief Doug LePard, author of a 2010 report critical of the Vancouver Police Department and RCMP, admitted that former Vancouver deputy police chief John Unger referred to the dozens of missing women as “just hookers.”

What Cpl. Galliford reveals about the sexist attitude within the RCMP as well as the misogynistic indifference of those investigating the missing women case is beyond rotten and disgusting, it is truly evil. RCMP culture is rotten to the core if a room full of male officers can dehumanize a female officer with images of the gruesome slaughter of a serial killer's victim while laughing about it. If that is the attitude RCMP officers and their superiors have towards their own female members, then it is no surprise at all that their indifference and neglect in the missing women case led to the murder of more women. There is a direct link between sexual harassment within the RCMP and their failure to catch a serial killer of women. It turns out that many female RCMP officers have something in common with their sisters working the street. Apparently, some male officers and bosses do not discriminate when it comes to sexual bigotry, degrading women regardless of whether they wear a uniform or work the street.

In Part One of this article I used examples from both Canada and the U.S. to illustrate my contention that the problem with all police forces in those countries is not that there a few bad apples, or even a barrel of bad apples, but that the barrels themselves are rotten. My opinion that police culture is corrupt is informed partly by personal experience, but mostly through media accounts, not through any comprehensive investigation of policing issues. However, I think it is a conclusion easily reached by any casual observer of such matters. Nevertheless, I will give the final word regarding corrupt police culture to an insider who knows a thing or two about policing. Norm Stamper is a former Seattle police chief and outspoken board member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). He is also author of Breaking Rank: A Top Cop’s Exposé of the Dark Side of American Policing and he recently wrote an article for The Nation magazine titled "Paramilitary Policing from Seattle to Occupy Wall Street." He is an expert in these matters and he confirms my conclusions regarding rotten barrels. In a Democracy Now interview Stamper notes:

"There are many compassionate, decent, competent police officers who do a terrific job day in and day out. There are others who are, quote, 'bad apples.' What both of them have in common is that they 'occupy,' as it were, a system, a structure that itself is rotten. And I am talking about the paramilitary bureaucracy."

And in his article in The Nation he writes:

I’m convinced it is possible to create a smart organizational alternative to the paramilitary bureaucracy that is American policing. But that will not happen unless, even as we cull “bad apples” from our police forces, we recognize that the barrel itself is rotten.

UPDATE: December 10, 2011 

On December 8, 2011, Bob Paulson was officially sworn in as the RCMP's 23rd commissioner. He announced several 'get tough' measures to deal with sexual harassment allegations within the force. While they are positive steps which will help to prevent or properly punish future incidents, Paulson's quick dismissal of historic abuses and injustices calls into question just how serious he is at getting to the systemic roots of the problem.

He claims that discipline and accountability will be key under his watch, yet he appears to be avoiding any accountability for one particularly egregious case. It involves accusations of assault and sexual harassment by four female colleagues of Sgt. Robert Blundell in the late 1990s. Retired RCMP superintendent Ian Atkins conducted an internal review at the time, investigating how the case was handled. His conclusion then, and today, is that Blundell should have been fired. And a lawyer who was hired by the RCMP to prosecute Blundell in an internal hearing revealed recently that she was shocked when an RCMP superintendent flew in to negotiate a deal with Blundell. In the end, Blundell was only ordered to take counselling and fined one day's pay. He was later promoted.

In a media scrum after his swearing in ceremony, as well as in his first formal TV interview, Paulson said, "I like to think the Blundell case has been resolved," and that he didn't want to debate the decision. But the thing is, the case is not resolved for Blundell's four female colleagues who never received justice for the personal and institutional abuse they suffered, nor is the case resolved for the public or the RCMP because an injustice like this, committed by the very people whose duty it is to uphold justice, brings disrepute to not just the RCMP but the entire legal system.


Further media updates to this story, including coverage of the missing women inquiry and RCMP harrassment cases, will be added to the comments section below.



