Consent to sexual activity must be freely given, ongoing, informed, unimpaired, explicit, and enthusiastic. Sexual activity without consent is a criminal offence. In the Canadian Criminal Code,consent is defined as “the voluntary agreement of the complainant to engage in the sexual activity in question” (s. 273.1 (1)). There are several situations where the criminal code says there is noconsent:
- Consent is given on behalf of someone else
- Someone says or does something to indicate they do not consent
- Someone says or does something to indicate they revoke their previous consent and no longer agree to continue the sexual activity
- Someone is incapable of giving consent—for example, if they are unconscious
- Consent is given due to someone abusing a position of power, trust or authority
- Someone is under the age of 16 (unless they fall under close-in-age exceptions). The age of consent is higher when there is a relationship of trust, authority or dependency.
For more information, see https://www.leaf.ca/the-law-of-consent-in-sexual-assault/.
Some important points to keep in mind about consent include:
- Consent is active, not passive—don’t make assumptions about what your partner does or does not want
- There is no implied consent. Consent to one form of sexual activity does not automatically imply consent to other forms of sexual activity. Consent to sexual activity at one time does not imply consent at another time
- Consent must be informed. Everyone engaging in the sexual activity must have all the information needed to consider and make an informed decision on whether to participate in sexual activity.
- If someone says no and you continue to pressure them, that is coercion and you do not have consent
- You should receive an enthusiastic and freely given ‘yes’, which is reflected both verbally and in your partner’s body language
- Your partner should be awake, alert, sober, and interested
- You should discuss what one anothers’ boundaries are and continue to communicate with your partner before and during each stage of sexual activity
- Both partners should decide together to do the same thing, at the same time, and in the same way with each other
- It is not your partner’s job to resist but your job to respect boundaries and seek clarification if you are unsure
*This site provides general information only and is not meant to be used as legal advice. We recommend that you connect with a legal aid office, legal clinic or lawyer if you need legal advice for specific legal problems.