Toronto
2 min

Sex is verboten

British Columbia attorney-general Ujjal Dosanjh’s lobbying wins. Thirteen out of 13 justice ministers agree it should be illegal for 14- and 15-year-olds to have sex.



Dosanjh reports unanimity at a Vancouver meeting from all of Canada’s justice ministers to raise the age of consent for sex to 16, from 14.



Age of consent was not supposed to be a major issue at this Dec 2 and 3 conference. Federal minister Anne McLellan’s main focus was to garner support for replacing the Young Offenders Act, which would make it easier to impose adult sentences on those as young as 14.



But Dosanjh had expressed his intention to bring up “sexual exploitation of youth” as an agenda item – it’s a pet project of Dosanjh, a New Democrat.



The move to up the age gained momentum when judges began to say that different rules for anal sex and vaginal sex were discriminatory.



Legal decisions have put the age all-around at 14, although the higher 18 for anal sex is still technically on the books. Certainly prosecutions continue.



Dosanjh says there’s no legal timeline as yet.



“There was agreement that it needs to be considered and done,” says Dosanjh, “but not in a way that it criminalizes the conduct of youth, that it focusses on the exploitation of youth.”



Justice ministers say raising the age of consent would make it easier to prosecute sex crimes against youth, often drawing on examples of 40-something men having sex with teenage girls and avoiding conviction because the judge ruled the girl may have consented.



Many of the adult men arrested in the infamous Project Guardian busts in London were charged with having (consensual but illegal) anal sex with teens – prompting activists to call it a “gay witch hunt.”



The Coalition For Lesbian And Gay Rights In Ontario helped lead the fight against Project Guardian. CLGRO’s Christine Donald says it’s not just the law that’s the problem, it’s how that law can be applied.



It will criminalize sex that was fine before, and it might extend into areas of sex education as well.



As an example, she says, conservative Surrey, British Columbia parents can then point to the new age of consent as a reason to keep that province’s largest school district in the dark ages of sexual health education. (The board of trustees has banned children’s books like Heather Has Two Mommies.)



“It’s the use of the law which is worrying,” says Donald. “It will be, by extension, wrong to teach them about sex [until] they’re 16.”



Dosanjh acknowledges pitfalls in making such a law too broad.



For example, if the age of consent were to simply change from 14 to 16 with no other amendments, then a 17-year-old can be prosecuted for having sex with a 14- or 15-year-old (the current law allows for a maximum two-year age difference between consenting partners; it also exempts adults in a position of power from having sex with someone under 18 – so a coach is not allowed to fuck her teenaged hockey player).



Gay British Columbia politician Tim Stevenson, the province’s advisor on gay issues, calls the scheme a great idea.