The Alberta government will cover sex-change operations for those who have already been identified as needing the surgery, but the procedure will be delisted for new patients, Health Minister Ron Liepert confirmed Tuesday.
The decision to drop coverage of the procedure was announced in last week's provincial budget and is estimated to save the government $700,000 a year.
Members of Alberta's transgendered population and their supporters went to the Alberta legislature on Tuesday in hopes of getting the province to change its mind.
But in question period, Liepert would not back down, stating the province will only pay for the 26 individuals who have already had their funding approved and another 20 who have started their hormonal drug therapy.
"It is the intention that those 20 will be covered under the program going forward," Liepert said.
'Devastated' by province's decision
One Albertan is pleased that her procedure will be covered, but she wondered whether the funding would really come through.
"I think it's good news," Jamie-Lynn Garvin said. "If it's true. There's a lot of things that could happen between what [Liepert] just said and when it comes down to what Alberta Health finally tells us."
Garvin, 47, was born a male. After being on hormone therapy for several years, she is on a waiting list to have surgery.
She was devastated when she learned of the province's decision to delist the procedure last week.
"I sat there and just cried for hours," she told CBC News earlier on Tuesday.
In the days afterward, Garvin was in limbo, wondering whether her funding would come through. Garvin estimates her surgery will cost between $18,000 and $40,000.
Many people don't understand how necessary the procedure is, Garvin said.
"It's not just a cosmetic issue. It's an actual medical issue, and psychiatrists and medical doctors are involved in determining if we qualify or need the surgery," she said.
Garvin was brought to the Alberta legislature Tuesday by her MLA, Tory backbencher Ken Allred, who made a statement on her behalf.
Some transgendered advocates were planning to file human rights complaints on Wednesday about the delisting of the procedure.
Last year, Ontario announced its health plan would start paying for gender reassignment surgery after a decade of not doing so. The province had lost human rights challenges on the issue.