Canadian AIDS Groups Ask Human Rights Commission To Investigate Catholic Church Policy Requiring HIV Testing
A coalition of Canadian AIDS groups has asked the Quebec Human Rights Commission to investigate a new Roman Catholic Church policy requiring all men who apply to the Grand Seminaire de Montreal to become priests to take an HIV test, saying that the policy promotes discrimination in the workplace, the CP/Toronto Globe and Mail reports (CP/Toronto Globe and Mail, 1/16). In announcing the new policy, which is set to begin this fall, Rev. Marcel Demers of the Grand Seminaire de Montreal said that a positive HIV test may indicate that an applicant could be a man who has sex with men. HIV-positive applicants will be asked how they were infected, and if they say that they were infected by having sex with a man, the seminary "will try to see what really is the person's calling," Demers said. Demers added that MSM would not be automatically refused admittance to the seminary but said that their chances for acceptance would be "slim" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/12). The new policy is a "public slap in the face to all Quebeckers living with HIV," the Quebec Coalition of Community-Based Organizations Fighting AIDS and the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network wrote in a letter to the commission. "We are seriously concerned about a possible increase of discriminatory practices against people living with HIV should the commission decide not to investigate," the letter said (CP/Toronto Globe and Mail, 1/16).
Sexual Orientation vs. Health Status
Quebec Human Rights Commission spokesperson Ginette L'Heureux said that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation may be protected under an exclusion clause in the charter but only if the church claimed to be using HIV testing to exclude MSM for reasons of religious belief. However, the exclusion clause would not apply if the church is testing applicants only to determine their health status, she said, the Montreal Gazette reports. Montreal Archbishop Jean-Claude Turcotte on Monday said that the church's decision to require applicants to undergo HIV testing was meant solely to determine the health of the applicant and not his sexual orientation, which could conflict with Quebec's Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. Turcotte said that the seminary's decision to require HIV testing has "nothing to do with trying to determine" sexual orientation, according to the Gazette. The commission this week plans to examine whether to launch an investigation of the seminary's policy, L'Heureux said (Parkes, Montreal Gazette, 1/14).