Canada

Low age of consent luring pedophiles to Canada: report

Canada is becoming a popular destination for child sex tourism because its relatively low age of sexual consent, according to an international report to be released on Tuesday.

Canada is becoming a destination for child sex tourism because ofits relatively low age of sexual consent, according to an international report released on Tuesday.

The Global Monitoring Report on the Status of Action against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, prepared by a Bangkok-based children's advocacy group, says Canada must take action to protect its children from foreign pedophiles.

It urges Canada to raise the age of sexual consent to 16 from 14 and to make the national sex offender registry retroactive, as well as more easily accessible. The Harper government has already introduced a bill that would raise the age of consent to 16.

The report, by End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes, or ECPAT International, urges Canada to adopt 17 recommendations in all.

Det.-Const. Paul Krawczyk, an undercover police officer with the Toronto Police Service's child exploitation unit, said he is well aware that the relatively low age of consent is a draw for pedophiles from other countries. He said the age of consent is a topic discussed online.

"I've been in pedophile chat rooms that discuss Canada having such a low age of consent that they tell other pedophiles to travel to Canada because of that. Sixty-year-olds engaging in sexual activities with 14- or 15-year-olds is not appropriate, and we need to change that."

Federal Justice Minister Vic Toews said the Conservative government is trying to amend the Criminal Code to raise the age of consent to 16 because it recognizes the current age is a problem.

Bill C-22, which would raise the age of consent, passed second reading on Oct. 30.

"Americans and other pedophiles are coming north to Canada because of our very lax age-of-protection laws,"Toews said.

"In fact, Americans are being prosecuted under American sex tourism laws for coming to Canada and having sexual relations with children over 14. It's ironic in Canada we can't prosecute them, and yet Americans coming here and taking advantage of our children, when they go back, can face criminal prosecutions and lengthy imprisonment."

New Democratic partyMP Judy Wasylycia-Leis said increasing the age of consent is a good move, but the government should also strengthen laws to prosecute pedophiles and develop a better system for tracking convicted sex offenders.

"If a country is measured by the extent to which it protects children, Canada should hang its head in shame," she said.

ECPAT International was set up to assess the progress made by 122 countries on implementing the measures they pledged to work toward 10 years ago in Stockholm at the First Congress against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children. A second congress was held in Japan in December 2001.

Under Canadian law, the age of consent is 18 years where the sexual activity involves exploitative activity, such as prostitution, pornography or situations where there is a relationship of trust, authority or dependency. For other sexual activity, the age of consent is 14 years.