Transgender advocates land meeting with Victor Boudreau
New Brunswick Transgender Health Network says province is last to fund gender reassignment surgery
The New Brunswick Transgender Health Network will be meeting Health Minister Victor Boudreau next month as the group continues to lobby for provincial funding for gender reassignment surgery.
New Brunswickers seeking gender reassignment surgery are the only ones in the country who have to pay out-of-pocket for the costly procedure.
Michelle Leard, a founder of the New Brunswick Transgender Health Network, said her organization has been trying unsuccessfully for months to get a meeting with the province's health minister to raise this concern.
She said the meeting invitation came as a shock.
"It was shock and elation in tandem. I wasn't entirely sure when I read it, I had to reread it," Leard said.
I think New Brunswick will do the right thing. I think they will support New Brunswickers just as the rest of Canada has made a decision to support their people.- Angela Arsenault-Daigle
Leard transitioned from male to female but has not been able to pay for the surgery on her own.
Leard said she hopes the provincial government will change its policy that blocks funding for gender reassignment surgery soon.
She said suicide rates among those in transition are high and it doesn't have to be that way.
"What is the math equation that we can look at that says X amount of dollars? We can afford to lose four lives rather than to spend the $60,000 we would need to spend to do these surgeries?" she said.
"Right, $60,000, yeah, that's more important to us than three human lives. What's that math look like? How does it work?"
Boudreau was unavailable on Thursday to discuss the upcoming meeting.
His department, however, issued a statement about the Sept. 10 meeting.
"We believe it is important to meet with the stakeholders to hear their concerns, so we won't be commenting on those pending discussions at this time," the statement said.
The Salvus Clinic in Moncton offers health services to those who have a difficult time accessing care.
Angela Arsenault-Daigle said many people who are transitioning come to the clinic to learn about the next steps.
Arsenault-Daigle said the meeting with Boudreau is an important step forward.
"It's necessary. It should have happened a while ago but I'm really happy it's happening now," she said.
"I think New Brunswick will do the right thing. I think they will support New Brunswickers just as the rest of Canada has made a decision to support their people."
While change is happening slowly, Leard has a message for young people in the transgender community.
"The future is bright for the kids out there that are suffering, terrified and don't know how to move forward," she said.
"It's going to get better. For older people still in the closet, it is going to get better."