Related articles on this blog:


Rogue Cops: a few bad apples or a rotten barrel? Part 1


Aboriginal Teen May Be Charged with Assaulting RCMP Officer With Her Face


Constitutional expert says beware of coming Canadian police state


THE COMMENTS SECTION BELOW CONTAINS RELATED NEWS ARTICLES. IT HAS REACHED ITS LIMIT SO I HAVE PLACED ADDITIONAL NEWS REPORTS RELATED TO THIS ONGOING SCANDAL ON A SEPARATE PAGE OF THIS BLOG. GO TO:

http://chainthedogma.blogspot.ca/p/sexual-harassment-in-rcmp-and-failure.html



November 16, 2011

Corporal Punishment, the Abuse of Authority and the Rights of Children




Chain The Dogma   November 16, 2011

Corporal Punishment, the Abuse of Authority and the Rights of Children

Protecting children's rights protects human rights for everyone

by
Perry Bulwer


Abuse of authority is a theme common to most of the posts on this blog. It applies whether I am writing about corrupt religious leaders, corrupt politicians, or corrupt police, three groups I frequently criticize here. But there is another group of people I have not yet specifically written about that regularly abuses their authority. Those people, as you probably guessed by the title of this article, are parents who believe that corporal punishment is a just and effective way to discipline children. My first draft used 'spanking' in the title, but corporal punishment often involves far more than hitting just one body part. Here is what I wrote in the main article on the home page of my archive, Religion and Child Abuse News:

 Of course, there is an awful lot of physical child abuse that is not related to religion. Children are easy targets. But it is more than just sad when religion is used to justify assaulting children, it is immoral and criminal. Corporal punishment takes many forms ranging from slaps to torture. In my opinion, even a slap is an affront to the dignity of a child, or any human for that matter. Spanking children is not necessary. There are better ways to train children than hitting them, so why do believers who claim to have superior morals to those of unbelievers think it is okay to assault vulnerable children? If a slap is ok, why not a punch, or a beating, or a whipping, or water torture, or other tortures? Some believers don't know where to draw the line and children suffer or die.

Furthermore, the term 'corporal punishment' also applies to situations where no physical assault occurs, but where necessities of life are purposely withheld, such as forced fasting, sleep deprivation  or deliberate and prolonged exposure to the elements causing hypothermia, or other similar evils.

The words 'discipline' and 'disciple' are obviously related, and it is no surprise that religious people who believe it is their duty to make disciples of their children  are the most ardent supporters of corporal punishment. For example, some of the scriptures most often cited by Christians to justify assaulting their children are Proverbs 13: 24; 19:18; 22:6,15; 23:13,14; and 29:15.  Those verses encourage beating children with an instrument as the proper way to discipline or train them. While Proverbs 22:6  does not specifically refer to beating children, it does indicate that such training, or 'training up a child', is intended to instruct children in the right way or path according to that dogma, so that when they become adults they will not depart from it. In other words, Biblical corporal punishment of children is specifically directed at so thoroughly indoctrinating them with dogma that it becomes extremely difficult to escape it, even when they become adults. There is no choice or freedom for children imprisoned by such dogma, they simply must obey authority without question: do it because mommy, daddy, or God says so. Those children certainly have no freedom of religion, for they are told exactly what to believe, and threatened with punishment if they do not.

By the way, To Train Up a Child,  is the title of a very popular book among Christian fundamentalists that teaches them how to properly beat children. It was found in the homes of at least three families where children died as a result of the methods taught by its author, pastor Michael Pearl, who insists that the Bible gives parents authority to assault their children and violate their inherent human rights. Michael Pearl is an evil man. At least two of those murdered children were adopted, and may have been victims of the evangelical movement's use of international adoptions for the religious conversion of children.   Undoubtedly, there are many more victims we may never hear about.

