The Push to End Unjust HIV Prosecutions in BC

This past December 1, the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day, federal Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould and the Department of Justice announced  a new directive regarding prosecution of HIV non-disclosure cases– one that “… will reflect the most recent scientific evidence related to the risks of sexual transmission of HIV, as reviewed by the Public Health Agency of Canada….”  The new directives state that there should not be prosecution where the person living with HIV has maintained a suppressed viral load (i.e. under 200 copies of the virus per millilitre of blood) because there is no realistic possibility of transmission.

Unfortunately, this directive will only apply to cases being prosecuted under federal jurisdiction of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada (in the three territories)- it will not apply to cases under provincial jurisdiction.

PAN welcomes this move from Canada’s Attorney General and hopes that it will put pressure on provincial prosecution services that have not adopted this evidence-based approach, including our own.  As I wrote last week, PAN and PAN member organizations continue to call for necessary changes here in BC: “We are united in our sense of urgency about putting an end to the fear of prosecution, among people living with HIV in BC.  This environment of fear and stigma also complicates the work of service providers and those on the front lines of prevention and support.”

The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network released a statement supporting the federal government’s World AIDS Day announcement, while emphasizing the need for provinces to follow suit- the statement in its entirety appears below.

PAN is pleased to note that we do have a meeting scheduled with BC Attorney General David Eby regarding prosecutorial guidelines later this month.  We hope that this meeting is action-oriented in bringing about the change that people living with HIV in BC deserve.

The following statement was issued by the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network (“Legal Network”). Comments can be attributed to Richard Elliott, Executive Director, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network.

December 1, 2018 — Today, on World AIDS Day, federal Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould announced a new directive to help limit unjust prosecutions against people living with HIV in Canada. This new directive, which comes after years of advocacy by the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and many partner organizations, is consistent with Justice Canada’s own recommendations and a welcome step in the ongoing effort to the end the criminalization of HIV. It is also better aligned with the latest scientific evidence regarding HIV and its transmission.

Last year, the Canadian Coalition to Reform HIV Criminalization (CCRHC), of which we are a founding member, released its Community Consensus Statement, signed by more than 160 organizations Canada-wide. In this statement, we detailed key steps that the federal, provincial and territorial governments must take in order to curb the overly broad use of criminal law against people living with HIV. Yesterday, the CCRHC issued a follow-up statement in which more than 100 organizations called on the federal government to act on its stated concerns about “overcriminalization of HIV” and the conclusions of a Justice Canada report released a year ago. Scientists have also repeatedly called on federal and provincial governments to heed the science and limit prosecutions accordingly.
We are pleased that the government has listened to our collective voice and taken much-needed action today. We congratulate the Attorney General for this welcome and important step.

We note that this directive only governs federal prosecutors, who handle such criminal prosecutions only in Canada’s three territories. We therefore continue to call on provincial Attorneys General to follow the federal government lead and issue similar directives limiting prosecutions against people living with HIV in their jurisdictions. At this time, no province has yet issued clear directives reflecting these limits on the misuse of the criminal law. Unjust prosecutions – and the fear of such prosecution – continue. We also continue to call on the Government of Canada to enact Criminal Code reforms that remove HIV non-disclosure prosecutions entirely from the reach of sexual assault laws.


Questions? Feedback? Get in touch!
Jennifer (Evin) Jones, Executive Director,
[email protected]


Learn More

Attorney General of Canada to issue Directive Regarding Prosecutions of HIV Non-Disclosure Cases (Federal Government release)

Justice Department issues new guidelines on prosecution for non-disclosure of HIV status (CBC)

Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network statement

World AIDS Day 2018 blog on HIV Criminalization from J. Evin Jones