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Understanding Consent

Illustration of two women embracing with the text "consent comes first" behind them with light green leaves around.

What is consent?

In Canada, the law very clearly states that there has to be an affirmative “yes” - or voluntary agreement - to engage in sexual activity. Sexual assault occurs when consent is absent and it is a criminal offence. This means that consent must be an active process, without the influence of coercion. One should never assume consent.

  • Consent is active and continuous, not passive or silent.
  • It is the responsibility of the person who wants to engage in physical contact or sexual activity to make sure that they have consent from the other person(s) involved.
  • Consent is not the absence of “no” or silence.
  • Consent to one sexual act does not constitute or imply consent to a different sexual act.
  • Consent is required regardless of the parties’ relationship status or sexual history together.
  • Consent cannot be given by a person who is incapacitated by alcohol or drugs or who is unconscious (including being asleep) or otherwise lacks the capacity to give consent.
  • Consent is not possible if an individual uses their position of power or authority to manipulate someone into saying  “yes.”
  • If a survivor’s judgement is impaired, consent is not valid.


Illustration of bedsheets with text that reads, "Dissent in the streets, consent in the sheets".