Prime Minister Stephen Harper seems so intent on an election that there’s nothing he won’t turn into a confidence vote. The budget, the mission in Afghanistan and now an omnibus crime bill — one that the House of Commons has already passed.
The Tackling Violent Crime Act was passed by the House of Commons on a confidence vote in November. It is now before the Senate. But the government is accusing the Senate of delaying the bill’s review for partisan reasons.
Tackling violent crime, according to this law, means increasing mandatory sentences for serious firearms crimes, making it easier for police to detect people driving under the influence and raising the age of consent for sexual activity to 16 years from 14. Harper’s gang is expected to introduce an unusual confidence motion any day now demanding the Senate pass the bill by Sat, Mar 1.
The bill has been criticized 17 ways to Sunday by youth, AIDS/HIV and queer activists. But, alas, to no avail. After all, “Who could be in favour of having sex with children?!” goes the outrage of the bill’s supporters.
Existing law already protects “children” (legally meaning folks under the age of 18) from exploitative sex. This bill would now protect folks under the age of 16 from all sex — with a few interesting exceptions.
There is a close-in-age exception, which allows teens to have sex with someone within a five-year age difference. A 17-year-old having sex with a 15-year-old would be okay, for example.
Unless they were having anal sex. The bill does nothing about the fact that the age of consent for anal sex is still 18 in the Criminal Code. Courts in Ontario and Quebec have declared the law to be unconstitutional but it’s still on the books.
So a 17-year-old having anal sex with his 17-year-old boyfriend wouldn’t be okay. Unless they were married. Except that the law still says that the exception is if the folks having the sex are “husband and wife.” It seems the Criminal Code hasn’t quite caught up to that whole “husband and husband” thing.
The bill also contains exceptions for married couples, in which case the close-in-age exception does not apply and the relationship is legal regardless of the age of the older partner.
Now, most Canadian provinces ban marriage under the age of 16. But a few allow a pregnancy exception. So a 50-year-old man can’t have sex with a 14-year-old woman. But if he does, gets her pregnant and lives in a province that lets him marry her then he can have lots of sex with her. The exception also applies to folks who live together in a common-law relationship if they have or are expecting a child (which generally means they’ve had sex).
So a 50-year-old can shack up with a pregnant 14-year-old and have lots and lots of sex, but a 20-year-old can’t legally have sex with a 14-year-old if there were no plans to marry or live together.
What does all this tell us? That sex in marriage is still sacred, that sex outside of it is still suspect and that the law really only has opposite-sex folks in mind when dealing with marriage. But it definitely has queer folks in mind when it comes to illegal sex.
This law is a mess but almost no one in Parliament has the nerve to speak out against it because they don’t want to appear to be supporting paedophilia. Yet, what with its exemptions, this bill seems to support a particular category of paedophiles: hebephiles (those attracted to post-pubescent adolescents) as long as they’re the marrying sort.
I’m not suggesting these exceptions should not be in the Act. I am trying to point out how ridiculous the new law is about who can and who can’t have sex. For the average teenager who just wants to have sex and manages not to get pregnant, well, if this law passes they’ll have to make sure that they ask for ID ’cause outside of marriage sex is just not okay.
And all this is going to a confidence vote. Again. Apparently it was so satisfying to defend the rights of marrying hebephiles the Tories want to do it again, in the name of getting tough on violent crime.