Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference from his residence in Ottawa, Canada in March 2020 (AFP / Dave Chan)

Disinformation campaign falsely links Justin Trudeau with pedophilia

Copyright AFP 2017-2022. All rights reserved.

A disinformation campaign in Canada continues to link the repeal to a law making anal sex illegal for under 18s with support for pedophilia. The law was found unconstitutional in 1995 and struck off by Canada’s parliament in 2019, as it was deemed discriminatory against the LGBTQ community.

“Why would an adult want to reduce the age children can have anal sex?” asks one Facebook post, featuring a photo of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, which has been shared more than 7,200 times since September 27, 2020.

Screenshot of the post taken on October 9, 2020

A second post from September 2020 reshared a video from March 2018, again linking Trudeau’s support of changing the law -- which was done on the grounds that it was discriminatory against the LGBTQ community -- to promoting pedophilia. The video also claims that a logo used on the third page of one Pierre Trudeau Foundation Report was similar to another logo reportedly used by pedophiles online.

According to a search using social media monitoring tool CrowdTangle, the disinformation about the effort to change the law can be found as far back as July 2016 after Trudeau spoke about it ahead of becoming the first sitting Canadian prime minister to join a Pride march.

Contacted by AFP, Canadian legal experts said accusations that Trudeau repealed the law in order to support pedophiles were false.

“The age of consent for any kind of sex is set by the Parliament of Canada, not by the Prime Minister. That is the first factual inaccuracy,” Douglas Elliott, a lawyer specialising in constitutional cases on LGBTQ issues said by email.

The age to consent in Canada is 16 years.

“The current prime minister has never proposed to change the age of consent for any sexual activity. The last prime minister to do so was Prime Minister Harper,” he added.

Until June 2019, anal intercourse was governed by Section 159 of the Criminal Code which prohibited the act “except by a husband and a wife or two persons who are both 18 years or older, provided that the act is consensual and takes place in private.”

“Queer and trans people argued for repeal of Section 159 and its predecessors for more than 40 years. It was an affront to the dignity of queer people. The clear inference was that sex between men was somehow more dangerous or corrupting to young people than heterosexual sex,” Marcus McCann, a human rights lawyer, told AFP by email.

As early as 1995, both a federal court and the Ontario Court of Appeals found Section 159 to be discriminatory and contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Courts in Québec followed in 1998 as did courts in Alberta (2002), British Columbia (2003), and Nova Scotia (2006).

Karen Busby, Law Professor at the University of Manitoba’s Centre for Human Rights Research explained in an email, “The effect of these court rulings was to create what some call a zombie law: a law that had never been taken off the books even though it could not be enforced. Anal penetration prosecutions stopped in all provinces and territories because police and prosecutors realized that there was no chance of conviction.” 

Canada’s then-justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould attempted and failed to repeal Section 159 in 2016 and 2017 before successfully passing Bill C-75 which repealed the discriminatory law in June 2019.

“The offence of engaging in anal intercourse had been previously struck down by 5 separate provincial Courts of Appeal for violating the Charter of Rights. Parliament was simply removing a constitutionally defective law from the Criminal Code that targeted gay men” Elliott said.

“The legislation essentially set up identical ages of consent for different-sex and same-sex conduct. If we wouldn't speak of sixteen-year-olds having vaginal sex as children, we shouldn't speak of sixteen-year-olds having anal sex as children,” Robert Leckey, Dean of McGill’s Faculty of Law confirmed to AFP via Twitter.

Leckey said similar disinformation targeted Trudeau’s father, Pierre, when he was prime minister in 1969.

“There were suggestions his father was a pedophile when he wanted to (and did) partly decriminalize sodomy in the late 1960s”, Leckey said. 

Elliott said, “There is no evidence that the Prime Minister is a pedophile, so that is libellous and exceeds any normal boundaries of political opinion.” 

“The meme links anal intercourse with pedophilia, perpetuating a noxious and homophobic stereotype that all gay men are pedophiles and all pedophiles are gay men. That is false,” he concluded.

AFP has previously fact-checked false claims about pedophilia, including posts targeting actor Mel Gibson and former US president Barack Obama