Consent to Sexual Activities: Mistake About a Partner's Age

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Knowing a Partner’s Real Age

People who want to take part in sexual activities must take “all reasonable steps" to make sure their partners are old enough to give consent.

The definition of reasonable steps depends on the situation. Simply asking for a partner’s age is isn’t always enough. Other steps might be necessary because of these factors:

  • the partner’s physical appearance
  • the partner’s behaviour
  • the apparent age difference between the partners
  • the meeting place or place the sexual activity occurs

If one of these factors comes into play, it is important to check a partner’s age carefully and ask to see identification. Otherwise, there can be very serious consequences. If criminal charges are filed, the sexual activity would be considered a crime, even if the person accused sincerely thought the partner was old enough to consent.  In the eyes of the law, if you don’t take reasonable steps, it is as though you closed your eyes to your partner’s age or knew your partner wasn’t old enough to consent.  

An accused who took reasonable steps to determine a partner’s age can use the defence that the partner consented. However, the accused must have had really good reasons to think that the partner was old enough to consent. 

Important !
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.