Recently, a Winnipeg photographer, Garry Geisel, was charged under the child pornography law with possessing pictures of naked girls. Geisel defends himself by arguing that the law is inconsistent. It says 14-year-old girls can legally have sex with adults but they have to be 18 or older to pose nude.

The current age of consent law is being used in the defence of Geisel and other Canadians charged in child pornography, juvenile prostitution and child sexual assault cases. The law does not criminalize teens having sexual activity with other teens. It only criminalizes adults having sex with children.

Age of consent for sexual activity at 14 years (Bill C-15) is in conflict with the child pornography law (Bill C-128) and the new child sex and tourism law (Bill C-27), which both refer to children as “under the age of 18.”

Dolina Smith, president of Canadians Addressing Sexual Exploitation (CASE), wants the age of consent law raised to 18. “Adults should not be given legal permission to have sex with children. The law should state that no adult can engage in sexual activity with a child under eighteen.”

If the age of consent were raised to 18, Smith points out that it would then be in harmony with Canada’s laws on child pornography, child abuse, sex tourism, child prostitution, and child welfare. CASE fears that raising the age of consent only to 16 would mean these other child protection laws could then be lowered to 16 as well.

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has also urged the federal government, “to define 18 years and over as the age of consent for sexual encounters with adults.”

“With the age of consent for sexual activity being 14, it seems no accident that the age of recruitment into prostitution is 14 or younger,” says Dolina Smith. “The exploitation of these juvenile prostitutes is allowed under the age of consent law because at age 14 they can give consent to their activities.”

On Oct. 14, Calgary Reform MP Art Hanger introduced a private member’s bill that would make it illegal for adults to have sex with children under the age of 16. Without any explanation his bill was deemed “not votable” by the committee on private members’ business, and will come up for only one hour of parliamentary debate on Dec. 2, before it dies.

Even discussing such a measure, however, might keep the pressure on the government to change the age of consent law. Justice Minister Anne McLellan was reported in the Toronto Sun as saying, “If you look at our Criminal Code provisions, in some cases we’ve got 18 … some cases fourteen. What are the policy rationales for these different ages?”

The government is expected to release a discussion paper later this year. “If they really cared about children,” said Reform justice critic John Reynolds, “she’d bring a bill in the House that would say the age of consensual sex is going from 14 to 16 and we’d pass it and all Canadians would be happy. All they do it talk.”

Reynolds told The Interim that McLellan “works best at getting out press releases and holding press conferences but is not good at getting to the punch. Every (provincial) attorney-general wants the change, so why have another white paper?”

For more information on CASE or to obtain their 1998 research paper, Child Sexual Exploitation in Canada, write CASE, Parkway Postal Outlet, Box 62569, 85 Ellesmere Rd., Scarborough ON, M1R 5G8, or phone (416) 412-6065.


• Can have an abortion without parental consent or knowledge (since the passage of Bill 19, the Health Care Consent Act, in 1996) (Ontario)

10 years old

• Can operate a motorboat with 10 horsepower limit

12 years old

• Can have sex with someone up to two years older who is not in a position of trust or authority

• Can operate a motorboat with 40 horsepower limit

• Can operate a snowmobile on approved trails after passing an approved course

14 years old

• Can have consensual sex (vaginal and anal) with an adult (18 or older) (in 1995 the Ontario Court of Appeal struck down the age of consent for homosexual sex from 18 to 14)

16 years old

• Can marry with parental consent (Ontario)

• Can drive a car

• Can operate a motorboat with over 40 horsepower and a personal watercraft

• Can have ears or nose pierced without parental consent (Ontario)

• Can purchase cigarettes (Saskatchewan)

17 years old

• Can donate blood (all provinces but Québec).

18 years old

• Can marry without parental consent (Ontario)

• Can purchase a hunting rifle (Ontario)

• Can join the military

• Can pose nude for photos

• Can vote in federal elections

• Can have a VISA credit card without parental consent (Ontario)

• Can purchase cigarettes (Alberta, Manitoba, Québec, P.E.I., Newfoundland)

19 years old

• Can purchase cigarettes (B.C., Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia)

• Can drink alcohol (Ontario)

25 years old