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.
For information for people who are incarcerated, please visit our HIV and Prison Law page. We accept collect calls.
For additional information about HIV criminalization, please see below:
- HIV Legal Network – https://www.hivlegalnetwork.ca/site/our-work/criminalization/?lang=en
- Canadian Coalition to Reform HIV Criminalization: http://www.hivcriminalization.ca/
Criminalization of HIV Issues
- HALCO update on Criminal law and HIV in Ontario (September 2023): http://www.halco.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/HIV-and-the-Criminal-Law-in-Ontario_Update_September-2023.pdf
- Canadian Coalition to Reform HIV Criminalization 2022 Consensus Statement: https://www.hivcriminalization.ca/2022-consensus-statement/
- Canadian Coalition to Reform HIV Criminalization 2017 Consensus Statement: https://www.hivcriminalization.ca/community-consensus-statement/
- HALCO, HIV Legal Network, Communities, Alliances & Networks HIV criminalization guides for Indigenous people living with HIV (March 2023): https://www.halco.org/2023/news/hiv-criminalization-new-pamphlets-for-indigenous-communities
- HALCO and the HIV Legal Network submission to the federal government on reforming the criminal law regarding HIV non-disclosure (January 2023): https://www.halco.org/2023/news/submission-to-the-government-of-canada-consultation-on-reforming-the-criminal-law-regarding-hiv-non-disclosure
- Resource for lawyers assisting sexual assault complainants living with HIV (December 2022): https://www.halco.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Special-Considerations-for-Advising-Sexual-Assault-Complainants-Living-W.._.pdf
- HIV CRIMINALIZATION IN CANADA: KEY TRENDS AND PATTERNS (1989-2020) – HIV Legal Network (March 2022): https://www.hivlegalnetwork.ca/site/hiv-criminalization-in-canada-key-trends-and-patterns-1989-2020/?lang=en
- Criminalization of HIV Non-Disclosure in Canada: Current Status and the Need for Change (June 2019): https://www.hivlegalnetwork.ca/site/the-criminalization-of-hiv-non-disclosure-in-canada-report/?lang=en
- Canada’s House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights released its report “The Criminalization of HIV Non-Disclosure in Canada” (June 2019): https://www.halco.org/2019/news/crim-stand-cttee-report-2019june.
- HIV and the Criminal Law in Canada Update (2018Dec): www.halco.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/HIV-crim-Canada2018Dec.pdf
- HIV and the Criminal Law in Ontario info sheet (2018Dec): halco.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/HIV-crim-Ont2018Dec.pdf
- A step towards ending unjust HIV criminalization – Un pas pour cesser la criminalisation injuste du VIH (2017Dec): www.halco.org/2017/news/step-toward-ending-unjust-hiv-criminalization
- HIV Criminalization: Governments of Canada and Ontario make important announcements: www.halco.org/2017/news/hiv-criminalization-governments-of-canada-and-ontario-make-important-announcements
- Add your voice: end the unjust criminalization of HIV – Ajoutez votre voix : cesser la criminalisation injuste du VIH (2017Nov): www.halco.org/2017/news/add-your-voice-end-the-unjust-criminalization-of-hiv-ajoutez-votre-voix-cesser-la-criminalisation-injuste-du-vih
- Email Petition / Pétition courriel : End unjust HIV criminalization / Cesser la criminalisation injuste du VIH (2017Sept): www.halco.org/2017/news/end-unjust-hiv-criminalization-cesser-la-criminalisation-injuste-du-vih.
- Over-criminalization of HIV disclosure – some recent media coverage (2017 various dates): www.halco.org/2017/news/over-criminalization-of-hiv-disclosure-some-recent-media-coverage.
- Canada’s HIV scientists express deep concern about overly broad criminalization (2017April): www.halco.org/2017/news/canadas-hiv-scientists-express-deep-concern-about-overly-broad-criminalization.
- Criminalization of HIV non-disclosure – Information and Updates info sheet (2017April): www.halco.org/2017/news/criminalization-of-hiv-non-disclosure-information-and-updates-info-sheet.
