Age of Consent in Canada (2 min read)
If I asked you, what is the age of consent in Canada, what would you say? Most people might say 16? 18? Did you know there are multiple ages of consent? Remember what the definition of consent is… it is a voluntary, enthusiastic, coherent, and revokable agreement between participants to engage in a specific sexual activity. So why are there different ages of consent and what are they? The following chart details when a person can give consent to engage in sexual activity and when they cannot.
|12 and under||No person under the age of 12 can give consent to sexual activity of any kind. It is always considered child sexual abuse and is illegal.|
|12 – 13 years||Sometimes: only if the other person is less than 2 years older. If the other person is more than 2 years older, it is considered child sexual abuse and is illegal.|
|14 – 15 years||Sometimes: only if the other person is less than 5 years older. If the other person is more than 5 years older, it is considered child sexual abuse and is illegal.|
|16 – 17 years||Yes, this is considered the age of consent by the Criminal Code of Canada, so a 16 year old can consent to sex. However, if the other person is in a position of trust or authority over the child, the child is dependent on the other person, or the relationship is exploitative it is considered child sexual abuse and is illegal.|
|18 years||Yes, after the age of 18 a person can consent to sex. If the other person is in a position of trust or authority, or the individual is dependent on the other person or the relationship is exploitive, it is no longer considered child sexual abuse; it is considered a sexual assault and is illegal. Legal action including charges may be laid.|
The ages of consent laws were established for two reasons:
- To protect our youth from being taken advantage of by someone older or with more power.
- To provide room for youth to develop, grow, and explore their sexuality within reasonable age limits, as discovering your sexuality and establishing your personal boundaries is a natural process.
Legal definition of consent to sexual activity according to the Criminal Code of Canada states that consent to sexual activity cannot be given if:
- The “yes” is provided by someone else,
- Sex is obtained through an abuse of position of power, trust, or authority,
- One person does not say “yes” or says or implies “no” through words or actions,
- One person is unable to give consent (e.g., they are unconscious, sleeping, intoxicated, or high),
- Or if one of the partners changes his/her mind.
Chances are if you are reading this you are probably over the age of 18. So why is it important to know the ages of consent laws?
- You may be a parent or guardian. Teach your child(ren) they have the power to say “No”, that others should respect that, and if they don’t your child can come to you and tell you. Teach your child(ren) if someone says “No” to them, they should respect it, and if they don’t there may be serious consequences.
- For yourself. You may be older than 18 but consent laws are there to protect everyone. Sexual violence can happen to anyone. If you have experienced sexual violence there are people and resources designed specifically to help you, please reach out for support- you deserve it!
There you go… Sexual Consent laws in Canada. Short, simple, but important.
As always, email me with your thoughts and ideas… Have any questions? Let me know…. If you need immediate support with anything regarding sexual violence, please call Dragonfly Centre 780-812-3174 or use our online chat support on our website.
Until next time… Let’s Keep Making the Shift!