As we look to honor World AIDS Day on December 1st and the start of Canada’s Indigenous AIDS Awareness Week, one way we can all take action is by renewing our calls for an end to the ongoing criminalization of people living with HIV (PLHIV). The Government of Canada is now in the process of reviewing the criminal law regarding HIV non-disclosure and is seeking feedback from people living in Canada. The stated intention is to create “a path forward that follows science, protects victims, and reduces the stigma of those living with HIV”. The online public consultation is open now until January 13, 2023.
You can check out the Government’s consultation paper and complete the online survey here. In addition to completing the survey, you can provide written comments at the end of the survey or by email. PAN encourages all members, allies and PLHIV to take this opportunity to be heard.
Concerned about your time, capacity or expertise on this subject? No problem! In order to make participating in the consultation as easy as possible, the Canadian Coalition to Reform HIV Criminalization (CCRHC) has done a lot of great work. They have developed an accessible Backgrounder and Key Messages. It even provides well-researched copy and paste answers, allowing the survey to be completed in minutes!
In early November, we heard at a session hosted by the HIV Legal Network and the CCRHC about how important it is for all to get involved! As things currently stand, Canada’s approach to criminalizing HIV non disclosure is unscientific, contributes to HIV stigma, undermines public health efforts to stop the spread of HIV and disproportionately affects Black, Indigenous and Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) communities. It results int significant harms to people living with HIV. There are also big inconsistencies with how PLHIV are impacted in different provinces and territories. The presentation was followed by community discussion on how to support and amplify community voices, especially those of people living with HIV.
The CCRHC Backgrounder provides more details, including the history of HIV criminalization in Canada. Here are some key highlights:
Excerpt from CCHRC Backgrounder and Key Messages:
Canada has been a global hotspot for HIV criminalization, which causes multiple harms to people living with HIV and undermines an effective public health response. Advocates have long called for legal changes. On October 20, 2022, the federal government launched a national public consultation on reforming Canada’s criminal laws on HIV non-disclosure. The Canadian Coalition to Reform HIV Criminalization (CCRHC) has prepared this document to support individuals and organizations participating in the consultation.
What is the Coalition/CCRHC?
The CCRHC is a national coalition of people living with HIV, community organizations, lawyers, researchers, and others formed in October 2016 to progressively reform, repeal, limit the scope and harms of, and/or abolish discriminatory criminal and public health laws and practices that punitively regulate HIV-related exposure, transmission, and non-disclosure in Canada. It is directed by a steering committee, a majority of whom are people living with HIV.
About the Government of Canada consultation
Why should I participate in the consultation? The CCRHC has been advocating for law reform and has previously undertaken its own community consultations in coming up with its recommended changes to the law, which enjoy wide support from organizations across the country. The federal government has now launched its consultation to inform legislation that it may introduce in Parliament. It is important that the voices of people living with HIV and organizations working in the HIV response be heard by the government in this process.
How do I participate in the consultation? The consultation will take place as an online survey, based on a government background paper. You can access the background paper and answer the questions online. The survey consists of 13 questions and is available in both English and French. The backgrounder provides some key messages and suggested answers to the consultation questions, prepared by the CCRHC for those who might find them helpful.
How long will the consultation run? The online consultation will run to January 13, 2023.
Anyone can participate. According to the federal government’s website, they are seeking input from “stakeholders and the public.” You can choose to respond to the survey as an individual or as an organization.
Can I participate anonymously? Yes. Respondents are not required to indicate their name to participate in the survey. However, the government’s website indicates that the responses themselves are not confidential, so if you would like to remain anonymous, please ensure that you do not include any identifying information in your response (e.g., you may choose not to answer the optional question about your profession). Note that organizations that voluntarily provide their organization’s name could be identified, according to the government’s website
Consult the complete Backgrounder and Key Messages here. If you are comfortable, please email your completed submission to the Canadian Coalition to Reform HIV Criminalization at [email protected] for internal tracking purposes; these will not be widely shared.
PAN will be taking part in the consultation, and we encourage our members to do so as well.
Jennifer (Evin) Jones, Executive Director [email protected]