News / Calgary

Calgary university students teach consent law to high school students

Grades 9 through 12 learn legalities of sexting

Is it okay for your teen to sext?

A group of students at the University of Calgary have been teaching consent to school-aged teens with a twist – they are showing consent through a legal lens using a program dubbed the "Yes Means Yes project."

The students belong to the Faculty of Law chapter of Pro Bono Students Canada (PBSC) and have partnered up with the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) to offer a program about consent to Calgary students.

The program launched in September 2015 and so far the law students have gone into five Calgary Board of Education schools to teach students in grades 9 through 12 the ins and outs of consent. Topics breeze through sexting, consent and even child pornography in a two hour session.

"Through classes like COMM and health classes, they learn more of the social side, but they're not often exposed to the legal side of things," said Staci Smith. "Not to go in and scare them, but we wanted to make sure that they understood the legal ramifications of actions they engage in."

Dave Rennie said students are curious about the subject matter because some of the classes they've presented to are legal classes.

"A lot of them are interested in seeing what is legal and what's not legal," said Danielle Douglas. "I think it's great, It's not a clear area of the law, even first year law students have trouble with it, and I think we've been able to communicate in a way that high school students are walking away understanding the law surrounding consent."

One of the things these students are excited about is that these workshops are getting kids talking and discussing consent.

"It's important because this is a critical issue in society, especially with youth," Rennie said. "The way we've designed it it's not a lecture - it's interactive. We have scenarios that play out where they have to give us answers for what they think is fine, where they have to draw the line."
The program has been so successful Douglas said they are planning on making it bigger and better next year.

Tips for parents who want to teach kids consent:

Danielle Douglas said they've done workshops for parents who often have a lot of questions around consent and the law.

Here are sample of quick facts:

Consent is required to avoid assault or sexual assault charges as both are based on intentional acts in the absence of consent. Here are some tips to remember:
1.       There is no such thing as ongoing consent. Just because you said yes to holding hands, doesn’t mean you’re okay with kissing. Just because you are in a relationship, doesn’t mean you automatically consent to all sexual activity with your partner (R v. J(A), 2011)
2.       There is no such thing as implied consent. If you don’t know, ask (R v. Ewanchuk, 1998)
3.       There is no such thing as advanced consent. You cannot consent to activities that haven’t happened yet (R v. J(A), 2011)
4.       You cannot legally consent when you are intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, (or asleep!) (Criminal Code s. 273(2)(b))

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