HIV and Criminal Law

This section contains information about criminal law, including:

  • HIV and Criminal Law
  • Current Criminalization of HIV Issues
  • General Criminal Law Information
  • Record Suspensions (formerly called Pardons)
  • Victims of Crime
  • Criminal Injuries Compensation Board

Please scroll down for information about Getting Legal Help.

HIV and Criminal Law

The criminal law in relation to HIV non-disclosure is extremely complex and rapidly evolving.

If you are living with HIV and have questions about criminal law and HIV, or if you have been charged with an HIV-related crime, please contact us. While we do not practice criminal law, we can provide information and referrals to defence counsel who have expertise in this area. We work with criminal lawyers who handle HIV-related matters.

Our May 2013 HIV disclosure: A legal guide for gay men in Canada / Dévoilement du VIH: guide d’information sur le droit pour les hommes gais en Canada includes important legal information about the criminal law and HIV non-disclosure that resulted from the Supreme Court of Canada decisions in 2012.

The guide, written for gay men living with HIV, offers information about HIV disclosure and Canadian criminal law. It also has information about disclosure and other areas of the law, such as public health, privacy, employment, travel and immigration. The guide provides resources and contacts for more information.

The guide is available in print (see below to order in print). You can also download the guide as a pdf on our website:

You can order print copies of the guide from CATIE:

Criminalization of HIV Issues

The Supreme Court of Canada released its new approach to the criminalization of HIV non-disclosure on October 5, 2012.  The R. v. M. decision is on the Court’s website:  https://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/10008/index.do.

The decision is extremely disappointing and has serious implications not only for people living with HIV in Canada, but also for public health, police practices and the Canadian criminal justice system.

HALCO was part of the coalition that intervened at the Supreme Court.  The coalition released this statement regarding the Supreme Court’s approach to HIV non-disclosure:

We are committed to working with our coalition partners to help people living with HIV understand the law. We are also committed to continuing our law reform initiatives to improve the legal landscape for people living with HIV.

For more information about the Supreme Court decision and the criminalization of HIV non-disclosure, please visit the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network’s website:  www.aidslaw.ca/site/publicationtopics/criminal-law/.

Please see our HALCO news Winter 2012 edition, page 5, for an article about the Supreme Court cases. The Intervener Factum (written argument) is on our website:  www.halco.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Supreme_Court_Intervener_Factum-MabiorD.C.-2012-Feb.pdf.

Ontario Campaign for Prosecutorial Guidelines

HALCO’s Executive Director is the co-chair of the Ontario Working Group on Criminal Law and HIV Exposure (CLHE).  CLHE came together in 2007 to oppose the current use of the criminal in relation to HIV non-disclosure, and, to attempt to bring fairness and consistency to the law.  People living with HIV, lawyers, activists, academics, and AIDS service organization staff are involved with CLHE.  For information about Ontario Working Group on Criminal Law and HIV Exposure (CLHE), please visit: http://clhe.ca.

For recent criminalization news, please see our What’s New posts:

This information is about the criminal law, sex and HIV disclosure in Canada.  Public health law also deals with HIV disclosure.  Public Health laws are set by the provinces and territories, so you may also want to find out about public health law and HIV where you live. Our Public Health Law page has information about public health law in Ontario.  If you are living with HIV in Ontario, you can contact us for free legal advice about this or other legal issues.

The CLHE Consultation on Prosecutorial Guidelines for Ontario Cases Involving Non-disclosure of Sexually Transmitted Infections: Community Report and Recommendations to the Attorney General of Ontario (June 2011) is available on our website:  www.halco.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/CHLE_guidelines_report_2011.pdf.

HIV Non-Disclosure and the Criminal Law: Establishing Policy Options for Ontario (August 2011) provides a comprehensive discussion of the criminalization of HIV non-disclosure in Canada and is available on the Ontario HIV Treatment Network (OHTN) website:  www.ohtn.on.ca/Documents/Publications/HIV%20non-disclosure%20and%20the%20criminal%20law.pdf.

