WATCH ABOVE: New Brunswick’s Health Minister has agreed to meet with the Transgendered Health Network to discuss funding for gender re-assignment surgery. Global’s Shelley Steeves reports.
MONCTON – New Brunswick’s Health Minister has agreed to meet with the New Brunswick Transgender Health Network to discuss funding for gender re-assignment surgery.
Moncton transgender rights activist, Michelle Leard, says this meeting is a step in the right direction. Leard heads up a transgender support group in Moncton known as UBU.
“The rates of suicide or attempted suicide with this segment are huge,” she said. “Seventy per cent of the transgender population is known to have thoughts about suicide and 41 per cent of that 70 per cent has attempted suicide.”
Leard says Health Minister Victor Boudreau has agreed to meet with her and the New Brunswick Transgender Health Network on September 10 to discuss the issue.
“Ideally we’d walk out of there, you know, with the health minister saying, ‘yeah great let’s do this thing.’ I think that is unrealistic. I think that we are going to have a good conversation. I think we are going to talk about the reality of their situation and the reality of ours.”
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Leard says she knows the province’s health care system is financially strained, but that N.B. is the only province in Canada not funding at least some of the required surgeries.
“If other people in Canada can have surgeries and we can’t there becomes a human right and right to health care.”
The province’s Department of Health confirms that a meeting is planned for mid-September, but won’t comment further, spokesperson Bruce MacFarlane said.
“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,” he said.
Leard says this meeting is offering hope to transgender people in the province.
“They are seeing a possibility that change is coming and I think that that gives them reason to hold on.”
Leard herself is hoping to undergo gender reassignment surgery, but right now her only option is to have the procedure done out of province at cost of about $20,000.
“There’s a lot of people who are just waiting anxiously for this opportunity to take the next step in their transitions,” she said.
“People are dying so what are you going to do, what is a life worth, what is one person’s life worth.”