The age of consent refers to the legal age at which a young person can agree to any form of sexual activity. In Canada, the minimum age at which a person can legally agree to indulge in any sexual activity is 16 years. However, depending on the relationship between those involved, the age of consent may be higher. Luring a person below the age of 16 years to commit a sexual act is a criminal offense, and it carries series penalties. It is also an offense to get sexually involved with a person without their consent, irrespective of their age.
The Canadian law has two exemptions on the age of consent. Firstly, a young person aged 14 or 15 years may give consent if the partner is not more than five years their senior. Also, there should be no relationship of trust or authority between the two, because in that case, the relationship would be exploitative. A close in age exception also exists for young people aged 12 and 13 years. They can consent to sexual involvement to partners who are within their age range, and the age discrepancy between the partners should be less than two years.
The Legal Definition of Sexual Exploitation
The law of Canada defines sexual exploitation as sexual involvement with a partner who is in a position of authority or trust, for example, a coach or a teacher. Intimate relationships with a partner on whom one depends for support or care are also viewed as exploitation. In such cases, persons aged 16 or 17 years cannot legally agree to sexual involvement. When determining whether a sexual relationship is exploitative or not, the law also takes into account the manner in which the relationship between the two developed, and whether the older partner used their influence or control on the younger person.
The Criminal Code on Sexual Offenses
The Canadian law protects all its citizens, including children, from abuse and exploitation of sexual nature. Sexual offenses under the act include sexual assault with or without a weapon, intensified sexual assault, trafficking persons for sexual purposes, voyeurism, and distribution of intimate images without one’s consent.
Besides the general sexual offenses act, the law of Canada also protects children in particular from, sexual exploitation, interference of sexual nature, and any form of invitation to intimate touching. It also prohibits child pornography, and under this act, a person must be 18 years or older to consent to any form of pornographic involvement. Persons charged with child pornography get jail sentences ranging from 10 to 14 years.
The minimum age at which a young person can sell sexual services in Canada is 18 years. Purchasing sexual services from persons below this age attracts a maximum sentence of between 10 to 14 years. It is also a crime to lure a child for purposes of abduction or sexual encounters using the internet. Anyone found guilty of the offense can get a maximum penalty of up to 14 years. Other sexual crimes against children include exposure of one’s sexual organs to a person below 16 years of age and sex tourism where a child is involved.