The Law in Canada

In Canada we have laws to protect children from victimization. Below is a summary of the criminal code provisions regarding the age of protection, and a link to the Department of Justice Canada website for a summary of some of the criminal code provisions addressing the exploitation of children.

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Age of Protection / Age of Consent

In Canada, the age of protection (sometimes referred to as the age of consent) refers to the age that a young person can legally consent to sexual activity. Sexual activity without consent, regardless of age, is a criminal offence.

In Canada, the age of consent for sexual activity is generally 16 years. However, the age of consent for sexual activity rises to 18 years where the young person is in a relationship of dependency with the other person engaged in the sexual activity, where the sexual activity is with a person in a position of trust or authority over the young person, or where the relationship between the two is exploitative of the young person (see below for examples of relationships that are “exploitative”).

The following is a summary of the rules based on the age of the child:

Children Under the Age of 12:

Children under the age of 12 cannot consent to sexual activity of any kind.

Children Under the Age of 14:

Children under the age of 14 cannot consent to sexual activity of any kind with an adult.

A 12- or 13-year-old can consent to sexual activity with another young person that is less than 2 years older than them only if:

  • The other person is not in a position of trust or authority towards the child;
  • The other person is not a person with whom the child is in a relationship of dependence; and
  • The relationship with that other person is not exploitative of the child.

Children Under the Age of 16

A 14- or 15-year-old youth can consent to sexual activity with a person that s/he is married to, or a person who is less than 5 years older than the youth only if:

  • The other person is not in a position of trust or authority towards the youth;
  • The other person is not a person with whom the youth is in a relationship of dependence; and
  • The relationship with that other person is not exploitative of the youth.

Meaning of a relationship that is “exploitative”

Relationships that may be considered to be exploitative includes relationships where prostitution or child pornography is involved, or where the relationship is exploitative based on the nature and circumstances of the relationship (such as the age of the youth, the age difference between the youth and the potential exploiter, the way in which the relationship was initiated and developed, and the degree of control or influence by the potential exploiter over the young person).

Want to Know More?

For a description of some of the various Criminal Code offences protecting children against sexual abuse and exploitation, please see the Federal Department of Justice website at: http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/dept-min/clp/faq.html.

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