October 2022 will see Government consultations on modernizing the criminal justice system’s response to HIV non-disclosure
July 27, 2022 – Ottawa, Ontario – Department of Justice Canada
The Government of Canada is unwavering in its commitment to ensuring that our criminal justice system keeps communities safe, supports victims, and holds offenders to account, while respecting Charter rights.
As part of the pre-conference activities of the International AIDS Conference 2022, the Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, met with stakeholders and today announced upcoming consultations on the criminal justice response to HIV non-disclosure.
The consultations will launch in October 2022 and will seek input from stakeholders and the public on how to best modernize the criminal justice system’s response to non-disclosure of HIV status in light of scientific evidence related to the risk of sexual transmission of HIV.
Stakeholders, persons with lived experience and members of the public will be invited to share their thoughts on best approaches to reduce the stigma of people living with HIV and AIDS, ensure they are treated fairly and respectfully, and that everyone can rely on the criminal justice system to protect them.
HIV is a public health matter and non-disclosure of HIV status is a complex issue. Currently, persons living with HIV who do not disclose their status can be charged with different offences, including aggravated sexual assault which is the most serious sexual assault offence in the Criminal Code. This is because in certain circumstances, the non-disclosure of one’s HIV status can invalidate another person’s consent to engage in sexual activity. However, criminalization can lead to the stigmatization of people living with HIV and AIDS, which can often discourage individuals from being tested or seeking treatment. Furthermore, there has been considerable progress in terms of HIV treatment and scientific evidence on rates of transmissibility. For these reasons, holding consultations is key to creating a path forward that protects victims while reducing the stigma of those living with HIV and AIDS.
More information about the consultations will be made available in the coming weeks.
“Our Government is committed to challenging and reducing the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV and AIDS by working with provinces, territories, and stakeholders to consider evidence-based changes to the justice system. Progress on this important issue is possible because of the hard work of advocates who have pushed for change. Consultations with key stakeholders and Canadians on how to modernize the criminal law’s treatment of HIV non-disclosure is an important step towards a fairer, more just system that keeps people safe and healthy and addresses the needs of victims.”
The Honourable David Lametti, P.C., Q.C., M.P.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
An estimated 63,000 people are living with HIV in Canada. Of these people, an estimated 1 in 10 are unaware of their status. In 2020, 1,639 newly diagnosed cases of HIV were reported in Canada. The majority of people diagnosed with AIDS are receiving appropriate treatment.
“HIV non-disclosure” refers to cases where a person living with HIV does not disclose their HIV status before sexual activity that is otherwise consensual and that poses a realistic possibility of HIV transmission.
Current criminal law applies to persons living with HIV if they fail to disclose, or misrepresent, their HIV status prior to sexual activity that poses a realistic possibility of HIV transmission.
On December 1, 2017, the Department of Justice Canada released the Criminal Justice System’s Response to Non-Disclosure of HIV, a report that included a summary of the scientific evidence on sexual transmission of HIV produced by the Public Health Agency of Canada.
On December 8, 2018, the Attorney General of Canada issued a Directive related to the prosecution of HIV non-disclosure cases under federal jurisdiction. The Directive specifies, among other things, that prosecutions should not occur when an individual takes appropriate measures to prevent transmission of HIV (such as taking appropriate treatment to maintain a supressed viral load), and that prosecutors must consider whether criminal charges are in the public interest.
The Government of Canada supports a comprehensive approach to addressing HIV and other Sexually Transmitted and Blood-Borne Infections (STBBI) in Canada. Through its Five-year Action Plan on STBBI, the Government of Canada has made progress on its commitments to reduce the impact of STBBI in Canada by 2030.
- Directive of the Attorney General Regarding Prosecutions of HIV Non-Disclosure Cases
- Reducing the health impact of sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections in Canada by 2030: A pan-Canadian STBBI framework for action
- Accelerating our response: Government of Canada five-year action plan on sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections
- Canada Pavilion at AIDS 2022
- AIDS 2022, the 24th International AIDS Conference
For more information, media may contact:
Office of the Minister of Justice
Department of Justice Canada
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