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Justice minister raises issue of criminalization of HIV non-disclosure

Last Updated Sep 14, 2017 at 10:50 am PDT

Minister of Justice and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on May 1, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

OTTAWA – Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould is raising the issue of whether criminal charges are the right way to deal with HIV non-disclosure as she sits down with her provincial and territorial colleagues in Vancouver.

On World AIDS Day last year, Wilson-Raybould said she would examine how the criminal justice system deals with people who do not disclose their HIV status to sexual partners, which could include developing prosecutorial guidelines.

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that consent to sexual activity can be discounted if the accused person did not disclose, or lied about, his or her HIV status.

That can lead to a charge of aggravated sexual assault, but advocates say the justice system is far behind the science on the level of risk.

Wilson-Raybould is expected to give her fellow justice ministers an update on the review and encourage them to consider what they could do to address what she calls the “over-criminalization of HIV non-disclosure.”

Richard Elliott of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network says he is encouraged the issue has been put on the agenda as a problem that needs to be solved.