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October 12, 1999
Dosanjh Could Get Big Boost If Age of Sexual Consent Is RaisedA P Kamath in Vancouver, British Columbia
When Diane Sowden learned her 14-year-old daughter was pregnant, one of the first things she thought of was to sue the man for statuary rape. But the authorities told her that the age of sexual consent in Canada was 14 years -- and has been so for over a decade and half since it was reduced to 14 from 16 in the early 1980s.
Sowden, appalled and angry by the revelation, started reading on the issue, and came to the conclusion that many teenage problems, including prostitution, resulted from the lax sexual laws. She founded Children of the Street, which would -- among other things -- seek to raise the age of consent to 16, though ideally she thought it should be 18.
One of the earliest allies was Ujjal Dosanjh, a lawyer and rising politician in British Columbia, and currently its attorney-general. Dosanjh is expected to become the premier of the province in a few months in the place of Glen Clark who resigned a few months ago following a financial scandal. The National Democratic Party will hold its internal elections in March.
This week as the news of the federal government looking at raising the legal age of sexual consent from 14 to 16 years made headlines, Sowden and Dosanjh wished the change would come out sooner.
For Dosanjh the change in law would mean not only a validation of his crusade but also high profile national attention. He has been working on this project for over two years, constantly communicating with the attorney-generals of other provinces.
Dosanjh believes that raising the age of consent would particularly help the authorities in British Columbia, which has a high rate of child pornography in North America, in combating people who induce children into sex, particularly for commercial purposes.
Sowden believes while it would be ideal to make 18 the consenting age, the impending changes will still benefit parents and children. A 16-year-old boy or girl has more maturity and will power than a 14-year-old does, she believes.
"We have heard strongly from numerous groups, including social and health care workers, who believe that 14 is too young to allow for mature sexual consent. It creates opportunities for these young teenagers to be preyed upon and abused by adults," said one justice department source quoted in Toronto Sun this weekend.
Justice Minister Anne McLellan is said to be planning to send out by first week of December the proposal to change the law to parent groups, lawyers, social workers, police, and educators across Canada.
Legislative sources believe that it would be at least six months before the changes become effective.
Allen is also seeking opinions on a little-known exemption in the Criminal Code that allows 12- and 13-year-olds to have consenting sex with older teens.
This exemption, aimed at avoiding making criminals of consenting young loves, allows sex with a person no more than two years older who is not in a position of trust or authority, say a teacher, guardian or official. This means a 14-year-old could have consenting sex with a 12-year-old, or a 15-year-old with a 13-year-old.
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