What is the age of consent in Alberta?

Susan Karpa Criminal Lawyer in CalgaryIf you have been charged or are being investigated, hiring a Calgary sexual assault lawyer is important. I am available to discuss the defence strategy for addressing these charges, the potential consequences of a guilty plea, the specifics of a peace bond if it applies, and any other relevant aspects related to your case. Please reach out to us for a free consultation at 587-888-7149.

What is the age of consent in Alberta?

There is no set “age of consent” in Canadian criminal law. The law around consent to sexual activity is complicated, and much more is required to establish consent than just being a certain age. For example, some people with disabilities do not have the capacity to consent, and people who are at a certain level of intoxication by drugs or alcohol cannot consent. However, there are certain circumstances where someone must be at least a specific age for a court to even have the option of finding that they consented. This is the age at which someone can consent.

The age at which someone can consent depends on the situation. No one under the age of 12 can consent to sexual activity or exposure of any kind. In most cases, a person can consent to sexual activity at 16 years of age and not before. However, this is not always the case. “Close-in-age” exceptions are legal defences that may save you from being guilty of a sexual crime against someone under 16 years of age. Also, you may be guilty of the crime of sexual exploitation against a person who is 16 or 17 years of age if you, for a sexual purpose, touched them or invited them to touch someone (including them or you), depending on the relationship you have with that person. I explain the close-in-age exception and the crime of sexual exploitation below.

What if we are the same age?

The Criminal Code creates legal defences for sexual crimes against children where the person accused with the crime and the complainant are close in age and the complainant consents to the activity giving rise to the charge. The close-in-age exception may be a full defence to sexual interference, invitation to sexual touching, sexual exposure, and sexual assault. You can only use the close-in-age defence only if each of the following are true:

  • The complainant consents to the sexual activity in question.
  • You are not in a position of trust or authority toward the complainant.
  • The complainant is not in a relationship of dependency with you.
  • You and the complainant are not in a relationship that is exploitative of the complainant.
  • Either (1) the complainant is 12 or 13 years of age and you are less than two years older than the complainant, or (2) the complainant is 14 or 15 years of age and you are less than five years older than the complainant. 

The law around positions of trust and authority, dependency relationships, and exploitative relationships is complicated. Whether two people are in such a relationship and will depend on the facts of a given case.