Calgary Sun

Sunday, May 2, 1999

Parents rendered powerless

Adults told its wrong to punish children -- and then held accountable

By LICIA CORBELLA
Calgary Sun

Shackle the parents and then, after they are incapable of action, blame them. That is what the world is coming to -- and fast. On the one hand, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno says it's important for the authorities to find out what the parents of the killers in Littleton, Colo., "knew and should have known" about their respective son's activities and plans and "take appropriate steps."

By that, Reno means potentially charging the parents with criminal negligence in connection with the shootings.

Yet, on the other hand, we have a U.S. government, not to mention a Canadian government, which enthusiastically signed the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of the Child, a well-meaning but diabolically dangerous document which essentially bans parents from invading their kid's privacy, from physically restraining or punishing their children, from trying to control what the child reads or watches, or from interfering with the child's rights of association -- even if who they want to "associate with" are Hitler worshippers.

For quite some time, the Alberta government refused to sign the U.N. document -- which some legal experts say is a binding legal contract. For that, Alberta was viewed by Ottawa and the other nine provinces as rednecks -- knuckle draggers who don't believe in children's rights.

Recently, however, Premier Ralph Klein foolishly gave in to pressure from the prime minister and signed the document.

Everyone of course, including enlightened individuals like Janet Reno, Bill Clinton and Jean Chretien, rightly wonders how the parents of mass murderers Eric Harris, 17, and Dylan Klebold, 18, did NOT know their children were building bombs in Harris' garage prior to the April 20 tragedy -- which left 12 students and one teacher dead before Harris and Klebold turned their guns on themselves.

After all, not only did neighbours in the posh neighbourhood report there was quite a racket coming out of Harris' garage, but police revealed they found weapon parts and other materials clearly visible in one of the youth's bedrooms.

Well, if Reno and Clinton and Chretien actually subscribe to or believe in the documents they sign, then the parents wouldn't have had the RIGHT to find out what their kids were up to. That, you see, would have been an invasion of the little darlings' right to privacy.

Could I be misinterpreting the document? You decide.

This is exactly what Article 16 of the U.N. Declaration says: "1. No child shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, home or correspondence..."

If Chretien and his cronies actually believe this ridiculous document, then they are contradicting it time and again with proposed laws which, if all are passed, will weave such a muddled web that all citizens are bound to be caught in it.

For instance, studies show that about 70% of all Canadian parents have or do spank their children.

What is Ottawa's response? There are bills before the House of Commons which, if passed, would make it a criminal offence for parents to physically punish their children -- which includes restraining them.

On the flip side of that, however, perhaps in an effort to ensure all parents are eventually jailed or punished, Justice Minister Anne McLellan is contemplating a law which would make parents responsible for crimes committed by their children. Heaven forbid we would actually hold people responsible for their own actions.

So, on the one hand, parents won't be allowed a widely used form of discipline in an effort to raise responsible kids; and on the other -- after all parenting tools are taken away from us -- we will be held responsible for our irresponsible offspring. Talk about a Catch-22.

Just in case you think you might be able to get away with grounding your kid or preventing them from attending the next Hitler youth meeting, Health Minister Allan Rock is planning to set up a "child czar" who will represent the rights of children and inform children of their rights.

Kids are constantly being informed about their rights.

Too bad nobody remembers to remind them about their inherent responsibilities. Speaking of contradiction, here's another disturbing one coming out of the school shootings in Colorado and Taber. On the one hand, we have columnists, psychologists, parents and teachers agreeing that somehow we are failing to teach our kids empathy. I believe that's true.

Then, on the other hand, we have politicians and angry masses calling on the government of Colorado to charge the parents of the two killers. Empathy -- real empathy -- includes recognizing that the parents of the perpetrators of these crimes are suffering as much grief and agony, if not more, as those of the children who were these killers' victims.

Whose parents would you rather be right now?

The ones who were killed, or the ones who did the killing?

I know what I would prefer.

Copyright© 1999, Canoe Limited Partnership.