New Brunswick will now cover gender-confirming surgeries

Health Minister Victor Boudreau says the New Brunswick government will make medically necessary gender-confirming surgeries insured procedures in the province.

Transgender individuals will be able to change their birth certificates to match their gender identities

Health Minister Victor Boudreau says the New Brunswick government will make medically necessary gender-confirming surgeries an insured service in the province. (CBC)

Health Minister Victor Boudreau says the New Brunswick government will make medically necessary gender-confirming surgeries insured procedures in the province.

Boudreau made the announcement on Friday in Moncton.

"Transgender persons living in New Brunswick are facing challenges in life and in the health-care system," Boudreau said in a statement.

"Gender dysphoria is a recognized medical condition that, left untreated, can result in high levels of anxiety and depression, which can lead to suicidal thoughts."

Until this announcement, New Brunswickers seeking gender reassignment surgery were the only ones in the country who had to pay out-of-pocket for the costly procedure.

Boudreau said the provincial government will not cover some procedures that would not be insured for other New Brunswickers, such as laser hair removal.

In terms of what it will cover, the health minister said New Brunswick is in the "middle of the pack" among other provinces.

Boudreau said it was time the provincial government lost its reputation as the sole province in Canada that did not fund these surgeries.

"We're in 2016 and we are the only province in the country that is not doing this, it is important for us to be able to provide the same coverage, the same rights, the same services to all New Brunswickers," Boudreau told reporters.

The provincial government will amend a regulation to allow for the change.

The provincial funding will not be retroactive. However, if a person is currently in the process of transitioning, they could be insured for any remaining procedures.

'They really delivered for us'

Michelle Leard, a member of the New Brunswick Transgender Health Network, said the provincial government "really delivered" with the announcement on funding for gender-confirming surgeries. (CBC)

Michelle Leard, a member of the New Brunswick Transgender Health Network, said the provincial government's announcement will "change the lives of transgender New Brunswickers who are presently facing challenging health, mental health and social situations."

Leard said the health network met with provincial officials and in the end, "they really delivered for us."

"I think it is fair to say that we got everything that we thought we would get, not everything that we wanted," Leard said.

"We are stepping into this now and we are bringing ourselves into alignment with the rest of the country. I think we have a plan that we can be proud of."

In other provinces, procedures, such as breast augmentation or laser hair removal, are covered. Leard said those procedures can be a big deal for a person who is transitioning.

But Leard said Boudreau's announcement is an important step for many people in the province.

"What this does do, I feel, is it legitimizes this community, the government now recognizes that we are here and that we are real and that our health challenges are significant and real," Leard said.

The health minister also announced that the provincial government will allow transgender individuals to change their birth certificates to match their gender identities.

The legislature will need to amend the Vital Statistics Act in the fall to allow for the change.