Correctional Service Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Common menu bar links

Abolition of Corporal Punishment

Warning This Web page has been archived on the Web.

The abolition of corporal punishment in 1972 as an option of judicial sentencing under the Canadian
Criminal Code and as an institutional punishment measure was a significant milestone for the protection of offenders' human rights. Historically, offenders were subject to corporal punishment inflicted by various methods including the strap, whipping with the cat-o' -nine-tails, water hose, bread-and-water diet, paddling, and flogging. Over time, restrictions were placed on when and how these provisions could be administered and certain means and methods of corporal punishment were abandoned altogether. For example, in 1962, Penitentiary Regulations were introduced restricting the use of the strap to a maximum of 15 strokes for"flagrant or serious
disciplinary offences
" and, in 1968, a further policy stipulated that the Commissioner of Penitentiaries had to first confirm such an order before it could be administered.

Corporal punishment as a penalty for particular criminal offences was similarly restricted over time. An amendment to the Criminal Code in 1954 removed whipping as a penalty for "acts of gross indecency", "assault on sovereign" and "assaults on wife or other female". However, whipping was retained for other offences including rape and robbery. The sentence could be ordered for one, two or three occasions during imprisonment, but the exact time of its infliction was left to the discretion of the prison authorities. It is notable that women and young offenders were not subject to whipping under the Criminal Code.

The final decision to abolish corporal punishment altogether came after a progressive decline in the use of this punishment by both the courts and prison authorities and after many recommendations by commissions studying the criminal justice system. Between 1957-67, there were 333 instances of corporal punishment inflicted on offenders for breaching institutional rules, whereas in 1968, only one occurrence is recorded. It appears that October 15, 1968 was the last recorded application of its use as a disciplinary measure in federal penitentiaries. Instances of offenders being sentenced to corporal punishment by the courts likewise declined: in 1954, for example, corporal punishment was ordered only 14 times.

The Fauteux Committee (1956) considered whether the laws concerning corporal punishment should be amended. The Committee concluded that corporal punishment should be entirely removed as a sanction under the Criminal Code but retained under strict conditions as a disciplinary tool in prisons. Thirteen years later, the Ouimet Committee (1969) was much stronger in its condemnation of corporal punishment stating that the imposition of such a penalty is "brutal and degrading both to the
recipient and the person imposing it
". In finding corporal punishment contrary to modern prison philosophy and practice, it recommended that Parliament abolish corporal punishment as a sanction in the Criminal Code and as a disciplinary measure in prisons. The Commissioner of Penitentiaries testified before the Committee that he would not have any objection to abolition of corporal punishment in prison discipline, and commented that "ultimately, society reaps more violence
from [the offender] than it inflicted on him