The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network website includes many resources related to HIV, disclosure and criminalization, including:

HIV Criminalization in Canada: Key Trends and Patterns report (2017March):

HIV and the criminal law in Canada – three info sheets (2014August):

Women and the Criminalization of HIV Non-Disclosure (2017February):

Privacy and Disclosure for Youth Living with HIV or Hep C (2017March):

Women living with HIV and intimate partner violence: Questions & Answers (2016May):

Indigenous Communities and HIV Disclosure to Sexual Partners: Questions and Answers (2016August):

HIV Disclosure to Sexual Partners: Questions and Answers for Newcomers info sheets (2015):

Sex, criminal law and HIV non-disclosure – videos that explain the current state of the criminal law in Canada (2014August):

Criminalization of HIV Non-Disclosure in Canadawebinars about rights and responsibilities under the criminal law in Canada (2014July):

HIV Disclosure and the Law – A Resource Kit for Service Providers:

Criminal Law & HIV Non-Disclosure in Canada: Implications of recent Supreme Court of Canada decisions for people living with HIV (2012October):

HIV non-disclosure and the criminal law: An analysis of two recent decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada (2012):

HIV and criminal law information and publications:

General Criminal Law Information

Government of Canada

The Government of Canada website has information about Canada’s system of justice: www.justice.gc.ca/eng/csj-sjc/.

Government of Ontario

The Government of Ontario website has general information about criminal law in Ontario: www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/justice-ont/criminal_law.asp.

Legal Aid Ontario

The Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) website has information about criminal law and legal aid in Ontario:  www.legalaid.on.ca/en/getting/type_criminal.asp.

Record Suspensions (formerly called Pardons)

To be eligible to apply for a Record Suspension (formerly called a pardon), a person who was convicted of a criminal offence has to have completed their sentence and demonstrated ‘law-abiding behaviour’ over a specific period of time. A Record Suspension does not erase the criminal record, but information about the criminal conviction is taken out of the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) and may not be disclosed without permission from the Minister of Public Safety Canada.

The CPIC is a federal record system.  Provinces and municipalities may also have their own records, but most will also restrict access to local records when they are informed about a record suspension.

You can find more information about Record Suspensions, including the application, on the Parole Board of Canada website:  pbc-clcc.gc.ca/infocntr/factsh/pardon-eng.shtml.

The Parole Board of Canada website states that:

“You do not need a lawyer or a representative to apply for a record suspension. The Record Suspension Guide includes step-by-step instructions on how to apply for a record suspension, as well as the record suspension forms. The PBC gives equal consideration to all record suspension applications received – whether they are submitted by an individual or by a representative from a private agency. Submitting your record suspension application through an agency or lawyer will not improve your chances of receiving a record suspension. The PBC is not affiliated with any record suspension agencies.”

Victims of Crime

Please see Family/Domestic Violence in our Family Law section and  Victims of Crime in our Others Areas of Law section for information for victims of crime.

Criminal Injuries Compensation Board (CICB)

Please see the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board (CICB) in our Other Areas of Law section for information.

Getting legal help

If you are living with HIV and have questions about criminal law or other legal issues, or if you have been charged with an HIV-related crime, please contact usWhile we do not practice criminal law, we can provide information and referrals to defence counsel who have expertise in this area. We also work with criminal lawyers who handle HIV-related matters.

You can also contact Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) for criminal law information and assistance. LAO provides many programs and services to help low-income people with legal issues. You must be financially eligible to qualify for most legal aid services.  You can find information about criminal law and legal aid in Ontario on the Legal Aid Ontario website: www.legalaid.on.ca/en/getting/type_criminal.asp.

The Law Society Referral Service (LSRS) of the Law Society of Upper Canada is an on-line service that provides a referral to a lawyer or paralegal for an in-person or phone consultation of up to 30 minutes at no charge: www.lsuc.on.ca/lsrs. The LSRS crisis telephone for people in custody, in crisis, in a shelter or in a remote community without internet access is 416-947-5255 or toll-free 1-855-947-5255, Monday to Friday 9 am to 5 pm. For more information please see the Law Society Referral Service information on the Law Society of Upper Canada website: www.lsuc.on.ca/lsrs/.