‘Unsafe’ and on the Margins

Cover illustration, "Unsafe and on the Margins"

“‘Unsafe’ and on the Margins: Canada’s Response to Mexico’s Mistreatment of Sexual Minorities and People Living with HIV,” (PDF) is a 54-page report based on IHRP field research in Mexico, including interviews with more than 50 Mexican healthcare providers, human rights activists, members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community, people living with HIV, journalists, and academics, all of whom testify to widespread discrimination and rights-violations in Mexico’s healthcare delivery. The release of the report, funded by the Elton John AIDS Foundation, coincided with World Refugee Day on June 20, 2016 as well as Canada’s first-ever pride month.

“‘Unsafe’ and on the Margins: Canada’s Response to Mexico’s Mistreatment of Sexual Minorities and People Living with HIV,”The report says that Canada should remove Mexico from its refugee ‘safe’ list because of the country’s serious human rights abuses. Failure to do so could place Canada in violation of its international legal obligations.

Despite some progressive legislation, including universal healthcare and a federal commitment to non-discrimination, in practice, Mexico’s most vulnerable communities continue to encounter significant obstacles to accessing these rights. As a result, the country remains unsafe for many, particularly people living with HIV or at heightened risk of infection, and especially sexual minorities and marginalized populations. Nevertheless, Mexico appears on Canada’s designated country of origin (DCO) list, which entitles Mexican claimants to only half the time claimants from non-DCO countries get to prepare their claims, and creates the possibility of prejudgment among decision-makers, the report said.

The report raises concerns that Canada is circumventing its international legal obligations by keeping Mexico on the ‘safe’ country list. As a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol, Canada has a duty to not discriminate against refugee claimants by reason of their race, religion or country of origin.

According to the report, systemic discrimination and unlawful denial of healthcare to people living with HIV and populations at heightened risk of infection contravene Mexico’s international legal obligations. Proper and timely HIV treatment can mean a healthy life-span for people living with HIV, but late diagnosis or lack of consistent treatment creates a high risk of life-threatening infection and higher likelihood of transmission.

Furthermore, Mexico’s failure to adequately fund HIV prevention or education programs has contributed to a culture of stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV. Health advocates told the IHRP about ignorance and misinformation about HIV within the medical community, breaches of confidentiality, denial of healthcare or segregation within healthcare centres, and other human rights abuses against people living with HIV.

The report calls on Canada in its capacity as a champion of human rights, both domestically and internationally, and also as Mexico’s third-largest trading partner. As expressed in the report’s recommendations, Canada should urge Mexico to ensure that people living with HIV are able to access healthcare services free from obstruction or discrimination. The report also encourages Canada to offer assistance to Mexico to develop protocols for healthcare professionals to ensure equal and consistent access to healthcare, with particular emphasis on people living with HIV, in accordance with Mexico’s international legal obligations.

Read the report (PDF)