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“Criminalization Creep”: A Brief Discussion of the Criminalization of HIV/AIDS Non-disclosure in Canada

  • Erin Dej (a1) and Jennifer M. Kilty (a2)

This research note begins by situating some of the major areas of inquiry within social-science research on the criminalization of HIV/AIDS non-disclosure. The evolution of the use of this criminal justice measure in the attempt to regulate HIV/AIDS transmission illustrates what has been termed “criminalization creep,” whereby steadily increasing numbers of people are charged with increasingly severe crimes. We outline some of the key and precedent-setting cases in Canadian law in order to explore the problematic of criminalization and suggest avenues for future research on this subject.

Ce bref essai commence par situer certains des plus importants domaines d'enquête au sein de la recherche en sciences sociales sur la criminalisation de la non-divulgation de la séropositivité à l'égard du VIH/sida. L'évolution du recours à cette mesure de justice pénale afin d'essayer de réglementer la transmission du VIH/sida illustre ce qu'Elliott a appelé criminalization creep (le glissement de la criminalisation), alors que l'on constate une augmentation constante du nombre de personnes accusées de crimes de plus en plus graves. Nous décrivons brièvement certains cas importants qui ont créé des précédents dans le droit canadien, afin d'explorer la problématique de la criminalisation et de suggérer des possibilités pour les futures recherches à ce sujet.

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1 Adam, B.D., Elliott, R., Husbands, W., Murray, J., and Maxwell, J., “Effects of the Criminalization of HIV Transmission in Cuerrier on Men Reporting Unprotected Sex with Men,” Canadian Journal of Law and Society 23, 1/2 (2008), 143; Weait, M., Intimacy and Responsibility: The Criminalization of HIV Transmission (Abingdon, UK: Routledge-Cavendish, 2007).

2 Arndt, C. and Lewis, J.D., “The Macro Implications of HIV/AIDS in South Africa: A Preliminary Assessment,” South African Journal of Economics 68, 5 (2000), 380; Susser, I. and Stein, Z., “Culture, Sexuality, and Women's Agency in the Prevention of HIV/AIDS in South Africa,” American Journal of Public Health 90, 7 (2000), 1042; Patton, C., Globalizing AIDS (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002); Worth, H., Patton, C., and McGehee, M.T., “Legislating the Pandemic: A Global Survey of HIV/AIDS in Criminal Law,” Sexuality Research and Social Policy 2, 2 (2005), 15.

3 Courtenay-Quirk, C., Wolitski, R.J., Parsons, J.T., and Gómez, C.A., “Is HIV/AIDS Stigma Dividing the Gay Community? Perceptions of HIV-Positive Men Who Have Sex with Men,” AIDS Education and Prevention 18, 1 (2006), 56; Reidpath, D.D. and Chan, K. Yee, “A Method for the Quantitative Analysis of the Layering of HIV-Related Stigma,” AIDS Care 17, 4 (2005), 425.

4 Valdiserri, R.O., “HIV/AIDS Stigma: An Impediment to Public Health,” American Journal of Public Health 92, 3 (2002), 341; Rao, D., Kekwaletswe, T.C., Hosek, S., Martinez, J., and Rodriguez, F., “Stigma and Social Barriers to Medication Adherence with Young Urban Youth Living with HIV,” AIDS Care 19, 1 (2007), 28.

5 Crossley, M.L., “Making Sense of ‘Barebacking’: Gay Men's Narratives, Unsafe Sex and the ‘Resistance Habitus,’” British Journal of Social Psychology 43, 2 (2004), 225; Grov, C., “‘Make Me Your Death Slave’: Men Who Have Sex with Men and Use the Internet to Intentionally Spread HIV,” Deviant Behavior 25, 4 (2004), 329.

6 Adam, B.D. and Sears, A., “Negotiating Sexual Relationships After Testing HIV-Positive,” Medical Anthropology 16 (1994), 63; Adam et al., “Effects of the Criminalization of HIV Transmission in Cuerrier”; Mykhalovskiy, E., Betteridge, G., and McLay, D., HIV Non-disclosure and the Criminal Law: Establishing Policy Options for Ontario (Toronto: Ontario HIV Treatment Network, 2010); Lazzarini, Z., Bray, S., and Burris, S., “Evaluating the Impact of Criminal Laws on HIV Risk Behavior,” Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 30, 2 (2002), 239.

7 Grant, I., “The Boundaries of the Criminal Law: The Criminalization of the Non-disclosure of HIV,” Dalhousie Law Journal 31 (2008), 123; Grant, I., “Rethinking Risk: The Relevance of Condoms and Viral Load in HIV Non-disclosure Prosecutions,” McGill Law Journal 54 (2009), 389; Elliott, R., After Cuerrier: Canadian Criminal Law and the Non-disclosure of HIV-Positive Status (Montreal: HIV/AIDS Legal Network, 1999); Galletly, C.L. and Pinkerton, S.D., “Conflicting Messages: How Criminal HIV Disclosure Laws Undermine Public Health Efforts to Control the Spread of HIV,” AIDS and Behavior 10, 5 (2006), 451.

