Consent and Canadian law

In Canada, we’re lucky to have reasonably progressive laws- on paper at least. The Criminal Code of Canada defines most of the laws relating to sexual violence. Unfortunately, it is a pretty confusing document. It’s full of legal jargon and the key points are scattered in many sections. To save some time, we’ve translated the key points into something a bit easier to understand.

First, when it comes to consent, the law is very clear that:

  1. You can only consent for yourself.
  2. You actually have to be able to give consent. That means you have to be awake, conscious, and sober enough to make a clear decision.
  3. People in positions of trust, power or authority can’t abuse their position to get sexual activity.
  4. If you imply no through your words or behaviours that’s just as good as saying “NO”.
  5. You have the right to change your mind and stop anytime for any reason during sexual activity.

As for the age of consent, here’s a quick run down:

  1. Under 12: are unable to consent under any circumstance.
  2. Ages 12-16: some flexibility for “close in age” and peers.
  3. 16 is the official age of consent.
  4. Young people under 18 years old are protected from exploitation.