The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has ruled that the province must pay for sex reassignment surgery (SRS) for a CUPE member and two others in an interim decision handed down on Nov. 9. But the tribunal stopped short of calling on the Ontario government to relist SRS under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP).
“I should be feeling happier but this is a shallow victory because the decision doesn’t address the transsexual community and its health needs,” said Martine Stonehouse, a member of CUPE 4400 and one of the three complainants who won the right to funding for SRS.
“It only addresses three individuals and leaves a fourth person – a CUPE member, Andy McDonald (CUPE 4800) – out in the cold. Andy deserves better, the whole transsexual community deserves better,” Stonehouse added.
The tribunal found that the Ontario government should not have denied funding to the complainants – the other two are Michelle Hogan and a patient identified as A.B.– who were enrolled in the Gender Identity Disorder Clinic in Toronto before Oct. 1, 1998. The funding denial constitutes discrimination under the Ontario Human Rights Code.
According to the tribunal, McDonald wasn’t enrolled in the clinic before Oct. 1, 1998, and he didn’t begin formal treatment in Ontario before the delisting of SRS. Even though McDonald was diagnosed with gender identity disorder around 1976 in British Columbia, the tribunal determined “it cannot be said that the delisting had a disproportionate adverse impact on him.”
CUPE National President Paul Moist calls the tribunal’s decision “a victory for sister Martine Stonehouse.” But he added, “The McGuinty Liberals need to relist this medical procedure to address the whole community.”
Mary Ross Hendriks, vice-chair of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, found that the Mike Harris government’s decision to deny funding had no medical reasoning behind it. In fact, the Ontario Conservatives went against the advice of its own legislation and regulations committee when it made the decision to delist SRS, an internationally recognized medical procedure that changes the sex of a person from a man to a woman or vice versa. SRS was funded by OHIP from 1969 until 1998.
“The conduct of Ontario was negligent, reckless and an abuse of power,” Ross Hendriks said in her decision.
“This victory should be the foundation for a broader struggle of listing SRS in Ontario again to allow the transsexual community access to medically necessary procedures,” Moist said.