Age of consent reform in Canada

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Age of consent law in Canada refers to cultural and legal discussions in Canada regarding the age of consent, which was raised from 14 to 16 in May 2008 as part of the Tackling Violent Crime Act.[1] This applies to all forms of sexual activity.[2]

In June 2006, the Canadian government proposed a bill to raise the age of consent from 14 to 16, while creating a close-in-age exemption for sex between 14-15 year olds and partners less than 5 years older, and keeping an existing close-in-age clause for sex between 12-13 year olds and partners less than 2 years older.[3] The initiative also maintains a temporary exception for already existing marriages of 14 and 15 year olds, but forbids new marriages like these in the future.[4]

Previous 1890 law[edit]

In 1890, the age of consent was raised from 12 to 14.[5]

Battle against Internet predators[edit]

Former Toronto police officer Paul Gillespie said the bill would give police "more tools" in the battle against Internet predators.[4] The intention of the bill is to target "sexual predators" and pimps. Other groups that supported the increase in the age of consent were the National Council of Women of Canada (NCWC), the Canada Family Action Coalition (CFAC), Canadian Crime Victim Foundation (CCVF), Beyond Borders Inc. and Canadians Addressing Sexual Exploitation (CASE).

Case of Dale Eric Beckham[edit]

One of the motivators for the reform of these laws in Canada was the case of Dale Eric Beckham. In March 2005, Beckham, then 31 years old, travelled from his home in Woodlands, Texas to Ottawa, Ontario to meet with a 14-year-old boy he had met over the internet. The boy's parents, after observing him sneaking away in the middle of the night into a taxi, alerted the police who tracked the cab to a downtown hotel. Police found Beckham and the boy unclothed in a hotel room, where they were engaged in sexual activity; it was later determined that the two had also engaged in sexual intercourse the previous night. Police also discovered hundreds of pornographic images of children on a laptop computer that Beckham had brought with him from Texas. Beckham was arrested and held without bail. In Beckham's home state of Texas, the age of consent is 17 and violators can face prison terms of up to 10–20 years. In Canada, sexual activity with children as young as 14 (until May 2008) was legal as long as it was consensual and the adult is not in a position of authority or dependency. The boy, who reportedly suffered from social anxiety disorder and had shown signs of being suicidal, insisted during interviews with the police that the sex with Beckham was consensual. Consequently, the only crime Beckham could be prosecuted for in Canada was a relatively minor offense of possession of child pornography. In November 2005, Beckham pleaded guilty and was sentenced to the time already served. He was then ordered deported back to the United States.[6][7][8][9][10][11]

After being notified of his arrest in Canada, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents searched Beckham's home in Woodlands, Texas where they discovered a massive quantity of child pornography on his computer, with some depicting children less than 12 years old engaged in sexual acts with adults. After returning to the United States, Beckham was immediately arrested and held without bond. In July 2007, Beckham pleaded guilty to a federal charge of transporting child pornography to Canada,[12][13] although his lawyer argued (unsuccessfully) that Beckham's behaviour was the result of diminished capacity. In November 2007, Beckham was sentenced to 17 years in prison, to be followed by lifetime supervision.[7][8][14]

This case raised concerns that child molesters, not just in Canada but also from abroad, were taking advantage of Canada's low age of consent to sexually exploit vulnerable children while escaping criminal prosecution.[9]


LGBT rights activists[edit]

These activists also criticized the bill, because it does not address the issue of equality, maintaining the present Canadian age of consent for anal sex outside of marriage at 18. Hillary Cook, spokeswoman for gay rights group Egale Canada believes the bill is "an attempt to score partisan points".[15]

Attorney General suit[edit]

In March 2009 a lawsuit was brought against the Attorney General of Canada alleging the Age of Sexual Consent increase was a direct violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms within the Constitution of Canada.[16]


Canadian AIDS Society[edit]

