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Sexual Violence and the Law

Under Canadian law, consent is defined as the voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity.  The law also lays out circumstances in which no consent has been obtained including:

 This means that being drunk or high can’t be used as a defence, and the onus is always on the person initiating sexual activity to make sure that they have voluntary consent at every step of the way.

The Criminal Code is also clear about the victim’s age.  The legal age of consent in Canada is 16. It was raised from 14 years on May 1, 2008 by the Tackling Violent Crime Act. There are a few exceptions to this rule as the Criminal Code provides "close in age" or "peer group" exceptions:

There are two limits to consent when under the age of 18.

1) If there is a relationship of trust, authority or dependency, consent cannot be given.
2) The age of consent for anal sex is 18 unless the two individuals are married.

An individual can’t use the excuse that they thought the victim was older, instead needs to take reasonable steps to make sure they know the victim’s age.  Any person aged 12 or older can be charged with sexual assault.  Youth 12-17 are tried and sentenced according to the Youth Criminal Justice Act.  Youth 14-17 may be tried as an adult if charged with aggravated sexual assault.  Individuals aged 18 and over are dealt with according to the Criminal Code.  Accused are tried according to their age and laws at the time of the incident.  There is no Statute of Limitations for sexual offences which means that victims can report and have charges brought against the accused at any time following the incident, even years later. 

For more information on Canada's laws surrounding the age of consent, click here


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