Authority is synonymous with power, so to abuse authority is to abuse the power one holds over another. Such abuse is evil. In The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil,  Philip Zimbardo wrote:

Let's begin with a definition of evil. Mine is a simple, psychologically based one: Evil consists in intentionally behaving in ways that harm, abuse, demean, dehumanize, or destroy innocent others—or using one's authority and systemic power to encourage or permit others to do so on your behalf. In short, it is "knowing better but doing worse."

Continuing with that theme, William Antonio Boyle, in a footnote to his essay on "Sibling Rivalry", wrote the following about abuse of authority (emphasis in the original):

Abuse of power or authority may be the prime source and true essence of moral EVIL - Evil is the ABUSE of power. Moral EVIL begins to exist when someone refuses to accept responsibility for the welfare of others, especially those naturally under his or her direct care. It can be said that someone has POWER, if that someone can decisively influence (the) reality (of others).

In this context, AUTHORITY is power that derives from a social accord or convention, such as the laws or customs of a social group such as a state or an organization. So then, what is "abuse of power"? ABUSE OF POWER is the illegitimate use of power.

ABUSE OF POWER is that situation that exists whenever someone who has POWER over others, (that is, the capacity to impose his or her will on those others) for example, by virtue of his or her superior mental dexterity, social position, physical strength, knowledge, technology, weapons, wealth, or the trust that others have in him or her, unjustifiably uses that power to EXPLOIT or HARM those others, or through lack of action, ALLOWS exploitation or harm to occur to them.

It follows that someone who does not have (a particular form of) power cannot abuse it. It also follows that the main (and perhaps the only) principle of human ethics and morality should be to avoid the abuse of power.

Obviously, parents have some natural authority and power over their children, but it is not absolute, at least not in a civilized society. Not only are there national laws forbidding parental neglect and mistreatment of their children, but the international community has recognized in various declarations, conventions and treaties that, unlike parents, the vulnerability of children requires they be given special rights and protections, as set out in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (the Convention),  which all nations have ratified except for the United States and Somalia.

Although the rights of parents and legal guardians must be taken into account when considering the rights of a child, that balancing act is always weighted toward the child since the primary consideration must be the best interests of the child (see Article 3). When articulating specific rights of children, the Convention also considers the developmental stage of the child. Those various considerations are also set out in Article 5:
Article 5

States Parties shall respect the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents or, where applicable, the members of the extended family or community as provided for by local custom, legal guardians or other persons legally responsible for the child, to provide, in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child, appropriate direction and guidance in the exercise by the child of the rights recognized in the present Convention.

That article indicates that the rights and obligations of parents must be directed towards ensuring that their child is able to eventually exercise all of their Convention rights, which would be in the best interests of the child, though not necessarily the parents. The phrase "evolving capacities of the child" also appears later in the Convention in relation to religion. It recognizes that as children mature they are increasingly able to form their own thoughts, opinions and beliefs, and that their exercise of particular rights is on a continuum according to their maturation level. While parents "... have the primary responsibility for the upbringing and development of the child [t]he best interests of the child will be their basic concern." (Article 18) In other words, the authority of a parent over their child is not absolute, for not only is it limited by national laws related to child welfare, it must also be directed to ensuring the best interests of their child in accordance with their inherent human rights as set out under international law in the Convention.

Before getting back to the issue of corporal punishment, which the Convention addresses in Article 19, other Articles addressing the issues of freedom of speech and freedom of thought, conscience and religion are also instructive for determining the proper balance between parental and children's rights. Article 12 states:
Article 12

1. States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.

2. For this purpose, the child shall in particular be provided the opportunity to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child, either directly, or through a representative or an appropriate body, in a manner consistent with the procedural rules of national law.

