Gay groups are gearing up to fight any attempt by the Harper Conservatives to raise the age of consent from the current 14.
Just days after being appointed justice minister, Vic Toews said he planned to raise the age to 16.
He didn’t say whether he would lower the age of anal consent from 18 — the age specified in the Criminal Code but overturned by courts in three provinces.
Longtime gay-rights advocates are gearing up for a battle.
The Coalition For Lesbian And Gay Rights In Ontario (CLGRO) will lead the charge.
It will anchor its position on the same arguments it used to oppose Bill C-2, a bill it savaged for restricting the rights of gay youth to control their own sexual choices.
CLGRO expects to make written and in-person submissions to Parliament if Toews persists. And they’re gearing up by hiring a political action co-ordinator to organize and lobby in this politically more conservative time, says member Tom Warner.
“We’ll look for the opportunities to restate our opposition to increasing the age of consent and for attacking the faulty rationale for it. We’ll develop an action plan.”
There’s lots already in the Criminal Code to deal with attempts to coerce teens, he says. A tougher bill won’t stop sexual exploitation; “better education and respecting the choices of youth” will, he says.
The Sex Laws Committee is also preparing for a battle. It’s a Toronto-based group of queer activists dedicated to eliminating legal restrictions on consensual sexuality such as the bawdyhouse laws. Committee members are hoping that Harper overrules Toews and keeps his pledge to focus on only five issues for this Parliamentary session.
In any event, they’re planning an outreach to gay youth to find out their needs around an age of consent.
“We’re going to talk to different youth committees to find out what they think,” says member Richard Hudler.
And the Sex Laws Committee is preparing a position paper which, like CLGRO’s, will be based on its recent unsuccessful opposition to Bill C-2.
“Speaking for myself,” says Hudler, “their wanting to raise it is just admitting there’s not enough sex education in schools, if [teens] are not ready at 14 when it’s been the law since the 1800s.”
Age 14 is a “reasonable age” of consent, says Hudler. The point is the law should respect the rights of youth to make their own choices. “It’s about both the right to say yes and the right to say no.”
And, he notes, the whole discussion is bogus. “Much of the harm that comes to children happens in the home. This is a distraction from that.”
Warner isn’t exactly over-confident about the chances of stopping a bill in its tracks. With the NDP and Liberals apparently folding on the issue, Warner suspects “we’re fighting a real uphill battle.” But it is winnable, he says, in a minority Parliament if our community gets organized and motivates the other parties.
Where’s Egale Canada on the issue, after repeatedly dropping the ball in opposing Bill C-2? So far, they don’t have a formal position, though policy head Laurie Arron was recently quoted as saying any consent bill must equalize the anal age of consent with that for other sex acts.