After the Federal election held on September 20, 2021 and Municipal Elections of the City of Montréal held on November 7, 2021, AIDS Community Care Montreal (ACCM) would like to congratulate those who have been (re)elected as City Mayor, Borough Mayor or to represent Montreal in the House of Commons. As a member-driven organization that supports and empowers people living with HIV (PLHIV) and people living with hepatitis C (PLHCV), ACCM is committed to advocating for policy that reduces stigma and prioritizes the wellbeing of our communities. Before Montreal’s City Council and Parliament reconvenes, we would like to take this opportunity to remind our elected representatives of our priorities and expectations. We shared the following demands in the hope that Montreal’s borough and city maryos as well as Montreal’s members of parliament know what must be done to support PLHIV and PLHCV in Montreal, in Quebec, and across Canada. We deemed it crucial to reach the updated UNAIDS 2025 targets following the recently signed and shared consensus (by the Government of Canada) to the 2021 UN Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS. These demands also align with the Quebec Declaration pushing for the recognition of a rights-based strategy for PLHIV.
ACCM demands an end to the criminalization of the communities that we serve. Not only are PLHIV criminalized, but the harmful effects of the criminal justice system are felt most acutely by groups who experience higher rates of HIV and HCV infection, including Black people, Indigenous people and people of colour, LGBTQ2S+ people, migrants, refugees and protected persons, drug users and sex workers. Criminalization reinforces stigma, threatens safety and dignity, and creates barriers to accessing care. In general, ACCM echoes the call of Black Lives Matter and Montreal’s Defund the Police Coalition to redirect funding away from policing in order to invest in the wellbeing of communities. In particular:
- ACCM demands an end to the criminalization of HIV non-disclosure. La Coalition Canadienne pour réformer la criminalisation du VIH / the Canadian Coalition to Reform HIV Criminalization is holding a series of Community Consultations regarding proposed reforms to the Canadian Criminal Code that would limit HIV criminalization. ACCM in collaboration with COCQ-SIDA will be holding information sessions and our internal consultation regarding this pressing subject.
- ACCM demands an end to the criminalization of all drugs. The City of Montreal, along with Toronto, Vancouver and several other municipalities, have called on the Health Minister, Jean-Yves Duclos, to decriminalize drug possession.
- ACCM demands an end to the criminalization of sex work. The over-policing of sex workers leads to isolation and greater vulnerability to violence.
ACCM demands universal access to and coverage of health services, including medication and mental healthcare, regardless of immigration status. This includes access to comprehensive care, treatment and support for PLHIV and PLHCV, antiretroviral therapy and other medications, diagnostic tools such as testing kits, treatment for people with immune systems weakened by HIV, sexual and reproductive health services, addiction treatment, and mental health services.
ACCM demands housing policy that prioritizes the most vulnerable. The growing housing crisis in Montreal and across Canada is felt most urgently by marginalized groups, including PLHIV and PLHCV. Housing is also a major determinant of health, particularly for PLHIV. More must be done to ensure access to affordable housing and an end to homelessness. ACCM calls on the federal government to work collaboratively with the Province of Quebec and the City of Montreal to do more to create truly affordable, accessible housing options.
ACCM demands an end to Canada’s discriminatory ban on gay men and other LGBTQ+ people donating blood. This ban ignores scientific evidence, reinforces stigma, and is rooted in both homophobia and anti-Blackness.
ACCM demands an end to “conversion therapy”. We call on the federal government to prioritize the passage of the long-awaited legislation ending harmful, pseudo-scientific efforts to change people’s sexual orientation.
ACCM demands adequate funding for services for PLHIV and PLHCV. We demand that funding for support, treatment, and prevention services reflect the needs of organizations and communities. ACCM is alarmed to hear of substantial cuts to funding for AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT) and other Montreal- or Quebec-based organizations offering services to PLHIV and PLHCV from the Public Health Agency of Canada.
ACCM would like to reaffirm the government of Canada’s commitment to the national and global HIV and AIDS pandemic as demonstrated through the adoption of the Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS presented at the United Nations 74th Plenary Meeting. The Declaration calls on Member States to “commit to urgent and transformative action to end the social, economic, racial and gender inequalities, stigma and multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, including based on HIV status” which underpin all of the above-mentioned points.
We also would like to remind you of the upcoming events that you support by attending or sharing with city councillors and Parliament members:
- November 22-28: International Testing Week (https://www.coalitionplus.org/international-testing-week/)
- December 1st: World AIDS Day (https://www.unaids.org/en/2021-world-aids-day)
- December 2nd: Launch of Indigenous AIDS Awareness Week (https://caan.ca/events-and-workshops/indigenous-aids-awareness-week/)
ACCM welcomes any questions elected officials, and those in the community, may have about these demands. We will continue to work with our members to affirm, develop and clarify our collective positions on these issues, and will continue to mobilize as a community for safety, dignity and freedom from stigma.
During the federal election, ACCM had the opportunity to speak to the Honourable Minister Steven Guilbeault about our priorities. We welcome the openness of the newly re-elected member for Laurier-Sainte-Marie to discussing our concerns, and look forward to seeing action on these issues. We also look forward to building relationships with Montreal’s other elected officials – federal, provincial and local – to work together to make positive change.
Our demands are ambitious and require transformative change. ACCM acknowledges that they require the cooperation of multiple levels of government and political parties, and consultation with organizations like ours and the communities we serve. We will continue to press all decision-makers to overcome their differences and to help us create a society free from the stigma of HIV/AIDS, that supports and cares for people living with HIV and hepatitis C.
Naïm Afeich, President Emilie Renahy, Executive Director
C.C.I. ACCM Board Members
This letter has been sent to: The Honorable Steven Guilbeault (MP Laurier-Sainte-Marie, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, The Right Honorable Justin Trudeau (MP Papineau, Prime Minister), The Honorable David Lametti (MP LaSalle-Emard-Verdun, Minister of Justice & Attorney General of Canada), The Honorable Pablo Rodriguez (MP Honore-Mercier, Minister of Canadian Heritage), The Honorable Marc Miller (MP Ville-Marie-Le Sud-Out-Iles-des-Soeurs, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations), Soraya Martinez-Ferrada (MP Hochelaga), Patricia Lattanzio (MP Saint-Leonard – Saint-Michel), Anthony Housefather (MP Mount Royal), Emmanuella Lambropoulos (MP Saint-Laurent), The Honorable Marc Garneau (MP Notre-Dame-de-Grace – Westmount), Rachel Bendayan (MP Outremont), Mario Beaulieu (MP La Pointe-de-l’Île), Alexandre Boulerice (MP Rosement-La-Petite-Patrie), Anju Dhillon (MP Dorval-Lachine-LaSalle), Emmanuel Dubourg (MP Bourassa), The Honorable Mélanie Joly (MP Ahuntsic-Cartierville, Minister of Foreign Affairs), Sameer Zuberi (MP Pierrefonds-Dollard), The Honorable Carolyn Bennett (MP Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health), The Honorable Jean-Yves Duclos (Minister of Health), The Honorable Chrystia Freeland (Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister), Valéry Plante (Montreal City Mayor)
 For more information: https://defundthepolice.org/about/
 For more information: http://www.hivcriminalization.ca/community-consultation/.
 See: https://www.unaids.org/en/resources/documents/2021/2021_political-declaration-on-hiv-and-aids.