Gender reassignment clinic postpones surgeries after arson

One of Canada's only clinics to perform gender reassignment surgery is postponing operations following a fire that police are investigating as arson.

Clinic worries about anguish caused to patients waiting for reassignment operations

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

One of the country's only clinics to perform gender reassignment surgery is postponing operations following a fire that police are investigating as arson.  

Dr. Pierre Brassard, who owns the Centre Métropolitain de Chirurgie (CMC), told CBC News that a fire that was set in the clinic earlier this week has forced him to delay scheduled operations. 
Pierre Brassard says even minor delays in reassignment surgery can have significant complications for patients. (Pierre Brassard's website)

The clinic usually performs seven reassignment surgeries a week, and four have been postponed so far. Brassard said closing the clinic temporarily has had wide reaching consequences for the community.  

"It's hurting a lot of people, actually," he said. "It's hurting us. It's hurting my employees. It's hurting, of course, the patients first. Because now if patients don't have surgeries, what are they going to do?"

Because of the long convalescence period required, patients often plan their surgeries months in advance. Even small delays can have huge implications, Brassard said.  

Date of clinic's reopening uncertain

He relayed the story of one person who was to undergo surgery on Tuesday. The person had quit his job in anticipation of the surgery. 

"He planned his life for that, and he realised now he can't get the surgery," Brassard said.  

"So what's going to happen with him finding a job afterwards ... He actually didn't have enough money to go home so we actually paid for his ticket to go back to Ontario."

Brassard is hoping to restore his regular operating schedule soon but is still unsure when that will be. For the moment, he is seeking to perform some surgeries at other facilities in the city.    

Montreal police's arson squad have opened an investigation into the fire. They say a person entered the building Monday evening, started a fire and then fled on foot. 

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

Montreal police spokesman André Leclerc says the investigation continues, but that "it doesn't appear to be a hate crime."

with files from Alison Northcott