In a separate opinion, Ross Hendriks, Vice-Chair of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, found that failing to fund SRS is indeed discrimination, contrary to the Ontario Human Rights Code. Hendriks found that the Harris government’s decision to deny funding was not made for valid medical reasons and indeed went against advice from its own Legislation and Regulations Committee. Hendriks said the conduct of the Harris government “was negligent, reckless and an abuse of power.”
SRS was funded by OHIP from 1969 until 1998, when the Harris government de-listed it. SRS was found by Hendriks to be “a legitimate, international, medically-recognized, non-cosmetic treatment.”
“Reading this judgment, I’m struck by the fact that the decision to deny funding was so blatantly political and without medical foundation,” said Laurie Arron, Egale Canada’s Director of Advocacy. “It appears the Harris government completely disregarded the impact that denying funding would have on trans people. It viewed them as a small, politically powerless group that it just didn’t care about.”
The majority ruling found that there was no discrimination for those not enrolled at the Clinic prior to funding being denied. Reasons for this finding were not given, but will be revealed when the Tribunal issues its final decision.
“I hope Premier McGuinty does the right thing and stops denying funding for this essential medical treatment,” continued Mr. Arron.
“There was a finding that the Harris government’s decision to deny funding was ‘negligent, reckless and an abuse of power.’ How could the Premier allow that decision to stand?”
Added Arron, “Premier McGuinty has indicated he cares about all Ontario citizens, including trans people. Hopefully that means he will not follow in the path of Mr. Harris. Continuing to deny funding would not only be mean-spirited, it would cost the government money to continue this fight in the courts.”
In addition to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal case, there is also a Charter challenge to the denial of SRS funding underway by Michelle Josef.
Cynthia Petersen, lawyer for Michelle Josef, said “Michelle Josef’s case is not only about ensuring that the Ontario government treats transsexuals with equal dignity and respect, it is also about protecting the integrity of our provincial health care system, which is supposed to provide universal insurance coverage for all medically necessary procedures.”
“Transsexual people in Ontario have gone without proper healthcare for far too long,” said Tami Starlight, a member of Egale’s Board of Directors. “Transsexuals in provinces like Alberta and British Columbia now enjoy much better health care than Ontario. We call on Premier McGuinty to stop denying funding for SRS and hormone therapy. The trans community deserves better from the Ontario government.”
Egale Canada advances equality and justice for LGBT people, and their families, across Canada. Founded in 1986, Egale has over 4,000 members including people in each and every province and territory of Canada. Its work includes political action, legal interventions and public education and awareness.
For more information:
Laurie Arron, Egale, Director of Advocacy
Tami Starlight, Egale, Board member
Cynthia Petersen, Sack Goldblatt Mitchell LLP