Consent to Sexual Activities: Position of Authority and Trust

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The law doesn’t always recognize consent to a sexual activity. In this article, Éducaloi explains how a position of authority or trust affects the validity of a minor’s consent. A minor is someone under 18 years old.

Consent Isn’t Valid in These Situations

If a person is in a position of authority or trust toward a minor, the law doesn’t recognize the minor’s consent to any type of sexual activity between them.

The young person’s consent isn’t valid even if it was obtained honestly and without the other person taking advantage of the position of authority or trust.

In other words, the sexual activity is considered a crime whether or not the minor agreed to it.

The purpose of this rule is to protect young people who are in a weak or vulnerable position because of the nature of their relationships with certain people.   

To decide whether someone was in a position of authority or trust at the time of the sexual activity, the facts of each case must be considered. For instance, a court might take the following factors into account:  

  • age difference between the partners
  • evolution of their relationship
  • the position of the person in trust or authority in relation to the younger person

Position of Authority

Authority comes from the role someone plays in a young person’s life. But a position of authority is not limited to this. It includes any relationship where someone has power over a young person.

Therefore, being in a position of authority doesn’t necessarily mean that someone has a legal right over a young person. Instead, it refers to the power to tell the young person what to do.

A teacher is usually in a position of authority because of the role they play in a young person’s life.

Position of Trust

Being in a position of trust means using a position to convince or lead a young person to believe that he or she is under the adult’s protection and is safe in the company of this adult.

A position of trust relates to a person’s influence and persuasion over a young person. That person is in a position of reliability, truth and strength, while the young person is in a position of vulnerability and weakness.

To see whether a position of trust exists, it is important to look at factors such as the overall context of the relationship, the nature of the relationship and the status of one person versus the other.

Position of Authority or Trust Can Carry Over to Other Situations

A person in a position of authority or trust can be guilty of a crime even if the actions in question took place outside the context of the relationship that gives one of them power over the other. For example, a teacher doesn’t stop being in a position of authority toward a young person simply because it’s summertime and there are no classes until the fall.

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.