OTTAWA – REAL Women of Canada, in a recent letter to Justice Minister Allan Rock, has urged that the age of consent for sexual activity by young persons with adults be raised from 14 years to 18 years of age.

The concerns over this age of consent have been exacerbated in recent weeks by the revelations of repeated acts of sexual misconduct by the western Canadian junior hockey coach, Graham James, and the charges of sexual abuse of young persons by employees of Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto.

The growing incidence of teenage prostitution is also deeply disturbing since teenagers over 14 years of age can also give a valid consent to sexual activity, to which neither parents nor police can legally object.

Raising the age of consent to 18 years for sexual activity with adults would make the Criminal Code provisions more consistent with the Young Offenders Act which provides special protection for youths under 18 years of age within the criminal justice system. Moreover, raising the age of consent for sexual activity to 18 will also bring the Criminal Code provisions more in line with most provincial child abuse legislation, as well as laws relating to the sale of alcohol and tobacco to young persons. (Most provinces permit the sale of these substances only to those over 18 years of age).

According to Gwen Landolt, National Vice President of REAL Women, “If legislation protects young people under 18 years from difficulties arising within the criminal justice system, and from purchasing tobacco and alcohol for reasons of their safety and protection, then it is not unreasonable that such youngsters should also be prohibited from entering into sexual activity with adults, at least until they are 18 years of age.

“Strengthening the Criminal Code provisions in this way, may not save all our youths from sexual predators, but it will serve as a deterrent to some deviants and it will also serve as a clear signal that society views, with abhorrence, adult sexual activity with vulnerable youngsters,” said Mrs. Landolt.

In the letter to Mr. Rock, REAL Women has also recommended that the penalty set out in the Criminal Code for sexual interference, sexual touching and sexual exploitation be increased from the present maximum sentence of 10 years to a maximum sentence of 15 years.