What is sexual assault?

Shutterstock / Smolaw

The definition of sexual assault depends on the circumstances and the victim’s experience. In criminal law, a broad definition of sexual assault is needed to identify actions that can be punished by the Canadian courts.  


The crime of sexual assault 

In Canada, sexual assault is when one of the partners doesn’t consent (doesn’t agree to) sexual touching. 

Sexual touching includes kissing, fondling and having sex. 


Legal definition of sexual consent

Consent to sexual touching means clearly showing that you agree, through your words or actions, to a sexual activity. According to this definition, a person who says or does nothing hasn’t agreed to a sexual activity. 

It’s possible for people to give consent but then change their minds later. If they change their minds, they no longer consent.


When sexual consent isn’t legal

In some cases, a person’s sexual consent isn’t legal even if the person said yes. Here are a few examples:

If the consent to sexual touching isn’t legal, then there is no consent and the touching is considered sexual assault.


Other sexual offences

Sexual offences are all crimes that are sexual in nature, including sexual assault.

Some sexual offences have a specific legal definition. Here are examples: 

Free and confidential resources are available to help sexual assault victims and their families.   

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.