Consent is a vital factor in a sexual assault case. However, sometimes the question isn’t whether consent was given, but if the alleged victim was able to give consent. If the alleged victim was underage, it won’t matter if they agreed to sexual activity without any force or coercion—they are simply unable to consent under the law.
What Is the Age of Consent in Canada?
Under Canadian law, any person who is at least 16 years old is able to consent to sexual activity with a person who is 14 or older. The law also adds provisions to allow for consensual sexual activity among minors, preventing the need for arrests and the creation of criminal records for partners who are close in age.
Minors may consent to sexual acts with certain peers in the following situations:
- Any person who is 14 years old can consent to sexual activity with someone up to the age of 18.
- Any person who is 15 years old can consent to sexual activity with someone up to the age of 19.
- Any child who is 12 years old can only legally consent to sexual activity with someone up to the age of 13.
- Any child who is 13 years old can only legally consent to sexual activity with someone up to the age of 14.
It’s worth noting that minors in these circumstances are able to consent, not that they did consent in any specific case.
Exemptions on Canada’s Age of Consent Law
The law contains a number of different exceptions in order to prevent sexual crimes against minors or sexual manipulation. For example, the right to consent may be removed in cases involving:
- Sex with an authority figure. A person under 18 cannot be said to consent to a sexual relationship with an older person who holds a position of power, trust, dependency, or authority over them. Teachers, babysitters, coaches, tutors, and members of the clergy may all qualify as authority figures.
- Sexual exploitation. A person under 18 may only consent to sexual contact in relationships that are non-exploitative. Examples of exploitation include prostitution, grooming, or soliciting videos or photos to be used in pornography. In exploitation cases, the judge must consider how the relationship developed (such as meeting in secret or over the internet), the age difference between the young person and the partner, and how the older partner may have controlled or influenced the younger partner.
Charges You Could Face for Sexual Contact with a Minor
A sexual relationship with a minor rarely carries a single criminal charge. Depending on the length of the relationship, you may be charged with many child-specific sexual offences, including:
- Exposure. If you exposed your genital organs to a person under the age of 16 for sexual reasons or as an invitation to sexual touching, you could face up to 10 years in prison.
- Child pornography. If you took any photos, videos, or audio recordings of an underage sex partner, you could be facing charges of making child pornography. If you showed these images or videos to anyone or shared them online, you could be charged with distribution or sale of child pornography. The penalties for these offences range from 10 to 14 years in prison.
- Luring a child. If you communicated with an underage person online in order to commit a sexual act, you could be charged with internet luring of a child and face up to 14 years in prison.
You Need an Lawyer to Protect Your Future
If you have been accused of sex with an underage partner, there may be defences available to you. As experienced sexual assault defence lawyers, we know how to present these cases in the best possible light. Depending on the circumstances, we may be able to argue that you made an honest mistake of age before engaging in sexual contact or that lesser charges in your case should be dropped.
At Kruse Law, our legal team is made up of several former prosecutors, giving us the benefit of knowing what works on both sides of the aisle. Contact us today to set up your free case review and learn how to minimize the effects of criminal charges on your life.