Quick Escape

What is consent?

  • Consent means giving permission for something to happen.
  • Consent means a person voluntarily agrees, through words or actions, to engage in sexual activity.
  • Consent also means there is a genuine willingness by both parties to actively participate in the sexual activity (only yes means yes). Furthermore, your consent can be taken back at any time by simply saying you want to stop the sexual activity.

Always remember that consenting to one sexual act does not mean consenting to another sexual act.

Also, just because you had sex or sexual contact with someone before does not mean you consent every time.

Here is a video to help understand consent.

Tea Consent (Clean)

Copyright 2015 Emmeline May, and Rachel Brian

What is the age of consent?

Here in Manitoba, and across Canada, the age of consent to sexual activity is 16 years-old. This is the age that criminal law recognizes the legal capacity of a young person to agree freely (without pressure, manipulation or threat) to sexual activity.

All sexual activity without consent, regardless of age, is a criminal offence.

Are there situations where a 16 year-old cannot consent?

Yes. In some situations you must be 18 years-old to consent to sexual activity. Depending on what you are doing, and who you are doing it with, sexual activity with a person under 18 years old may be illegal.

A person under 18 years of age cannot consent to sexual activity in the following situations:

  • The other person has a relationship of trust or authority over this individual or he or she is dependent on that other person. People in positions of trust or authority include teachers, coaches, babysitters, family members, employers, Elders, ministers or doctors
  • This individual is being exploited. Sexual exploitation is the exchange of sex or sexual activity for drugs, food, shelter, protection, other basics of life, and/or money. Sexual exploitation also includes involving youth under 18 in pornography.

Can someone under 16 ever legally consent to sex or sexual activity?

Yes, there are some exceptions when two people are close in age.

According to the Criminal Code of Canada:

  • A 14 or 15 year-old individual can consent to sexual activity with someone who is less than five years older than them.
  • A 12 or 13 year-old individual can consent to sexual activity with someone who is less than two years older than them.

NOTE: These exceptions only apply if the older person is NOT in a position of authority or trust. For example, even if a 14-year old individual agrees to sexual activity with his or her 18-year old basketball coach - because the coach is in a position of authority, the law does not consider the consent to be freely given. 

Children under 12 years of age can never legally consent to sex or sexual activity.

Can someone else, such as my husband, parent or friend, consent for me?

No. The consent has to come from you.

Does no always mean no?

No always means no. Regardless of the situation, the tone of your voice or your relationship with the other person, saying no means you are not consenting to the sex or sexual activity. You have the right to state your own sexual limits.

In fact, only yes means yes - and this should be communicated in both words and actions from an engaged and genuinely willing partner. If you’re unsure about your partner’s wishes - back off.

What if I didn’t want to, but I didn’t say ‘no?’

You don’t have to say no to mean no. You can say no with your words OR actions. For example, actions like crying, struggling, trying to push someone away, squirming and shaking, all mean no. Being silent, or staying absolutely still, can also mean ‘no.’

It’s up to both people engaging in the sexual activity to make sure their partner consents.

There are times when your consent is not given freely. In these cases, your consent is not valid. Some examples are:

  • if somebody threatens you to get your consent
  • if somebody abuses his or her position of trust, power or authority to get your consent

What if I agree to the sexual activity at first, and then I change my mind?

You can take back your consent (say no) at any time. Once you show - with your words or actions - that you no longer agree to the sexual activity, there is no longer consent. You are saying no.

Just because you consented to one kind of sexual activity does not mean you consent to any other sexual activity.

Also, just because you agreed to some type of sexual activity in the past, does not automatically mean that you consent now.

Can a person say that I consented if I was drunk?

No. If you are drinking or high on drugs, and unable to make a decision, you are unable to legally give consent.

What if I’m married? Can my partner force me to engage in sexual activity without my consent?

No. No one can force sex or sexual activity on someone else without that person’s consent. It does not matter if that person is your spouse.

Are there any exceptions?

There are no exceptions. A person cannot force you into any kind of sexual activity, whether it’s a boyfriend or girlfriend; someone you want to have sex with; someone you have had consensual sex with before; or someone who has assaulted you before. If you do not, or cannot, give consent, it means the other person has committed a sexual assault.

More information about consenting to sexual activity under the law can be found on the federal government’s Department of Justice website.