- HIV Criminalization in Canada: Key Trends and Patterns report (2017March): www.halco.org/2017/news/new-report-hiv-criminalization-in-canada-key-trends-and-patterns.
- Criminal law out of step on HIV – article in Law Times by HALCO’s Ryan Peck: www.halco.org/2017/news/criminal-law-out-of-step-on-hiv-article-in-law-times-by-halcos-ryan-peck.
- Tell Ontario’s Attorney General to stop unjust HIV-related prosecutions: www.halco.org/2017/news/tell-ontarios-attorney-general-to-stop-unjust-hiv-related-prosecutions.
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.
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:
- Statement (English) www.halco.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Crim-SCC-2012Oct5-CoalitionStatement-Eng.pdf
- Statement (French) www.halco.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Crim-SCC-2012Oct5-CoalitionStatement-Fre.pdf
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 website: www.aidslaw.ca/site/publicationtopics/criminal-law/.
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.
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 does not include information related to the government announcements on World AIDS Day December 1, 2017, or World AIDS Day December 1, 2018. Please see HIV and the Criminal Law in Canada for more recent information about HIV disclosure: https://www.halco.org/2018/news/crim-updates2018dec.
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:
- HIV disclosure: a legal guide for gay men in Canada (2013 May) www.halco.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/HIV_disclosure-legal_guide_for_gay_men_Canada-2013May-ENG.pdf.
- Dévoilement du VIH : guide d’information sur le droit pour les hommes gais au Canada (2013 mai) www.halco.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/HIV_disclosure-legal_guide_for_gay_men_Canada-2013May-FRE.pdf.
Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network website includes many resources related to HIV, disclosure and criminalization, including:
Criminalization of HIV Non-Disclosure in Canada : Current Status and the Need for Change / La Criminalisation de la Non-Divulgation du VIH au Canada: Situation Actuelle et Besoin de Changement (2019April):
- English : http://www.aidslaw.ca/site/the-criminalization-of-hiv-non-disclosure-in-canada-report/?lang=en
- Français : http://www.aidslaw.ca/site/the-criminalization-of-hiv-non-disclosure-in-canada-report/?lang=fr
HIV Criminalization in Canada: Key Trends and Patterns report (2017March):
Women living with HIV and intimate partner violence: Questions and Answers (2016May):
- French : Femmes vivant avec le VIH et violence au sein d’une relation intime : Questions et Réponses (2016mai) : www.halco.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Women-with-HIV-and-intimate-partner-violence-2016May-EN.pdf.
- The guide is available in Spanish and Swahili on the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network website: www.aidslaw.ca/site/women-living-with-hiv-and-intimate-partner-violence-questions-and-answers/?lang=en.
Indigenous Communities and HIV Disclosure to Sexual Partners: Questions and Answers (2016August):
- French: Les communautés autochtones et la divulgation du VIH aux partenaires sexuels : Questions et réponses www.aidslaw.ca/site/indigenous-communities-and-hiv-disclosure-to-sexual-partners-questions-and-answers/?lang=fr.
HIV Disclosure and the Law – A Resource Kit for Service Providers:
- French : La divulgation du VIH et le droit : Une trousse de ressources pour les fournisseurs de services : www.aidslaw.ca/site/hiv-disclosure-and-the-law-a-resource-kit-for-service-providers/?lang=fr.
HIV and criminal law information and publications:
- English: www.aidslaw.ca/site/publicationtopics/criminal-law/.
- French: www.aidslaw.ca/site/publicationtopics/criminal-law/?lang=fr.
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.
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.
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
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 us. While 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.
Justice for Children and Youth is a community legal clinic for young people in Ontario www.jfcy.org (416-920-1633 or toll-free: 1-866-999-5329). JFCY helps young people under the age of 18 with various legal matters, including charges under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
Legal Aid Ontario (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 Ontario 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: https://lsrs.lso.ca/lsrs/welcome. 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 Ontario website: https://lsrs.lso.ca/lsrs/welcome. The Law Society of Ontario was formerly the Law Society of Upper Canada.