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No Place for the State in Families of the Nation
“We're on tender ground, Canada, our kids really need us to help them…. Kids are really confused about their rights and what it means to be taken care of”(Lorna Dueck).

I am one of those traumatized Canadians who actually was grounded, forbidden by my parents, from attending my class trip to the nation's capital. This was before the days of Canada's Senate tabling bills to affect family discipline, and before Globe editorial writers were pronouncing a Quebec court correct to overturn a dad's decision to ground his daughter from the class trip.

The state can never fix what's spiritually wrong here…

I could write a book about my childhood - a lot of us could - but here's the baffling truth: We're born with sin in our genes and it takes a lifetime to evolve to good.

Teaching ourselves how to get there is the role of discipline and, done correctly, it's a profoundly spiritual encounter. Sin has no limit of age and if there is any reason to involve the state over family discipline issues, it happens because we are spiritually sick. This is not a frightening diagnosis; it's just the reality we have to deal with as things in the nation spiral so absurdly out of control on family life. The big stuff makes the news, like the recent case of the 12-year-old Gatineau girl who disagreed with her father who had grounded her from the Grade 6 year-end camping trip. So, on a Wednesday, she sued him, and by the following Friday the court ruled she could go on the trip. Stunning speed on usurping a custodial dad's authority and, while he appeals and she lives with her mother, Solomon will be needed to clean up the mess.

At about the same time as this court case, wise sages in the Senate took steps to interfere with family discipline by proposing Bill S-209, which would make it illegal for parents to spank their children.

We already have the legal guidelines of never spanking with an object or a closed hand and, as recently as 2004, the Supreme Court upheld Section 43 of Canada's Criminal Code that allows parents and teachers to use reasonable force to discipline a child and correct his or her behaviour.

Now Liberal Senator Celine Hervieux-Payette, who introduced Bill S 209, seems charmed by 60 elementary school students who sat in Senate seats and debated the issue with her - they unanimously voted to repeal parents' right to spank.

"I've got rights" is a wonderful rallying cry to the individual, as kids now call 911 to report disciplining parents, or threaten to call Family Services when a mom removes a protesting child from his or her school. I know a rather sweet 10-year-old who just left her mother a note asking her to wash all her clothes so they would be ready for her to run away the next day. The point is, kids are really confused about their rights and what it means to be taken care of.

We've given them reason to doubt adult care. Just days ago, nine-year-old Gabriel Poirier suffocated after teachers wrapped the autistic boy too tightly in a buckwheat-stuffed blanket. Then, the father of 16-year-old Aqsa Parvez was charged with first-degree murder (she's the child who was strangled, allegedly by her father for refusing to wear a hijab), and then the mother of 12-year-old Karissa Boudreau was charged with first-degree murder (the Nova Scotia girl was allegedly last seen alive arguing with her mother).

Every parent has had times we fear the monster within ourselves, our temper a fickle tool of sin. It's no accident that there are, at last count, 76,000 children in foster care, 22,000 of them waiting for a permanent, loving adoptive home, according to the Adoption Council of Canada.

I'm stunned at that tragedy - most of those awaiting adoption are over the age of 4, their birth family having proven they were woefully unable to be good.

We're on tender ground, Canada, our kids really need us to help them. The state can never fix what's spiritually wrong here; how so many of us have missed the mark of what God hoped for our lives. Each family has its own intimate record with that truth, but we've stopped understanding that there is a source for new beginnings on disciplining ourselves for the best we can be.

We source everything else we need in parenting: groceries, school, soccer ... what about our soul? Religion and its teachings still stands as a gathering of the broken and its doctrine of forgiveness is there for each one of us who has had to reconstruct what it means to care for those we want to love so deeply.

It's not the state that's needed, its not even religion, it's just me knowing what to do with the sin.

Lorna Dueck is a Christian broadcaster, author and executive producer of the current affairs program, Listen Up, on Global TV and CTS. Her web site is:

Originally published in The Globe and Mail, June 30, 2008.




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