This is the text of Egale executive director Kaj Hasselriis’s presentation to the committee, Mar 27, 2007
As you know, homosexuality was illegal in Canada until the late 1960’s. So whenever the GLBT community hears about a change in the country’s sex laws, you’ll have to excuse us, but we tend to get a little nervous.
Egale sees Bill C-22 as an unnecessary invasion into the sex lives of young Canadians. There are already sturdy laws that protect teenagers from sexual exploitation and assault. Instead of further criminalizing sexual behaviour, Canadian governments at all levels should focus on sex education. We should help young people by helping them make their own choices about what’s comfortable for them.
Egale is opposed to raising the age of consent for sex from 14 to 16. Whether or not we think Canadian teenagers should be having sex at age 14 or 15, the fact is that most Canadian teens of that age ARE having sex. Some of them are having consensual sex with their same-age peers and some of them are having consensual sex with adults.
Egale believes very strongly that it is possible… even common… for 14 and 15 year olds to consent to sex, even with people over the age of 20.
And when young people DON’T consent to sex, we have strong laws in place to protect them:
* Laws against sexual assault, at any age;
* Laws against people in positions of authority who take advantage of the minors in their care;
* Laws against child prostitution, child pornography and internet luring.
We should teach young people to make decisions for themselves. We want young people to get reliable information about sex from their school, their guidance counselor, local health clinics, peer support groups… We want young people to get sex information from friends they can trust, and grown-ups they can trust. If young people feel their behaviour is criminal, we have good reason to believe they won’t seek help.
Likewise, if school boards get the impression that youth sexuality is being criminalized, they’ll be apprehensive about offering full sex education before students turn 16. And after 16, it could be too late, because that’s when many young people drop out.
We should also give discretion to the courts about the relationships that young people get involved in. We want judges and juries to focus on individual cases, and make decisions about the best interests of young people in those cases.
We don’t want to leave it up to the government to make broad judgments about all young people in Canada, and the activities they engage in.
Finally — let’s talk about anal sex.
I mentioned earlier that homosexuality was illegal until the late 1960’s. That’s when Section 159 of the Criminal Code was changed to allow consenting adults to engage in anal sex. But Section 159 wasn’t eliminated, like it should have been. It still exists in the Criminal Code, right between the sections on bestiality and incest. And it makes anal sex illegal for anyone under the age of 18.
That means that all 16 and 17 year olds who engage in anal sex are committing a crime, even if they do it with a 19-year-old or an 18-year-old … or even with another 17-year-old.
Bill C-22 does nothing to abolish this inequality, even though Section 159 of the Criminal Code has been declared unconstitutional by several different provincial courts.
It’s time to eliminate Section 159, and Bill C-22 — if you insist on passing it — is the perfect opportunity to do so.
At the absolute minimum, the age of consent for anal sex should be equal to the age of consent for other forms of sexual expression. If not, Canada’s anal sex laws will continue to be an act of state-sanctioned discrimination.
In conclusion, let me say that the issue of young people and sexuality is a very sensitive one, and it’s one that should be carefully considered before any laws are passed. We at Egale would like to thank the Justice Committee for the opportunity to speak about this very important topic.