The Federal Government has taken action to reform Canada’s Criminal Code by removing ‘zombie laws’ – laws that have been struck down in court and cannot be enforced. These laws are no longer reflective of Canadian societal attitudes, but remain in the Code because Parliament must observe formal process to strike them from the books.
Bill C-39 is an Act to amend the Criminal Code (unconstitutional provisions) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. The Act includes the repeal of section 159 of the Criminal Code, the prohibition of anal intercourse. This legislation was initially introduced as Bill C-32, but has since been absorbed into C-39.
The repeal of section 159 of the Criminal Code would promote the equality rights protected by subsection 15(1) of the Charter, which provides that everyone is equal before and under the law. Section 159 prohibits anal intercourse, except by a husband and wife or two persons who are both 18 years or older, and where the act is consensual and takes place in private. The offence has had a disparate impact on gay and bisexual men, whose consensual sexual activities have been uniquely targeted for prohibition under the Criminal Code.
In addition, courts in five provinces as well as the Federal Court of Canada (Trial Division) have found section 159 to unjustifiably discriminate on the prohibited grounds of sexual orientation, age and marital status.
The repeal will equalize the range of sexual conduct before the law, and lower the applicable age of consent from 18 to 16, making it equal to the required age of consent for all other consensual sexual activity.
In November 2016, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould proposed Bill C-32 to repeal Section 159, which was then incorporated into Bill C-39. C-39 was introduced and read in the House of Commons on March 8, 2017.
Minister Wilson-Raybould rightly called Section 159 ‘discriminatory’, and cited statistics of 69 Canadians charged under this section between 2014 and 2015. Many Canadians may have thought that this outdated law was abolished in the 60’s during Pierre Trudeau’s progressive administration. In fact, the law was not repealed, only amended to create exemptions for legal adults in heterosexual unions. This meant that the law still discriminated against gay and bisexual men, and that the age of consent remained unequal.
Bill C-39 is part of the Liberal government’s commitment to ensure that all Canadians are treated equally and respectfully, and that the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ individuals are brought to light. The passage of this Bill will be a triumph for our community, and hopefully indicates the enactment of further measures, protections, and resources that support true equality.
This Bill represents a significant stride in equality towards same sex relationships, and the way they are perceived not only by society as a whole, but by members of law enforcement.
The Bill also gives individuals the information, power, and autonomy to decide what they want to do with their own bodies once they reach the age of consent.
Most importantly, the legislation may also make sex education more available, particularly to youth, giving them a chance to make informed decisions about their sexual activity and health. While the age of consent for anal intercourse was 18 years of age, many authorities felt it was unnecessary or inappropriate that sex education be open and accessible about risk factors and safe practices. This resulted in increased health risks, and a continuation of the stigma around LGBTQ+ relationships.
Bill C-39 proposes to either repeal or amend various provisions under the Criminal Code that have been found to have been unenforceable because they are inconsistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. For more information on the full scope of the Act, please visit:
The CCGSD is currently working to publicize this legislation and create awareness both within, and outside of the LGBTQ+ community. We are also meeting with parliamentarians on an ongoing basis in an effort to educate them about the issues faced by LGBTQ+ Canadians. Our focus now is on Members of Parliament, and how they will vote on this Bill.
If you have any suggestions for us on our efforts towards C-39, or if you would like to collaborate on projects to advance this Bill, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
We need all Canadians to contact their Member of Parliament and urge them to pass Bill C-39 unchanged.
Taking action is easy. Simply:
Click this link to open a list of Members of Parliament http://www.lop.parl.gc.ca/ParlInfo/Compilations/HouseOfCommons/MemberByPostalCode.aspx?Menu=HOC
Find your MP.
Email (see draft email below) or call them, and tell them to pass Bill C-39 immediately.
Share this page on social media, at the office, in school and at your community organizations–and get your friends and family to take action too!
Dear Member of Parliament,
I’m writing to you in support of Bill C-39, an Act to amend the Criminal Code (unconstitutional provisions) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. Within this legislation is the repeal of Section 159, the prohibition of anal intercourse. This provision is discriminatory towards members of the LGBTQ+ community, and its repeal is a step towards equality.
LGBTQ+ Canadians struggle daily with inequity. Allowing this outdated law to remain on the books not only leaves the required age of consent unequal for different consensual sex acts, but also perpetuates the stigma around LGBTQ+ relationships. As Canadian society makes strides forward towards understanding and equality, the Criminal Code must change to reflect new attitudes.
This Bill must pass through the House of Commons with support from all parties. Please take action to understand and support Bill C-39.
(Your name, and city, province or territory)