Government moves to strengthen equality rights

News Release

November 15, 2016 – Ottawa, ON – Department of Justice Canada

Our Government is committed to upholding the right of every individual in Canada to equal protection and equal benefit of the law, without discrimination. This right is guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

As such, today the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Jody Wilson-Raybould, introduced legislation that would ensure respect for equality rights by repealing section 159 of the Criminal Code.

Under this provision, the age of consent for unmarried persons to engage in anal intercourse is 18 years. The age of consent for any other form of non-exploitive sexual activity is 16. Section 159 makes an exception for consensual anal intercourse between married spouses if they are of the opposite sex, but not if they are of the same sex.

Several appellate courts have found the provision violates equality rights guaranteed by section 15 of the Charter because consensual anal sex is treated differently than other forms of consensual sexual activity.

Repealing section 159 would prevent charges being laid against persons who engage in non-exploitive, consensual anal intercourse.


“We are committed to ensuring that our laws reflect our Canadian values. We believe strongly in equal rights for all individuals, no matter what their sexual orientation. The LGBTQ2 community has been right to call attention to the discriminatory character of section 159 of the Criminal Code. Repealing this provision would help to ensure that individuals in Canada are not unfairly criminalized simply because they engaged in consensual sexual activity.”

The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

“I am proud to say that in moving to repeal Section 159 of the Criminal Code today, the Government is addressing an issue that has been of concern to the LGBTQ2 community for many years. In my role as Special Advisor to the Prime Minister, I look forward to working together with the Minister of Justice, my caucus colleagues and LGBTQ2 organizations from across Canada to ensure full equality for LGBTQ2 community members.”

Randy Boissonnault, MP
Special Advisor to the Prime Minister on LGBTQ2 issues

Quick Facts

  • Since section 159 remains in the Criminal Code, a person could still be charged for engaging in consensual anal intercourse, particularly in provinces whose courts have not yet struck down the offence.
  • The offence disproportionately impacts on gay males, particularly 16- and 17-year-olds, who can lawfully consent to all other forms of non-exploitive sexual activity.
  • All non-consensual sexual activity is prohibited by other Criminal Code sexual offences.

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Valérie Gervais
Office of the Minister of Justice

Media Relations
Department of Justice

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