Compromises needed to get necessary support

Interim Staff

Raising the age at which children can legally consent to sex, from the current 14 years of age, is something Conservative MPs, such as former Calgary police detective Art Hanger, have been pushing for since many of them came to Ottawa as Reformers in 1993. Right now, adults 30, 40 or 50 years old can legally have sex with boys or girls as young as 14.

With the June introduction by Justice Minister Vic Toews of Bill C-22, those longstanding demands will likely be answered, at least in part.

It was the sorely misnamed Conservative government of Brian Mulroney that lowered the age of consent from 18 to 14 in 1987. Since that time, the attorneys-general of every province, as well as major police associations, have pushed for raising it back, citing problems of child prostitution they are unable to combat.

Yet, the Chretien and Martin Liberal governments steadfastly refused to raise the age of consent claiming, among other things, they didn’t want to make criminals of teenagers over youthful indiscretions.

Indeed, the last Liberal justice minister, Irwin Cotler, in writing to other MPs in condemnation of a Conservative MP’s 2005 private member’s bill on the subject, actually made the absurd claim that raising the age of consent would criminalize kissing between teenagers.

Regardless, the Harper government is determined to press ahead with raising the age of consent and will likely pass Bill C-22 in the fall sitting of Parliament with the unlikely support of the NDP. During the previous Parliament, NDP MPs were the strongest supporters of the private member’s legislation on the topic and have indicated they will support the now-governing Conservatives on this issue.

However, it would appear that a compromise had to be struck to get the majority of MPs necessary to pass the legislation. The bill includes a five-year close-in-age exemption that would prevent the prosecution of, say, a 19-year-old who had sexual contact with a 14-year-old.

While age of consent legislation has always included a two-year close-in-age exemption, some Conservative MPs privately grumble the five-year exemption will still leave younger teens vulnerable to manipulation by significantly older peers.

The new law would theoretically not change the prohibition on sodomy that is supposed protect those under age 18. However, despite the clear description in the Criminal Code, Canada’s liberal courts have rewritten the sodomy law so as to allow homosexual men to molest 14-year-olds, because of the 1987 age-of-consent law.  As such, it would appear the new law will also recriminalize the homosexual predation of 14- and 15-year-old boys by gay men.

Pro-family groups say it’s about time action was taken on the issue. Brian Rushfeldt, executive director of the Canada Family Action Coalition, says, “Children are at great risk in Canada, due to the low age of sexual consent, and it is a national embarrassment that Canada is promoted internationally as a safe haven for pedophiles.”

The CFAC would prefer to see the age of consent raised to 18, instead of just 16. Rushfeldt says, “As a society, we already recognize that children have not reached the maturity necessary to make major decisions or reject coercive pressures until they are 18, and this should certainly apply to sexual relationships involving adult predators who are skilled at manipulating and seducing vulnerable children.”

Nevertheless, CFAC will be backing C-22. “This legislation is a must. Every week we hear of more incidents of pedophiles luring, buying or seducing a young person into sexual acts purely for greed or to satisfy their selfish sexual perversions. It is one of the government’s highest responsibilities to protect its innocent and vulnerable citizens,” says Rushfeldt.