"Clearly, hitting anyone in anger or when losing an argument is bad behaviour. To do this to children sets a bad example and may only teach them that violence is a means to getting their own way," writes John Fletcher, the magazine's editor-in-chief.
The journal targets section 43 of the Criminal Code which states "a parent is justified in using force by way of correction if the force does not exceed what is reasonable under the circumstances."
"Law enforcement officers already have discretion to decide when assault is too trivial to merit the full force of the law, and this applies to children as well as adults. But surely any bias should be toward protecting children, who are the most vulnerable," Fletcher said.
"To have a specific code excusing parents is to suggest that assault by a parent is a normal and accepted part of bringing up children. It is not."
Fletcher admits that if those who use physical punishment against their children are bad parents, "then they are in the company of roughly 90% of (his) parents' generation."
"Many parents will say that a good smack taught them right and wrong and that there is a role for it in teaching good behaviour," he said.
But he points to a CMAJ study summarizing 20 years of research on the subject which found that physical punishment "is no better at eliciting compliance than other methods" and "is associated with behavioural problems in adult life, including depression, unhappiness, anxiety, feelings of hopelessness, use of drugs and alcohol and general psychological maladjustment."
"Supporters of spanking may argue that it is a question of degree and that spanking is beneficial unless practised to excess. This is possible, but it has always struck me that people using this line of reasoning in the face of clear evidence of harm are really trying to justify their actions, rather than face the possibility that they might be wrong," he said.