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In Canada, sexual activity with children as young as 14 (until May 2008) was legal as long as it was consensual and the adult is not in a position of authority or dependency.
The boy, who reportedly suffered from social anxiety disorder and had shown signs of being suicidal, insisted during interviews with the police that the sex with Beckham was consensual.
The first of these was the imprisonment of George Everett Klippert, a mechanic from the Northwest Territories arrested in 1965 on charges of “gross indecency.” After being deemed a “dangerous sexual offender” by prison psychiatrists, his prison term was extended indefinitely — a ruling that was scrutinized and criticized in the mainstream press.
The second was the British parliament’s decision to decriminalize certain homosexual offenses.
Britain held immense sway over Canadian policy throughout the many years in which homosexuality was criminalized.
Dating from the early colonial era, homosexuality was officially illegal and the penalty for “the abominable act of buggery” (also known as sodomy) was punishable by death.
In 1861, that law was moderated slightly, when the sentence became imprisonment for a period of 10 years to life.
For the next century, however, the laws governing “homosexual acts” in became more and more stringent.
Police also discovered hundreds of pornographic images of children on a laptop computer that Beckham had brought with him from Texas. In Beckham's home state of Texas, the age of consent is 17 and violators can face prison terms of up to 10–20 years.
In June 2006, the Canadian government proposed a bill to raise the age of consent from 14 to 16, while creating a close-in-age exemption for sex between 14-15 year olds and partners less than 5 years older, and keeping an existing close-in-age clause for sex between 12-13 year olds and partners less than 2 years older.
The intention of the bill is to target "sexual predators" and pimps.
Debate on the issue had been escalating in both British and Canadian media through the previous decade, following the release in 1957 of a public inquiry known as the Wolfenden Report, which recommended decriminalization.
In the summer of 1967, those recommendations were finally adopted, and with the embarrassing Klippert controversy still ongoing, several members of Canada’s parliament, including Justice Minister Pierre Trudeau, began calling for reform.