Toronto—Across Canada, Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS) is covered by provincial health plans in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Quebec and on a case-by-case basis in most Atlantic provinces. It had been covered in Ontario since 1969 until funding was removed by the Harris government on October 1, 1998. Two legal challenges are now underway, one at the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal and one in the courts. On May 27, 2003, despite earlier indications by the McGuinty government that it would resume funding for SRS, the Premier’s office announced funding would, in fact, not be resumed.
Today, on the sixth anniversary of the removal of public funding for SRS, Egale launched its campaign to restore funding for sex reassignment surgery, including distribution of postcards to the Premier. Postcards are available at the 519 Church Street Community Centre in Toronto, Egale’s office in Ottawa, and at other locations throughout the province. For more info see www.egale.ca/srs.
“Sex reassignment surgery is essential for the well-being of transsexual people,” said Laurie Arron, Egale’s Director of Advocacy. “SRS is the only procedure that has proven effective. It is funded in most countries with public health care and is available in just about every other province. Here in Ontario, we have the best SRS facility in the country and the total cost of funding SRS was only $120,000 per year. Relative to the health budget for Ontario, this is pocket change. Refusing to fund SRS leaves Ontario isolated and alone in failing to provide health care for transsexuals.”
“Many transsexual people are forced to sell everything they own or go into debt to have their surgery,” said Susan Gapka, Egale Board member. “We’re not talking about cosmetic surgery here. We’re talking about surgery that is absolutely required for many of us to be whole human beings. Failure to have SRS can cause depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol use, eating disorders, trauma and even suicide. How can the government justify denying our basic health care?”
“Here at the 519 we offer one of the only support programmes for lower-income, street-involved, and homeless transgendered and transsexual people in Canada. Ever since the de-listing of SRS in Ontario, our clients have endured the harsh repercussions of that ‘cost-saving’ decision,” said Kyle Scanlon, Trans Programmes Coordinator at the 519 Church Street Community Centre in Toronto. “Lower-income trans people who are unable to access SRS are particularly vulnerable to vicious hate crimes because they are continually ‘visible’ in society.”
“Removing funding for health services for transsexual people is an erosion of the principal of universality. Ontario members of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS-O) are proud to support this campaign. We will be distributing these postcards to our member student associations and campus Pride Centres across Ontario, and encourage active involvement and participation by all students,” said Simon Rossiter, LGBT Commissioner for CFS-O.
“The vision of the Rainbow Health Network is the optimal health and wellness of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and transgendered people and communities,” said Dale Kuehl of the Rainbow Health Network. “Therefore, we support the goals of this campaign and will be distributing the postcards to our members.”
“A strong government and its Premier takes the lead, champions equity issues, and supports marginalized people. I appeal to Premier McGuinty to do the right thing and fund our surgery,” said Martine Stonehouse, one of four complainants at the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal.
“Members of the community were given the impression that these medical procedures would be reinstated under OHIP. The government should restore funding immediately,” said Marilyn Churley MPP, Deputy Leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party. “It is especially imperative that the government step up to help those who are now in limbo after undergoing some of the procedures before the Harris government announced it was cutting off funding for this much-needed surgery.”
Egale strives to support transsexual and transgender people in their struggle for equality and justice. Egale supports Michelle Josef in her court challenge and Martine Stonehouse and the other litigants in their human rights challenge to the de-listing of sex reassignment surgery in Ontario, Kimberly Nixon in her human rights challenge to being excluded from consideration as a volunteer in a women’s shelter, and the inclusion of “gender identity” and “gender expression” as prohibited grounds of discrimination in human rights legislation across the country.
For further information:
Laurie Arron, Egale Canada, Director of Advocacy,
Susan Gapka, Egale Canada, Board Member and Co-Chair, Trans Issues Committee,
416-795-2776, 416-760-2776, email@example.com
Kyle Scanlon, 519 Church Street Community Centre, Trans Programmes Coordinator,
Simon Rossiter, Canadian Federation of Students - Ontario,
416-597-0723, 416-925-8355, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dale Kuehl, Rainbow Health Network, a Reference Group of Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Rights Ontario
416-535-8501 x 7001
Martine Stonehouse, complainant before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal,
Marilyn Churley, MPP, Deputy Leader, New Democratic Party,
For clinical expertise on SRS contact:
Sylvia Hagopian, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Media Relations Coordinator, Centre (CAMH houses the Gender Identity Clinic),
Egale Canada ©2007