OTTAWA - Canada's age of sexual consent will be bumped up two years to 16 beginning Thursday.
The change means adults who have sex with boys or girls aged 14 and 15 years old could face criminal charges.
Canada's age of consent has been 14 since 1892.
The legislation was brought in by the Conservative government in part to deal with older internet predators who troll the web looking for younger victims.
Canada's age of consent will now be in line with other countries, such as Britain and Australia, and most American states.
The intent of the new law is not to criminalize teenage sex, but to crackdown on adults who prey on youth, former justice minister Vic Toews said when the bill making the change was introduced.
The law includes a "close-in-age" provision of five years, which means it would be legal for a 15-year-old to have relations with a 19-year-old provided the relationship is not exploitive and the older party is not in a position of authority or trust.
But while all political parties backed the legislation and law officials welcomed it with open arms, several gay rights groups are not satisfied and have said the law ignores gay men.
It is currently illegal for Canadians under 18 to have anal sex, meaning two gay or bisexual 17-year-olds who engage in the act could end up in jail something the new law does not address.
Other groups, such as Justice for Youth and Children, said the new law, if misunderstood, could end up driving teenage sexual activity underground.
"Because its highly technical and quite complicated I think that we need an awful lot of public education to make sure young people, fearing they are doing something illegal, don't hide and fail to seek the medical help they need and fail to get appropriate treatments and appropriate counselling," said Martha Mackinnon, the group's executive director.
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