Age of consent plan pleases advocate
By Kate Trotter The Tri-City News
Feb 10 2006
Diane Sowden hasnít put the Champagne on ice yet, but her 13-year campaign to have the age of consent raised has never been closer to success.
Municipalities across B.C. and the B.C. Federation of Police Officers have called for the change, seen as one way to keep children from being lured into prostitution and street life.
On Wednesday federal Justice Minister Vic Toews said one of the first actions of justice reform will be to raise the age at which a person can consent to sex from 14 to 16.
It has been a priority of MP James Moore since he was elected, but his Private Memberís Bill last year was defeated.
Moore dismisses allegations that making the issue a priority is a sop to the Conservative Partyís right-wing supporters. "This would be sound public policy and will protect children. This is something I have long supported, as have most advocates for tougher, better laws to fight the sexual exploitation of kids."
Liberal governments have resisted changing the law because, as former justice minister Irwin Cotler said as recently as the federal election campaign in Port Moody, that exploitation laws were adequate to protect children.
Sowden founded Children of the Street Society when the age of consent law hampered her efforts to retrieve her child from life on the street.
In 1993 she started her campaign to get the law changed. "I even went to Ottawa before the justice standing committee," she said. But, there was no interest in changing a 114-year-old law, despite the changes in technology ó such as the internet ó that exposes children to adults who would do them harm.
A 14-year-old can move in with an adult, and her parents have no recourse, as long as the child claims that the relationship is consensual, she said. "How can it be consensual, when there is such a difference in life skills?"
Sowden gave the example of a 50-year-old man having sex with a 14-year-old. "If he gives her money, or drugs, itís illegal. If heís in a position of authority or trust, itís illegal. If he takes a picture of her naked and shows it to another person, thatís child pornography and itís illegal. But to have sexual intercourse with her is legal, if sheís consenting.
"Weíre not talking about setting moral standards and saying teens should not have sex. That is a family decision, based on family standards and values. Weíre talking about predators."
Sowden said raising the age of consent could still be defeated and urged people to express their views to their Member of Parliament.
© The Tri-City News 2006
The Tri-City News