As a Canadian, one of the things that makes me the proudest is our universal health care system. As a disabled person I know that the kind of medical treatment that I have received would not have been available to me in the US because of our class position. When I need to see a doctor I go, without any thought about the cost. Even my drugs are covered under an insurance plan and therefore as far as my personal health and the health my family I exist without worry.
Other than the drug coverage this is a condition that I had assumed to be universal for all of those with the privilege of being born in Canada or who have achieved residency status. It was with much dismay that I learned a while ago that Alberta had delisted sex reassignment surgery to save 700,000 in a multi billion dollar budget. It seems that when finances become an issue the government has no problem declaring the needs of the trans community to be optional. Alberta is Canada’s most conservative province and therefore while I was openly dismayed I was not surprised.
Manitoba has decided to follow Alberta's lead and reject funding for SRS surgery. Unlike Albert, Manitoba is not looking at a deficit budget in fact the government predicts a $48 million surplus this time next year. If the surgeries were to be covered the “NDP estimate that 15 to 20 trans people a year would take advantage of the policy, at a cost to taxpayers of $15,000 to $60,000 per case.” Currently the Manitoba government covers penis removal (penectomies) and breast removal (mastectomies). The cost of hormone therapy which can be as much as 400 dollars a month or chest reconstruction and clitoral release aren't insured.
The reason that SRS is not funded is because they have categorized it as cosmetic, despite the long held medical position that this is an absolute necessity. The governments failure to accept this as fact is based in transphobia. There are those that identify as transgender who have no desire to have SRS, however for some members of the community the surgery is absolutely necessary for them to have a healthy and balanced life. We would not say to someone that having a broken arm set is cosmetic because after all the arm is still attached to the body. We can only claim SRS is cosmetic because of a failure to understand how damaging it is to have ones body not reflect ones gender identity.
When Tommy Douglas first envisioned universal health care his goal was to have all Canadians covered and if we are excluding the trans members of our society, then the system is biased and patently opposite to its stated goals of ensuring health and well being.
Kerri Irvin-Ross, Minister of Healthy Living
E-mail: [email protected]
All Canadians deserve to be able to access our medical system.