This booklet provides information on what is meant by the age of consent to sexual activity and an overview of some of Canada’s laws on sexual assault, and other offences involving sexual exploitation. This is the age that criminal law recognizes the legal capacity of a young person to consent to sexual activity.
Generally, it is legal to have sexual contact with someone who is 16 years or older if they agree to have sex with you. It is important to know that in some situations a person must be 18 years old to consent to sexual activity.
Depending on what you are doing and who you are doing it with, sexual activity with a person under 18 years-old is illegal.
A person under 18 years of age cannot consent to sexual activity if: What about persons under 16 years old?
There are exceptions for young persons under 16 years of age who have consensual sexual activity with someone close in age.
These exceptions make sure the law does not label consensual activities between young people as criminal offences.
It is not a criminal offence if: These exceptions only apply if the older person is not in a position of authority or trust and there is no exploitation.
The police will not charge you with assault if the force you use is reasonable.
You can use the force that is necessary to protect yourself from the attacker.
Even if you did not resist because you were too afraid, the attacker cannot say that you consented. The law does not consider that you freely agreed just because you did not struggle or resist.
Once you show that you no longer agree to the sexual activity, there is no longer consent. Also, consenting to one kind of sexual activity does not mean you consent to any other sexual activity. If you are drinking or high on drugs and unable to make a decision, the law does not consider that you consented. If the person honestly and reasonably believed he or she had your consent to sexual activity, it may be a defence.
However, a person cannot use this defence if: Just because you agreed to meet someone, does not mean that you consented to sexual activity.
If you are a young person under 18 years who has been “lured” (see definition on page 5) into a meeting for the purpose of sexual activity, a court would determine exploitation by considering how old you are, the age difference between you and the person accused of the crime, the nature of the relationship between the two of you, and the amount of control or influence that he or she had over you.