In 2008, this is beyond offensive. That someone as supposedly learned and intelligent as Barrie Justice Jon-Jo Douglas would have allowed himself to remain so utterly ignorant of AIDS and HIV is appalling.
Appointed 10 years ago by Tory Premier Mike Harris, Douglas is now at the centre of a misconduct investigation after insisting during a November trial that a witness who is HIV-positive and has Hepatitis C don a mask while testifying in his courtroom. He later moved the case to a bigger courtroom in order to create more distance between the witness and himself.
As Star reporter Tracey Tyler writes in the article, three groups have complained to the Ontario Judicial Council. Their complaints target not only Douglas, but two courts – his own and the Superior Court of Justice, for failing to clearly condemn the behaviour.
"The HIV virus will live in a dried state for year after year after year and only needs moisture to reactivate itself," Douglas insisted, according to a transcript of the Nov. 23 trial proceedings.
In their Jan. 17 letter of complaint, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and the HIV and AIDS Legal Clinic (Ontario) say Douglas's response to the witness, a complainant in a sexual assault case, reveals "shockingly discriminatory thinking" and is a "particularly extreme example of unacceptable conduct by a judicial officer."
"This is outlandish," Bluma Brenner, an assistant professor at the McGill AIDS Clinic at McGill University in Montreal, told the Toronto Star yesterday. A drop of human immunodeficiency virus drying on the floor "would be inactivated within 20 minutes," Brenner said in an interview. After this, the virus in the drop is dead forever.
The Star article discusses the issue of judge education and training around issues like HIV.
But as far as I'm concerned, no judge sitting on any bench anywhere in Canada should have any excuse for this kind of ignorance. They shouldn't have to receive special training to dispel their irrational fears and prejudices around HIV. They should be intelligent and sophisticated enough to have received this education on their own long ago. That's what we're paying them for.
With his comments and actions, Justice Jon-Jo Douglas has proven himself unfit for the bench. He should be fired immediately.