According to the Government of Canada's Department of Justice, consent is legally defined as the voluntary agreement of a person to engage in sexual activity. Taking this definition one step further, consent is defined as the active process of willingly, enthusiastically and freely agreeing to engage in sexual activity on an ongoing basis without manipulation or threats.

Legal Age

The legal age of sexual consent in Canada is 16 years of age. If you are under 16, there is a close age exception which is:

  • If you are 14 or 15, your partner must be less than 5 years older than you, they also must not be in a position of trust, authority, or dependency. 

  • If you are 12 or 13, your partner must be less than 2 years older than you, they also must not be in a position of trust, authority, or dependency. 

  • Children under 12 have no ability to consent to sex.

Consent Essentials

  • Sex needs to be fully consensual: everyone needs to accept and respect each other's boundaries.

  • Consent can always be withdrawn - consent is a one-time-only agreement. Just because someone agreed to engaging in sexual activity on Saturday does not mean they have already given their consent to sex on Tuesday.

  • Nothing makes consent automatic - being in a committed relationship doesn't give anyone the right to not seek consent.

  • In some situations, full, informed, and free consent cannot be given. People who are under the influence (drugs, alcohol), asleep, unable to understand what they are saying yes to, or under severe pressure are not able to freely and willingly consent to participating in a sexual activity. 

Sexual Exploitation

As a 16 or 17 year old, you cannot consent to sex if:

  • Your partner is in a position of authority to you (coach, teacher, supervisor at work)

  • You are dependant on your sexual partner (for your health, financially)

  • The relationship you developed with your partner is exploitative

Sexual Assault

In 1994, the Ottawa Hospital established the Sexual Assault and Partner Abuse Care Program (SAPACP). A team of specialized health care professionals are available onsite, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Private, confidential trauma sensitive care is available to anyone 16 years and older who has experienced sexual or intimate partner violence. SAPACP can also be contacted at 613-798-5555, extension 13770.

The Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) also has a sexual assault program for children and adolescents. If you, or someone you know, has been sexually assaulted contact the Emergency Department at CHEO at 613-737-2328, to speak with a member of the Sexual Assault Team. 


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