The Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has introduced legislation to repeal a law that courts and critics have long said unfairly criminalizes the sexual activity of gay and bisexual men.
Canada’s Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould introduced today the proposed legislation, known as Bill C-32, to change a provision of the Criminal Code that makes it illegal to have anal sex under the age of 18, unless it is between a husband and wife.
“Canadians expect their government and their laws to reflect their values,” Wilson-Raybould said.
“Our society has evolved over the past few decades and our criminal justice system needs to evolve as well.”
Courts have found the current law to infringe on equality guarantees under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, since teenagers as young as 16 years old can consent to all other forms of sexual activity.
“The proposed amendment would ensure, in law, that all forms of consensual sexual activity are treated the same,” Wilson-Raybould said. “Diversity and inclusion have long been among the values Canadians embrace. Canadians expect their laws and their government to reflect these values.”
Interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose supports the change, her press secretary Jake Wright told CBC News.
“Ms. Ambrose personally supports Bill C-32, which will codify well established jurisprudence from jurisdictions across Canada and all levels of the judiciary,” he said in an emailed statement to CBC News.
The legislation came as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau named Alberta Liberal MP Randy Boissonnault his special adviser on LGBTQ2 issues.
Boissonnault, who is openly gay, will work with advocacy groups to promote equality for lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning and two-spirited people — a term used broadly to describe Indigenous people who identify as part of the community.
LGBTQ2 rights in Canada have come a long way since sodomy was considered a capital crime punishable by death in British North America.
From the time of Confederation in 1867, homosexuality was punishable under Canada’s criminal law by up to 14 years in prison.
In 1969, the government of Pierre Elliot Trudeau, who famously declared “There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation,” decriminalized acts of sodomy between consenting adults of at least 21 years of age.
Gay people were allowed to serve openly in the Canadian military in 1992.
In 2005, Canada became the first country outside Europe and the fourth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage.
With files from CBC News and The Canadian Press
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