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Casey House educates judge on HIV

Ignorant remarks about AIDS had led to complaints

An Ontario judge who ordered an HIV-positive witness to wear a mask and who believed that the virus could live in a dried state has undergone an educational process.

The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network (CHALN), the HIV/AIDS Legal Clinic (Ontario) (HALCO) and the Criminal Lawyers’ Association all filed complaints with the Ontario Judicial Council (OJC) after Judge Jon-Jo Douglas made the comments in a November 2007 trial.

In a reply to the complainants the OJC wrote that Douglas has admitted that his actions were wrong and has been educated about HIV by visiting the AIDS hospice Casey House last summer.

“Staff who work with the patients daily provided Judge Douglas with a better understanding of the science, of the disease and of the people affected by the disease,” wrote OJC registrar Marilyn King.

Douglas will not face any sanctions, but CHALN and HALCO say they are satisfied.

“We are pleased that the Ontario Judicial Council has recognized this conduct is unacceptable,” states Ryan Peck, HALCO’s executive director in a press release. “There is no place for such misinformation and prejudice anywhere, especially in the justice system. People living with HIV deserve equal, respectful treatment.”

The Chief Justice of Ontario has also asked her educational committee to consider adding sessions on HIV/AIDS to judges’ educational curriculum.

“We encourage the Education Secretariat of the Ontario Court of Justice to honour this request and look forward to assisting them with efforts to ensure that judges have accurate, comprehensive information about HIV,” stated Richard Elliott, CHALN’s executive director in the press release.