What is the definition of sexual assault?

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What is the Criminal Code of Canada’s definition of sexual assault?

Section 265 of the Criminal Code of Canada outlines the offences of assault and sexual assault as follows:

A person commits an “assault” when:

(a) without the consent of another person, he applies force intentionally to that other person, directly or indirectly;

(b) he attempts or threatens, by an act or gesture, to apply force to another person, if he has, or causes that other person to believe on reasonable grounds that he has, present ability to effect his purpose; or

(c) while openly wearing or carrying a weapon or an imitation thereof, he accosts or impedes another person or begs.

(2) This section applies to all forms of assault, including sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon, threats to a third party or causing bodily harm and aggravated sexual assault. obtained where the complainant submits or does not resist by reason of the application of force to the complainant or to a person other than the complainant;

(b) threats or fear of the application of force to the complainant or to a person other than the complainant;

(c) fraud; or

(d) the exercise of authority.

(3) Where the accused alleges that he believed that the complainant consented to the conduct that is the subject matter of the charge, a judge, if satisfied that there is sufficient evidence and that, if believed by the jury, the evidence would constitute a defence, shall instruct the jury when reviewing all the evidence relating to the determination of the honesty of the accused’s belief, to consider the presence or absence of reasonable grounds for that belief.


What is the age of consent in Canada?

As set out in the Criminal Code, the “age of consent” in Canada is 16 years of age. Once a person turns 16, they are old enough to be able to legally consent to sexual contact with another person.

If a person is 12 or 13 years old, they are legally able to consent to sexual activity with someone who is less than two years older than them, so long as the other person:

  • Is not in a position of trust or authority towards them,
  • Is not someone with whom they are in a relationship of dependency, and,
  • The relationship between the 12 or 13 year-old and the other person is not exploitative of the 12 or 13 year-old.

Similarly, if a person is 14 or 15 years old, they are legally able to consent to sexual contact with someone who is less than five years older than them, so long as the other person:

  • Is not in a position of trust or authority towards them,
  • Is not someone with whom they are in a relationship of dependency, and,
  • The relationship between the 14 or 15 year-old and the other person is not exploitative of the 14 or 15 year-old.
  • If a 14 or 15 year-old is married, they are also able to consent to sexual activity with their husband or wife.

If a person is under age 16 and none of these exceptions apply to that person, it is not a defence to a charge of sexual assault that the under-age person agreed to sexual touching or contact with the accused. For example, even if a 15 year-old agreed to have sex with someone aged 21, in law, the 15 year-old’s “consent” is considered invalid, and the 21 year-old would still be guilty of sexual assault unless that person believed the complainant was over the age of 16 and took reasonable steps to ascertain the person’s age before engaging in sexual activity with them.

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