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Liberals move to scrap anal-sex law

Section 159 forbids group sex, puts age of consent higher than vaginal sex

In a sit-down interview with Daily Xtra on June 22, 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government would be reviewing the age of consent laws surrounding anal sex. Credit: PTP Video

The Liberal government will soon move to repeal a law that criminalizes anal sex.

Section 159 of the Criminal Code forbids anal intercourse “in a public place or if more than two persons take part or are present,” and puts the age of consent for anal sex two years higher than the general consent age of 16. 

In a parliamentary document announcing future business, the Liberals announced that Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould plans to table “[a]n Act related to the repeal of section 159 of the Criminal Code” on Nov 14, around 3 pm EDT. 

The bill would then work its way through debate in the House and Senate, unless the government takes the rare move of fast-tracking it.

On April 8, 2016, the spokesman for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Daily Xtra the Liberals would study repealing section 159. On June 13, Egale Canada called on the government to repeal the law, as part of an extensive review of present and past federal policies that discriminated against LGBT Canadians. 

In an interview with Xtra on June 22, Trudeau said the government was reviewing the age of consent laws surrounding anal sex. “That’s something that we’re very much looking forward to moving on in short order,” he said.

In an interview with Daily Xtra on June 22, 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada must “make amends” for its past treatment of LGBT people.
PTP video

Kyle Kirkup, an assistant law professor at the University of Ottawa, told Xtra that the repeal “should have happened two decades ago.” He noted a 1995 Ontario court ruling that found the section violated the charter, declaring it, “to be of no force and effect.”

In that ruling, Justice Rosalie Abella (now a Supreme Court judge) argued that “[t]he health education [teenagers] should be receiving to protect them from avoidable harm may be curtailed, since it may be interpreted as counselling young people about a form of sexual conduct the law prohibits them from participating in.”

According to internal documents obtained by Daily Xtra, public servants anticipated in spring 2016 that the government would announce in June a bill to repeal section 159. The government has not said whether those convicted under section 159 will be considered for pardons, though criminal convictions for “buggery” and “gross indecency” prior to 1969 will be reviewed.

In an analysis this year, public servants studied all Canadians currently serving sentences under a section 159 conviction, finding that “none of the 27 cases involved consensual sexual activity between adults.” However, the analysis didn’t include those who served sentences decades ago.

The repeal is guaranteed to cause controversy among social conservatives. In an interview with Life Site in August, REAL Women of Canada founder Gwen Landolt warned that the government might repeal section 159 without an amendment to place anal sex under the general consent law. 

“With those sections removed, you can have sex anytime, any place, anywhere, with anyone,” she said.