The Campaign Background
In the fall of 2010 the Ontario Working Group on Criminal Law & HIV Exposure (the Working Group) publicly launched the Campaign for Ontario Guidelines for Criminal Prosecutions of HIV Non-disclosure. We called on Ontario’s Attorney General to immediately undertake a process to develop guidelines for Crown counsel in cases involving allegations of non-disclosure of HIV status. Guidelines are needed to ensure that:
- HIV-related criminal complaints are handled in a fair and non-discriminatory manner;
- decisions to investigate and prosecute such cases are informed by a complete and accurate understanding of current scientific and medical research about HIV, and take into account the social contexts of living with HIV
In December 2010, Ontario’s Attorney General committed to developing prosecutorial guidelines.
In Spring 2011, we consulted with people living with HIV, service providers, academics, scientists, lawyers and activists across Ontario. The consultation was a partnership between the Working Group, the HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario and the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network. We wanted community input into the recommendations we would be making to the Attorney General. We consulted with over 200 people across Ontario, in face-to-face meetings and through an on-line survey. Thanks to all of you who took the time to participate—we appreciate that this is an exceptionally complex, difficult and emotionally charged issue.
Highlights of the Report & Recommendations
The Report & Recommendations is based on discussions, feedback and suggestions from the consultations, as well as discussion and analysis from among Working Group members. Overall, we recommended that the Attorney General keep in mind four key directions when writing prosecutorial guidelines:
- HIV non-disclosure cases are complex
- HIV is a chronic manageable infection, not a death sentence, and HIV is not easy to transmit
- People living with HIV/AIDS face significant challenges, including social marginalization, stigma and discrimination
- Crown prosecutors should act with caution and restraint in HIV non-disclosure cases
Engaging with the Ministry of the Attorney General
In June we submitted our Report & Recommendations to Ontario’s Attorney General.
In early July we met with a representative from the Ministry of the Attorney General to discuss the Report & Recommendations. At that meeting we asked the Attorney General to provide a timeline for completing their draft prosecutorial guidelines. We are awaiting a response and will let you know as soon as we get one.
What You Can Do Now
We need to continue to press to the Attorney General to draft prosecutorial guidelines as quickly as possible. We are asking community members to contact the Attorney General, the Honourable Chris Bentley, and urge him to draft prosecutorial guidelines by the end of August. We have written and posted on the Working Group website an electronic letter that you can sign and automatically send to the Attorney General: www.ontarioaidsnetwork.on.ca/clhe/letter.html
For More Information
Or contact Ryan Peck, Co-chair of the Working Group at firstname.lastname@example.org.