Decolonizing Discipline

Children, Corporal Punishment, Christian Theologies, and Reconciliation

Valerie Michaelson (Editor), Joan Durrant (Editor)

In June 2015, Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission released 94 Calls to Action that urged reform of policies and programs to repair the harms caused by the Indian Residential Schools. Decolonizing Discipline is a response to Call to Action 6—the call to repeal Section 43 of Canada’s Criminal Code, which justifies the corporal punishment of children.

Editors Valerie Michaelson and Joan Durrant have brought together diverse voices to respond to this call and to consider the ways that colonial Western interpretations of Christian theologies have been used over centuries to normalize violence and rationalize the physical discipline of children. Theologians, clergy, social scientists, and First Nations, Inuit, and Métis leaders and community members explore the risks that corporal punishment poses to children and examine practical, non-violent approaches to discipline. The authors invite readers to participate in shaping this country into one that does not sanction violence against children.

The result is a multifaceted exploration of theological debates, scientific evidence, and personal journeys of the violence that permeated Canada’s Residential Schools and continues in Canadian homes today. Together, they compel us to decolonize discipline in Canada.


“Practical and prophetic, Decolonizing Discipline is vital reading for Christians in Canada, and beyond. The wise contributors to this well-written anthology invite us not only to “spare the rod”, but to re-imagine relationships amongst care-givers and children, ancient text and lived world, Indigenous and settler societies, in ways that are redemptive, healing… and at times, revolutionary.”

– Steve Heinrichs, Indigenous-Settler Relations director, Mennonite Church Canada

Decolonizing Discipline transcends disciplinary boundaries and advocates for all Canadians — academics, theologians, and readers alike — to push toward improved standards of compassion and care for our children.”

Alex Gagne, BC Studies

About the Authors

Valerie Michaelson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Sciences at Brock University. Her current projects focus on violence, spirituality, mental health, and decolonization and reconciliation.

Joan Durrant is a Professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba. For three decades, she has studied the psychological, cultural and legal dimensions of corporal punishment of children, and the global movement to abolish it.

Other contributors: Martin Brokenleg, Marcia Bunge, Amy Crawford, Chris Dodd, Kacey Dool, Joan Durrant, Clarence Hale, Charlene Hallett, Mark MacDonald, Valerie Michaelson, William Morrow, Peter Robinson, Bernadette J. Saunders, Andrew Sheldon, Ashley Stewart-Tufescu, Shirley Tagalik, Michael Thompson, Riscylla Shaw, John H. Young

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