The Canadian AIDS Society has stated that "increasing the age of consent could result in young people being more secretive about their sexual practices and not seeking out the information they need. This will place youth at an increased risk of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections."[17]

Canadian Children's Rights Council[edit]

They referenced an article in The Globe and Mail which highlighted the opinions of Martha Mackinnon (Justice for Children and Youth, executive director) who had expressed concern this would decrease the pursuit of condoms.[18]

Canadian Federation for Sexual Health[edit]

This proposal has received criticism from different organizations and individuals. Andrea Cohen of the pro-choice Canadian Federation for Sexual Health (formerly International Planned Parenthood Federation) said the organization believes the legislation does nothing to keep youth from harm. She talked on CTV News Channel's "Mike Duffy Live" where she stated: "What it will do is infringe upon the rights of youth in terms of their ability to make decisions on their own sexuality".[15] Later (in 2007) her organization issued an official position statement.[19]

Child Welfare League of Canada[edit]

Peter Dudding, Executive Director of the Child Welfare League of Canada, criticized the bill's effect of removing judicial discretion in cases involving 14- and 15-year-olds: "When we deal with arbitrary cut-offs, we lose the flexibility to apply the law in a much more specific and individualized kind of way."[20]


  1. ^ "Canada's age of consent raised by 2 years". CBC News. May 1, 2008.
  2. ^ "Age of Consent to Sexual Activity". Department of Justice. May 10, 2013.
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b News Staff. "Age of Consent FAQ". Archived from the original on 2006-07-01.
  5. ^ "Parliamentary Information and Research Service".
  6. ^ Woodlands man admits he seduced teen online Archived February 2, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.,, July 10, 2006
  7. ^ a b The Woodlands Man Sentenced to Prison for Child Pornography Archived February 2, 2009, at the Wayback Machine., United States Attorney's Office (USAO) - Southern District of Texas, November 7, 2007.
  8. ^ a b Man gets 17 years in child porn case by Jamie Nash, Houston Community Newspapers, November 14, 2007.
  9. ^ a b Web luring case raises age-of-consent issue, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), March 11, 2005
  10. ^ Woodlands man accused of luring boy online By Renee C. Lee, Houston Chronicle, March 9, 2005.
  11. ^ Woodlands man sent to prison in child sex case by Cindy George, Houston Chronicle, November 7, 2007.
  12. ^ United States Code: Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 110, § 2252A(a)(1), available online at Cornell University Law School.
  13. ^ Under the plea agreement, the prosecution agreed to dismiss a second charge of possession of child pornography involving the sexual exploitation of minors. The prosecution also agreed not to prosecute Beckham for charges relating to the online enticement of a minor and travel in interstate and foreign commerce for illicit sex. (see: United States of America v. Dale Eric Beckham, Page 5.)
  14. ^ United States of America v. Dale Eric Beckham, Criminal Action No. H-05-484 / Civil Action No. H-08-3426. Signed by Frances H. Stacy, United States Magistrate Judge, (Houston, Texas), August 24, 2009.
  15. ^ a b "Mixed reviews to Tories' sexual consent bill". CTV News Channel (Canada). 2006-06-22. Archived from the original on 2008-05-11.
  16. ^ Altair, Octaevius (2011). "The Violators: No Human Rights for You (Canada)". Standing on behalf of public interest was denied and the matter remains unresolved through the Canadian Courts.
  17. ^ "Age of Consent (July 2006)". Archived from the original on 2013-10-17. Retrieved 2013-10-23.
  18. ^ Tralee Pearce (2 May 2008). "New sexual consent law may confuse teens".
  19. ^ "Age of Consent Position Statement". Canadian Federation for Sexual Health. 2010-11-02. Archived from the original on 14 July 2011. Retrieved 2014-01-28.
  20. ^ Izenberg, Dafna (4 July 2006). "Sixteen and ready for sex?". Archived from the original on 20 March 2012. Raising the age of consent tries to make young teens off-limits

See also[edit]