Media Releases

Elton John AIDS Foundation supports the International Human Rights Program’s project investigating the negative impact of Canada’s policies on refugees with HIV

January 7, 2015

TORONTO, ON — The Inter­na­tion­al Human Rights pro­gram (IHRP) has received a $75,000 grant from the Elton John AIDS Foun­da­tion (EJAF) to launch a project expos­ing the neg­a­tive impact of Canada’s refugee poli­cies on some of the world’s most vul­ner­a­ble claimants—people with HIV or at-risk of HIV due to ram­pant vio­lence, dis­crim­i­na­tion based on sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion and gen­der-based vio­lence.

“As Chair­man of the Elton John AIDS Foun­da­tion and as a Cana­di­an, I am pleased to see the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toronto’s Inter­na­tion­al Human Rights Pro­gram take the lead in advo­cat­ing on behalf of HIV-pos­i­tive refugee claimants seek­ing a bet­ter life in Cana­da,” says David Fur­nish. “The Elton John AIDS Foun­da­tion is proud to sup­port this unique project, which is poised to bring about pos­i­tive changes in pol­i­cy, break­down stig­ma, and hold Cana­da account­able for its oblig­a­tion to pro­tect the human rights of vul­ner­a­ble refugees.”

The Fac­ul­ty of Law’s IHRP has gained sig­nif­i­cant exper­tise advo­cat­ing for peo­ple affect­ed by HIV, in Cana­da and around the world, with a par­tic­u­lar focus on the rights of African grand­moth­ers rais­ing chil­dren orphaned by AIDS, per­se­cut­ed sex­u­al minori­ties and pris­on­ers.

With EJAF’s sup­port, and focus­ing on Syr­ia and Mex­i­co as crit­i­cal case stud­ies, the IHRP will advo­cate for pol­i­cy changes to allow refugees with, or at-risk of, HIV to rebuild their lives in Cana­da, access nec­es­sary med­ical treat­ment with­out fear of per­se­cu­tion and empow­er them to become part of the pre­ven­tion equa­tion.

“Cana­da has his­tor­i­cal­ly been a leader in terms of pro­tect­ing those flee­ing per­se­cu­tion based on their sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion or HIV sta­tus,” says lawyer and IHRP Direc­tor Renu Mand­hane. “Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the fed­er­al government’s new refugee poli­cies are threat­en­ing to under­mine our rep­u­ta­tion. It’s crit­i­cal that Cana­da con­tin­ue to show lead­er­ship in terms of pro­tect­ing these very vul­ner­a­ble indi­vid­u­als. For a per­son liv­ing in a refugee camp in Lebanon or flee­ing per­se­cu­tion in Mex­i­co, being gay or HIV-pos­i­tive is still a poten­tial death sen­tence. If they can find safe refuge in Cana­da, we can ensure Cana­da plays an impor­tant role in the glob­al fight to erad­i­cate HIV/AIDS.”

As with all IHRP ini­tia­tives, the project will involve many Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to law stu­dents in the research and advo­ca­cy.

“I am delight­ed to be work­ing on the HIV-pos­i­tive refugee claimant project with the IHRP,” says law stu­dent Petra Mol­nar. “These refugee claimants face a unique set of chal­lenges and vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties when claim­ing asy­lum. It is imper­a­tive that their expe­ri­ences with reset­tle­ment and the asy­lum process are crit­i­cal­ly explored so that appro­pri­ate pol­i­cy and laws can be imple­ment­ed.”

This project will sup­port the work of lead­ing NGOs, and was devel­oped with input from the Cana­di­an HIV/AIDS Legal Net­work, HIV-AIDS Legal Clin­ic of Ontario, Com­mit­tee for Acces­si­ble AIDS Treat­ment, Refugee Law Office of Legal Aid Ontario, researchers in Lebanon and Cana­di­an aca­d­e­mics.

A web-acces­si­ble report with coun­try case stud­ies and tes­ti­monies to illus­trate broad­er trends and issues will be pub­lished in 2015 and will form the basis for advo­ca­cy tar­get­ing pol­i­cy-mak­ers by a coali­tion of NGOs.


For fur­ther infor­ma­tion, please con­tact:

Renu Mand­hane, Direc­tor
Inter­na­tion­al Human Rights Pro­gram
Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to Fac­ul­ty of Law
Office   416- 946‑8730
Mobile 416–953-7842

Scott P. Camp­bell, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor
Elton John AIDS Foun­da­tion
Office 212–219-0670
Mobile 917–208-0649

Lucian­na Cic­co­ciop­po, Direc­tor, Exter­nal Rela­tions
Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to Fac­ul­ty of Law
Office 416–946-0334