Remembering Peter Collins, 1961–2015

August 17, 2015

PCollinsThe Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network is remembering Peter (Pete) Collins, an activist for the health and human rights of people in prison. Pete passed away from cancer on August 13, 2015, in Bath Institution near Kingston, Ontario, having been denied compassionate release by the Parole Board of Canada despite many appeals.

Pete was an ally and friend of the Legal Network, and also the recipient of the 2008 Canadian Award for Action on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights. He was recognized for his work as a peer health counsellor, conducting HIV prevention education with other inmates since the late-1980s. Pete was a strong and vocal advocate on prisoners’ rights, including the necessity for adequate harm reduction services, which currently do not exist for those living behind bars. This often put him at odds with prison authorities, but it did not stop Pete from sharing his message and garnering support from the outside community.

Pete was also a talented and prolific artist. He taught himself how to play guitar while in prison and produced hundreds of amazing illustrations that reflected his perspective on the struggle against degrading conditions in prison.

The Legal Network extends its deepest condolences to the family, friends and community supporters of Peter Collins, including Giselle Dias, one of his closest friends and the person who nominated him years ago for the award honouring his work. We will honour Pete’s memory by continuing to advocate for harm reduction services in Canadian prisons.

We encourage you to watch a moving piece Pete co-created on solitary confinement in Canadian prisons and its dehumanizing effect on prisoners.