8 Lazzarini et al., “Evaluating the Impact of Criminal Laws on HIV Risk Behavior”; Worth et al., “Legislating the Pandemic”; Dalton, H.L., “Criminal Law,” in AIDS Law Today: A New Guide for the Public, ed. Burris, S., Dalton, H.L., Miller, J.L., and Yale AIDS Law Project, 242–62 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1993); Galletly and Pinkerton, “Conflicting Messages.”

9 Galletly and Pinkerton, ibid.; Kinsman, G., “Responsibility as a Strategy of Governance: Regulating People Living with AIDS and Lesbian and Gay Men in Ontario,” Economy and Society 25, 3 (1996), 393.

10 Adam et al., “Effects of the Criminalization of HIV Transmission in Cuerrier”; Elliott, R., “Criminal Law and HIV/AIDS: Update V,” Canadian HIV/AIDS Policy and Law Review 6, 1/2 (2001), 19.

11 Weait, Intimacy and Responsibility.

12 Singer, M., “The Politics of AIDS,” Social Science and Medicine 38, 10 (1994), 1321; Persson, A. and Newman, C., “Making Monsters: Heterosexuality, Crime and Race in Recent Western Media Coverage of HIV,” Sociology of Health and Illness 30, 4 (2008), 632; Lemelle, A.J., “Linking the Structure of African American Criminalization to the Spread of HIV/AIDS,” Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice 19, 3 (2003), 270.

13 Weait, M., “Taking the Blame: Criminal Law, Social Responsibility and the Sexual Transmission of HIV,” Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law 23, 4 (2001), 441; Adam, B.D., “Constructing the Neoliberal Sexual Actor,” Culture, Health and Sexuality 7, 4 (2005), 333; Lear, D., “Sexual Communication in the Age of AIDS: The Construction of Risk and Trust Among Young Adults,” Social Science and Medicine 41, 9 (1995), 1311; Dodds, C., “Messages of Responsibility: HIV/AIDS Prevention Materials in England,” Health 6, 2 (2002), 139.

14 Foucault, M., The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception (New York: Vintage, 1973); Giddens, A., Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1991).

15 Goffman, E., Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1963); Patton, C., Inventing AIDS (New York: Routledge, 1990).

16 Public Health Agency of Canada, HIV and AIDS in Canada (Ottawa: Ministry of Health, 2010), 12.

17 Simoni, J.M., Demas, P., Mason, H.R.C., Drossman, J.A., and Davis, M.L., “HIV Disclosure among Women of African Descent: Associations with Coping, Social Support, and Psychological Adaptation,” AIDS and Behavior 4, 2 (2000), 147.

18 CATIE, HIV in Canada: Trends and Issues That Affect HIV Prevention, Care, Treatment and Support (Ottawa: Public Health Agency of Canada, 2010).

19 Public Health Agency of Canada, HIV and Aids in Canada, 34.

20 Ibid., 6.

21 Elliott, R., “Steps Forward, Backward, and Sideways: Canada's Bill on Exporting Generic Pharmaceuticals,” Canadian HIV/AIDS Policy and Law Review 9, 3 (2007), 15; Jürgens, R., Ball, A., and Verster, A., “Interventions to Reduce HIV Transmission Related to Injecting Drug Use in Prison,” The Lancet: Infectious Diseases 9, 1 (2009), 57.

22 Elliott, ibid.

23 Awofeso, N., “Legal Prison Tattooing Centers: Viable Health Policy Initiative?Journal of Public Health Management and Practice 16, 3 (2010), 240.

24 Persson and Newman, “Making Monsters.”

25 Mar, L., Legal Network News (Toronto: Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, 2007), 8.

26 Adam et al., “Effects of the Criminalization of HIV Transmission in Cuerrier”; Dodds, C., Bourne, A., and Weait, M., “Responses to Criminal Prosecutions for HIV Transmission among Gay Men with HIV in England and Wales,” Reproductive Health Matters 17, 34 (2009), 135.

27 Patton, Inventing AIDS.

28 Mykhalovskiy, Eric and Betteridge, Glenn, “Who? What? Where? When? And with What Consequences? An Analysis of Criminal Cases of HIV Non-disclosure in Canada,” Canadian Journal of Law and Society 27, 1 (2012).

29 Criminal Law and HIV Non-disclosure in Canada (Toronto: Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, 2011).

30 Grant, “Boundaries of the Criminal Law”; Mykhalovskiy et al., HIV Non-disclosure and the Criminal Law.

31 For an in-depth legal analysis of the evidentiary differences that come from exposure or transmission cases see Grant, ibid.

