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HIV Non-Disclosure and Canadian Law: Impacts on Indigenous people in Regina

Margaret Poitras, CEO, All Nations Hope Network

Emily Snyder, Assistant Professor, Indigenous Studies, Women's and Gender Studies, University of Saskatchewan

Published April 19, 2018 by Technologies of Justice.

Margaret Poitras and Emily Snyder spoke about HIV non-disclosure and Canadian law, and its impact on Indigenous people in Regina. The talk was part of the Technologies of Justice Conference session on criminalized sexuality and surveillance, held January 27, 2018, at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.



Poitras and Snyder discussed bringing life to the people in First Nations communities through research. To start, Poitras stressed the importance of taking part in ceremonies, beginning research for First Nations communities, and including First Nations traditions when working with peoples of these nations.
Both Poitras and Snyder discussed the Indigenous and Canadian settler laws surrounding HIV non-disclosure in Canada, specifically within First Nations communities, and especially around the people in Regina, Saskatchewan. They explained the lack of set laws on HIV non-disclosure, relying on nuisance charges in previous years and then turning to aggravated sexual assault charges in more recent cases. However, there is no clear response on what the charges should be in non-disclosure cases. The researchers pointed out how the Canadian courts assess risk and when a person needs to disclose, how it can often be vague, and how there is a large variance within the cases of what the actual consequences are for not disclosing.
The researchers explained that Indigenous law has not been a part of the conversation. Along with the stigma and oppression in HIV-affected people, there is also a fear of incarceration, especially with the current state of over-incarceration of peoples coming from Indigenous communities. They spoke about how the stigma of Canadian law in the First Nations community and the lack of healthy sexuality in Indigenous communities (due to the abuse that occurred in residential schools) can cause a huge fear of relationships from both a health and legal perspective for those with HIV-positive status who are Indigenous. They pointed out that along with the existing gendered violence in populations of Indigenous women, there is a fear that threats will be used against the Indigenous women. With sexual violence in gender and sexual dynamic situations because of their status as HIV positive, women fear being blamed or criminalized, especially those who turn to working as sex workers or who live in impoverished situations.
The researchers concluded by explaining how there is still a criminalization and stigmatization of Indigenous and HIV-positive people, and evaluations and discussions are needed across the board, both within and outside of First Nations communities, especially among those who are most at risk. Their conclusion on the matter is simple, but precise: “All nations need to walk together and develop relationships” for us to conquer the struggles of those within populations that are stigmatized or at risk.