Arson at Montreal clinic concerns trans people awaiting surgery

Some in the transgender community are worried a suspected arson at a Montreal clinic will add delays to an already lengthy process to get gender reassignment surgery.

Advocate says Centre Métropolitain de Chirurgie is 'only one in Canada' that does gender confirmation surgery

Danielle Chenier with the trans support group Aide aux trans du Quebec (ATQ) said the Montreal clinic was the only one in Canada where trans people could undergo gender confirmations surgery. (CBC)

Some in the transgender community are worried a suspicious fire at a Montreal clinic will add delays to an already lengthy process to get gender reassignment surgery.

On Monday around 8:45 p.m., police say a man entered the Centre Métropolitain de Chirurgie (CMC) at 999 Salaberry St. and and set a fire. 

The fire was extinguished by sprinklers prior to the arrival of firefighters. No one was hurt.

The CMC, a private medical centre, offers various cosmetic and reconstructive surgeries including gender reassignment, also known as gender confirmation surgery.

The hospital's owner, Dr. Pierre Brassard, is one of the only surgeons in the country who performs genital reassignment surgery.

Montreal police are looking for a man suspected of arson at the Centre Métropolitain de Chirurgie in Ahuntsic. (Google Maps)

'The only one in Canada'

Danielle Chenier, a representative for the trans support group Aide aux trans du Québec (ATQ), said she was shocked by news of the arson at the CMC.

"That's really an important place for the community," she said.

Chenier said the clinic was the only one in Canada performing gender confirmation surgery and people waited for years to get it.

"I'm very anxious," said Kate, an American transgender woman who did not want her last name used. "Any setback can be pretty traumatic."

Kate is among the many transgender people who have waited several years to get gender confirmation surgery. She was due for surgery at the CMC in June.

Any setback can be pretty traumatic- Kate, American transgender woman awaiting gender confirmation surgery in Montreal

"In my case it's been about 10 years of false starts and trying to raise money, and this last run-up has been about a year and a half of doctors' appointments and just dealing with everything from time off work to air fare, and all sorts of things that you don't really think about," Kate said.

Kate, who lives in the Midwest, U.S., said she chose to undergo surgery in Montreal because she "heard really good things" about the clinic's surgeons and it was cheaper than in the United States.

For many, Monday night's fire at the Montreal clinic represents a major setback.

The CMC is the only option for about 1,500 transgender Ontarians waiting to be referred for gender confirming surgery.

Ontario currently has no surgical options and recently trained 800 health professionals to be able to refer patients to the Montreal clinic.

One patient who was supposed to have gender reassignment surgery tomorrow told CBC News that the surgery has been postponed as a result of the incident.

"I hope that this spurs conversation on the shortage of health care providers and surgeons both in Canada and the U.S.," Kate said.

Fear of a 'targeted' attack

Montreal police's arson squad is currently investigating Monday night's fire at the CMC.

Police are looking for the suspect who fled on foot.

Kate said the safety of the hospital's staff and doctors was first and foremost but she feared the fire might be a targeted attack.

"I think that there's a pretty large chance that this isn't just a random arson given a lot of the backlash seen in Canada and the United States over the past several years about trans rights," Kate said.

The ATQ, on the other hand, has called for calm, saying there was no evidence yet that indicated the crime had anything to do with discrimination.

Both the group and Montreal police pointed to the fact the clinic also performs plastic surgery. 

Police do not yet know the motive.

"If we have doubts that it could be a hate crime, it will immediately be transferred to our hate crime unit," said Manuel Couture with Montreal police.

CMC officials have not responded to interview requests.

With files from Raffy Boudjikanian