32 R v Cuerrier (1995), 26 WCB (2d) 378.

33 R v Cuerrier, [1996] BCJ No 2229 (QL), 83 BCAC 295, 136 WAC 295, 141 DLR (4th) 503, 111 CCC (3d) 261, 3 CR (5th) 330.

34 R v Cuerrier, [1998] 2 SCR 371.

35 AIDS Saskatoon, HIV Disclosure and the Law: A Community Workshop (Saskatoon: Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, 2010).

36 Mykhalovskiy et al., HIV Non-disclosure and the Criminal Law.

37 R v Edwards, [2001] NSJ No 221, 2001 NSSC 80, 194 NSR (2d) 107, 50 WCB (2d) 255; R v Charron, Cour du Québec, District de Longueuil, Chambre criminelle, 706-01-010423-024, 1 mai 2008, as cited in Claivaz-Loranger, Stephanie, “Panel—Criminalization of HIV Non-disclosure: New Developments and Community Responses,” HIV/AIDS Policy and Law Review 15, 1 (2010), 74.

38 R v Aziga (4 April 2009), Hamilton CR-08-1735, as cited in Claivaz-Loranger, ibid.

39 R v JT, 2008 BCCA 463; Vittinghoff, E., Douglas, J., Judson, F., McKirnan, D., MacQueen, K., and Buchbinder, S.P., “Per-Contact Risk of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Transmission between Male Sexual Partners,” American Journal of Epidemiology 150, 3 (1999), 306.

40 JT, ibid. at paras 18–20.

41 R v Wright, [2009] BCCA 514 at paras 39–40; see also Mykhalovskiy et al., HIV Non-disclosure and the Criminal Law.

42 R v Mabior, [2010] MJ No 308, 2010 MBCA 93; [2008] MBQB 201, 230 Man R (2d) 184.

43 Cuerrier at para 129.

44 R v Nduwayo, [2010] BCJ No 1787, 2010 BCSC 1277; R v Walkem, [2007] OJ No 186, 73 WCB (2d) 145; Edwards [2001].

45 Grant, “Rethinking Risk.”

46 Mabior, [2010] at para 127.

47 R v DC, [2010] QJ No 13599, 2010 QCCA 2289.

48 R v Mabior, [2010] SCCA No 492; R v DC, [2011] SCCA No 137.

49 Grant, “Rethinking Risk.”

50 Lazzarini et al., “Evaluating the Impact of Criminal Laws on HIV Risk Behavior”; Ruby, Rebecca, “Apprehending the Weapon Within: The Case of Criminalizing the Intentional Transmission of HIV,” American Criminal Law Review 36 (1999), 313.

51 Adam and Sears, “Negotiating Sexual Relationships after Testing HIV-Positive”; Mykhalovskiy et al., HIV Non-disclosure and the Criminal Law, Adam et al., “Effects of the Criminalization of HIV Transmission in Cuerrier.”

52 Patton, Inventing AIDS.

53 Nicholson-Crotty, J. and Nicholson-Crotty, S., “Social Construction and Policy Implementation: Inmate Health as a Public Health Issue,” Social Science Quarterly 85, 2 (2004), 240; Krebs, C.P. and Simmons, M., “Intraprison HIV Transmission: An Assessment of Whether It Occurs, How It Occurs, and Who Is at Risk,” AIDS Education and Prevention 14, 5 (2002), 53; Grinstead, O.A., Zack, B., Faigeles, B., Grossman, N., and Blea, L., “Reducing Postrelease HIV Risk among Male Prison Inmates,” Criminal Justice and Behavior 26, 4 (1999), 453.

54 Chandler, C. and Kingery, C., “Yell Real Loud: HIV-Positive Women Prisoners Challenge Constructions of Justice,” Social Justice 27, 3 (2000), 150.

55 Bredström, A., “Intersectionality: A Challenge for Feminist HIV/AIDS Research?European Journal of Women's Studies 13, 3 (2006), 229.

56 Jewkes, R.K., Dunkle, K., Nduna, M., and Shai, N., “Intimate Partner Violence, Relationship Power Inequity, and Incidence of HIV Infection in Young Women in South Africa: A Cohort Study,” The Lancet 376, 9734 (2010), 41; Peltzer, K., Mzolo, T., Mbelle, N., Tsoai, L., Lewa, N., and Ncitakalo, N., “Dual Protection, Contraceptive Use, HIV Status and Risk Among a National Sample of South African Women,” Gender and Behaviour 8, 1 (2010), 2833.

57 Garcia-Moreno, C. and Watts, C., “Violence against Women: Its Importance for HIV/AIDS,” AIDS 14, suppl. 3 (2000), S253; Gielen, A.C., McDonnell, K.A., Burke, J.G., and O'Campo, P., “Women's Lives after an HIV-Positive Diagnosis: Disclosure and Violence,” Maternal and Child Health Journal 4, 2 (2000), 111.

58 Amaro, Hortensia, “Love, Sex, and Power: Considering Women's Realities in HIV Prevention,” American Psychologist 50, 6 (1995), 437.

60 Campbell, “Male Gender Roles and Sexuality.”

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