Aids Weekly Plus
The federal government of Canada is being sued by a former prisoner and several advocacy groups for endangering prisoners’ health by not providing needle-exchange programs for inmates. The former prisoner, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, Prisoners with HIV/AIDS Support Action Network, the Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange (CATIE), and the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network have launched the lawsuit, which will be filed in Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice. The suit alleges that the federal government failed to protect the health of inmates because of its ongoing refusal to implement clean needle and syringe programs.
The inmate was incarcerated at Ontario’s Warkworth Institution from 1998 to 2010. He was infected with hepatitis C after sharing his drug injecting equipment with another prisoner. The former prisoner asserts that if the prison had a needle-exchange program he would not have had to use homemade, shared equipment, and may not have been infected.
The former prisoner stated that his motivation was to see that other drug-addicted prisoners are not forced to do the same and become infected. The lawsuit does not ask for financial compensation, but seeks a court injunction that would require the federal government to begin needle exchange programs in prisons across the country. It claims that prisoners are entitled to a needle exchange program under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Some communities in Canada have needle-exchange programs in place for the population, but no Canadian prison offers a needle-exchange program.
Vic Toews, Minister of Public Safety; Rob Nicholson, attorney general; and Don Head, commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada are specifically named in the lawsuit.