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WhatDoINeedToKnow

What Do I Need to Know About Age of Consent?

 There are laws in Canada that restrict who can engage in sexual activity. These laws view sexual activity as more than just vaginal sex. According to the law, sexual activity can include kissing, touching, exposing body parts, showing someone porn, etc.

In Canada, the basic age of consent for sexual activity is 16 years old, but there are exceptions to this rule for people who are close in age and for people who are in a relationship of trust, dependency and/or authority.

This page explains the details of age of consent and the exceptions.

Note: The information below is not intended to be legal advice. If you need more information or advice, contact Legal Aid Ontario (1-800-668-8258).

What is consent?

What does the age of consent mean?

  • The age of consent is the age you must be to be able to consent to sexual activity
  • Even if you say yes, if you are under 16 and if the person you are with is older than you or is seen to have some power over you, your consent may not be seen as legal.

What does sexual activity mean?

  • Sexual activity means more than just vaginal sex.
  • Sexual activity can also include hugging and kissing, any sexual touching, oral sex, anal sex, exposing a body to another person, sexual advances on the Internet, taking sexual pictures of another person, or showing somebody pornographic images.

Are there any exceptions to the age of consent?

  • Yes, there are exceptions for people who are in close age. These exceptions only apply if the older person is not in a position of authority or trust.
    • a young person aged 12 or 13 can legally consent to sexual activity with someone less than 2 years older
    • a young person aged 14-15 can legally consent to sexual activity with someone less than 5 years older
  • If you are under 18 and not legally married you cannot legally consent to anal sex. This law has been challenged in provincial court for being discriminatory and violating the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but it still remains on the books for now.
  • It is illegal to ask or hire someone under 18 for sex work services (i.e. prostitution), including pornography.
  • It is also illegal to own or possess pornography featuring people under 18. (For info on how this applies to “sexting” click here for a fact sheet produced by the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada.

How old can my sexual partner be?

  • If you are…
    • Under age 12 you cannot consent to sexual activity with anyone of any age,
    • 12-13 years old you can consent to sexual activity with anyone who is less than two years older than you (unless that person is in a position of power, trust, or authority.)
    • 14-15 years old you can consent to sexual activity with anyone who is less than five years older than you (unless that person is in a position of power, trust, or authority.)
    • 16-17 years old you can consent to sexual activity with anyone who is older than you unless that person is in a position of power, trust, or authority.
    • Age 18 or older you can consent to sexual activity with anyone who is older than you.

How young can my sexual partner be?

  • If you are…
    • Under age 12 you cannot have sexual activity with anyone of any age,
    • 12-13 years old you cannot have sexual activity with someone who is under the age of 12.
    • 14-15 years old you cannot have sexual activity with someone who is two or more years younger than you.
    • 16-17 years old you cannot have sexual activity with someone who is younger than 14.
    • 18 years old you cannot have sexual activity with someone who is younger than 14.
    • Age 19 or older you cannot have sex with someone who is younger than 16 unless they are less than 5 years younger than you.

Useful tip

It is against the law to have sexual activity with someone who is under that age of 18 if you are in a position of power, trust, or authority.

What kind of person is in a position of trust, dependency, & authority?

  • This could be a teacher, employer, camp counselor, health care practitioner, guardian, personal attendant, babysitter, coach, etc.

What do I do if I am in an abusive situation or I know someone who may be?

  • Talk to a parent, teacher, guidance counsellor, or another adult you can trust.
  • Call the Kids Help Phone anonymously at 1-800-668-6868.
  • If you are being sexually abused, do not blame yourself. It is not your fault!

Where can I get more information?