That article addresses a child's right to freedom of expression, and so does Article 13. Article 12 speaks to the obligations of States Parties, in other words, those governments that have ratified the Convention. The age and maturity of the child is specifically considered in that Article because it concerns all matters and decisions that affect the child. The more a matter effects the child, such as in a custody dispute, and the more mature the child is, the more weight given to their views on the matter. Moreover, while sub-section 2 indicates that although a child's right of free expression on matters affecting them is particularly important in judicial or administrative proceedings, the right is not confined to that. Article 13 clarifies that point by speaking directly to a child's right to freedom of expression, without any regard to parental rights or the maturity and capacity of the child.
Article 13

1. The child shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child's choice.

2. The exercise of this right may be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:

(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others; or

(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.

Importantly, freedom of expression for children includes the right to "seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds". And just as important, there are no specific parental restrictions on this right. However, this right may be violated by authoritarian parents more often than most others, except for the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. After all, it is rather easy to control a child's access to information and ideas, even in this information age. Books can be banned or burned,  access to university  and the internet can be denied, thoughts, opinions and facts  can be censored. Many religious people home school their children and many religious groups set up their own private schools for precisely that reason, but in direct contradiction to the principle of the best interests of the child. It is not in any child's interest to be denied their right to freely seek and receive information of any kind in any form. And it is also not in any child's interest to be denied their right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as set out in Article 14:
Article 14

1. States Parties shall respect the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

2. States Parties shall respect the rights and duties of the parents and, when applicable, legal guardians, to provide direction to the child in the exercise of his or her right in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child.

3. Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health or morals, or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.

Article 14 is crucial for establishing the proper balance between parental and children's rights. Clearly, children have the right to freely form their own thoughts and conscience, and choose their own religious beliefs, or none. After all, freedom of religion for children, and for adults, would be no freedom at all if it did not include the right to be free from religion. Since parents also have the right to the same freedoms, it is inevitable that conflicts between those rights will arise. As it must and does throughout, the Convention sides with children. Sub-section 2 clearly states that the rights and duties of parents in this regard must not be directed towards protecting their own freedoms, but towards ensuring their children are able to exercise their personal religious rights in accordance with their evolving capacities. Anticipating objections from parents who only read the first few words in sub-section 2 and insist that their own religious freedom gives them a right to indoctrinate their children, sub-section 3 clarifies that the right to religious freedom is not absolute. A parent's right to religious freedom does not give them the right to deny that same freedom to their child, regardless of the child's age. Or, as the U.S. Supreme Court famously said:

Parents may be free to become martyrs themselves. But it does not follow they are free, in identical circumstances, to make martyrs of their children before they have reached the age of full and legal discretion when they can make that choice for themselves.

That quotation also touches on the principle of the "evolving capacities of the child" as well as the concept of a child's right to an open future. That is a right that is not specifically set out in the Convention, but is implied in this Article and elsewhere. After all, if a parent makes an irreversible religious decision on behalf of their child, such as to rely on faith alone and refuse necessary medical treatment  and the child dies, then that child has no future at all. Circumcision of both boys and girls  is another common example of a religious decision made by parents that causes irreversible harm to children. But even where death or injury does not occur, a child's right to an open future can still be easily denied them through indoctrination that cuts off their capacity for critical thinking  and ability to freely form their own thoughts, conscience and beliefs.

If a child is indoctrinated into a particular religious dogma by authoritarian parents from the earliest age, their right to freedom of expression and information denied through restrictive, narrow-minded 'education', and they are unaware of the full extent of their human rights, it becomes impossible for them to exercise those rights, either as a child or later as an adult. I have encountered countless believers who are so unaware of their own rights that they insist that religious freedom does not include the right to be free from religion. But if the right to freedom of religion has any meaning at all, it must mean that everyone, including children, is free to choose their own religious beliefs or none. When that freedom is denied to a child, it is also denied to the adult that child will become. Protecting a person's rights while they are a child is the only to way to protect that person's rights once they are an adult. That's what a child's right to an open future means, reaching adulthood with their capacity to exercise all their rights still intact. Protecting the full range of children's rights protects human rights for everyone.

Finally, we get to the heart of the issue of corporal punishment and children's rights in Article 19 of the Convention, which states:
Article 19

1. States Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.

It could hardly be stated clearer than that. State Parties, that is every country in the world except the U.S. and Somalia, are required to take all measures necessary for protecting children from all forms of harm while in the care of their parents. In other words, children are vulnerable and therefore need protection from all forms of harm, even from their own parents or guardians. The question then becomes: does corporal punishment harm children? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not endorse corporal punishment  for any reason because it is ineffective for changing behaviour in the long term. But there is also evidence that, even if a milder form of corporal punishment such as spanking does not cause physical harm it still causes emotional  and intellectual harm.

According to Zimbardo's definition of evil, any action that among other things demeans or dehumanizes others is evil, in other words, harmful. Corporal punishment, even in its mildest forms, certainly demeans the dignity of children, but even worse, it dehumanizes them. Long before Michael Pearl's book became a best seller on how to beat children into submission, James Dobson, another evil evangelist and founder of Focus on the Family, wrote a book in 1977 called Dare to Discipline, in which he "glorified a sadomasochistic/spiritual ritual of discipline." And in his 1992 book, The Strong Willed Child, Dobson compares beating children to beating dogs. After describing his efforts to make his defiant dog obey him, he writes: "Just as surely as a dog will occasionally challenge the authority of his leaders, so will a little child, only more so."  Not to be out done, Pearl writes in his book that he uses "the same principles the Amish use to train their stubborn mules".  To those evangelical child beaters and others like them, such as Bill Gothard,
children are mere chattel,  or personal property, akin to slaves or domesticated animals, without any personal rights. They are not just using dogs and mules as metaphors for how to train children, they are using exactly the same methods on children as they use on animals. If that is not dehumanizing, therefore evil, I don't know what is. And it is an evil they call good (Isaiah 5:20),  which makes it even more evil.

If you have followed any of the links here to news articles detailing the horrifying results of corporal punishment you will understand that referring to it as evil is not hyperbole. Some will object that my examples are all extreme cases and that most corporal punishment takes the form of mild spanks or slaps that do not cause physical harm, and therefore it is unfair to call that evil. However, as I have pointed out, growing evidence suggests that even that type of corporal punishment can cause emotional and intellectual harm, in violation of Article 19. Furthermore, consider the issue from a child's point of view and imagine what it must be like to have a giant human who is several times larger and more powerful in every way hitting you for reasons that may not be entirely clear to you. But because most corporal punishment is hidden behind closed doors, it can be difficult to imagine what corporal punishment is like for children, even after reading horrific accounts. So, here is a video, courtesy of a Texas judge,  who adjudicated dozens of family law cases, beating his teenage daughter with a belt. Now, imagine again that same brutality or even worse being applied to even younger children, and tell me that is not evil. By the way, the judge would have been criminally charged, but the statute of limitation had run out. That video contradicts claims by many advocates of corporal punishment that it is only used against young children, as do the well documented abuses in the 'troubled teen' industry of boot camps or similar behaviour modification programs.

I have used the ordinary meaning of 'assault' in this article to refer to physical blows by one person against another, but in most common law jurisdictions (where I'm writing from) the legal meaning of 'assault' refers to threats of harm to another, while actual physical contact is called battery. The point is, the law in those jurisdictions protects adults not just from physical violence but also from threats of violence. Even the most benign threats can attract criminal charges. For example, a Canadian police officer had a young female protester arrested for assault for blowing soap bubbles in his direction. So, if adults are protected from even the mildest forms of assault, why are children who are far more vulnerable not similarly protected? Of all the countries using the common law,  only New Zealand,  Kenya and Tongo are among the 31 countries that have enacted laws prohibiting all corporal punishment  of children, as Article 19 of the convention requires all parties to do.  In all other countries, including here in Canada, it is illegal to threaten or hit adults, but it remains legal to threaten and beat children, in direct contravention of their inherent human rights recognized in the Convention. And that is a crying shame.


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