and why is he saying these things about transsexual people?
And does it really matter?
In reaction to last week’s announcement of George Smitherman, the Ontario Minister of Health, that Ontario would again fund transsexual surgery, Pierre Poilievre, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Nepean-Carleton, declared:
“People are waiting too long for basic cancer treatment and MRIs and the Liberal government found money for the (Dalton) McGuinty sex-change program instead.” http://www.ottawasun.com/News/National/2008/05/20/5613551-sun.html
He has also said:
“I think if people want this medically unnecessary treatment, they have that right. But taxpayers should not have to pick up the tab for it,” http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080520.wsexchange20/BNStory/National/home __._
It is always nice to be caught in a political crossfire, especially by one of the Conservatives’ pit bulls. There is an interesting entry in Wikepedia at:
He never misses an opportunity to take partisan or personal advantage, especially when he thinks no one will notice or that those he attacks are so marginal that no one will care–or notice.
He was one of those MP’s who opposed equal marriage, though in his speech to the House of Commons he espoused “the Canadian way: respect and tolerance” calling for all the trappings of marriage for gay and lesbian people but not the name. The rest of his speech can be viewed on the Canadians for Equal Marriage website at:
Though I wonder where his ‘respect and tolerance’ is for those of us who are even more marginal than gay and lesbian people that even today there is nothing on the Egale Canada website on any aspect of this. But then, the Executive Director of Egale Canada has recently declared that transgender and transsexual Canadians have formal human rights–when she knows this is simply not true, except in the North West Territories.
It is clearly in this void that statements of such ignorant hate and prejudice can be spoken.
It is darkly amusing that Poilievre calls it the ” McGuinty sex-change program” considering McGuinty really wants nothing to do with transsexuals either. In 2003, Dalton McGuinty announced that SRS was “not a priority,” said Susan Gapka, the head of the Trans Human Rights Campaign and the Trans Health Lobby Group on the Xtra.ca website, and would not be re-listed. See:
It is even more interesting that in 2004 Smitherman was on the verge of announcing the relisting of transsexual surgery when Dalton McGuinty, the Premier got wind of it through a story on the Osprey News Service Wire and issued a press release only hours before his Health Minister was to make his announcement.
Rumour certainly had it that, unlike the bare bones program expected from the current initiative–simply a return to the way it was in 1998 when Mike Harris’ reactionary Conservatives first delisted electrolysis and then surgery completely–the 2004 initiative, developed in part in discussions with Gapka and the Trans Health Lobby Group (THLG), was much more.
Long standing demands of the THLG state the program must be community based and include coverage for hormones, hair removal and counseling.
Also see the website of the Trans Human Rights Campaign at: http://www.transhumanrightscampaign.org/
The former program seemed to make the same assumptions Poilievre makes, that transsexual people are well enough off to afford much of their treatment for their own disability–unlike most other marginal people.
Some transsexual people are indeed well off and can afford, on their own, significantly more than the basic surgery. Many transsexual people live in abject poverty. Transsexual women, according to the AIDS Committee of Ottawa are at the highest risk for HIV/AIDS, surpassing even gay men. It is evidence of this greatest marginalization that this fact is quite ignored and raises gales of indignant rebuttal from those who certainly ought to know better.
Some of us are in the middle and in some ways are even more invisible.
In my own case, I spent over $5000 on beard removal and hormones in one year–it was a great financial burden, though I was able to claim a tax credit for all of it which helped some.
I was only able to afford surgery because of the settlement of a human rights complaint.
But to return to Pierre Poilievre and his typically ignorant bravado declaring he will write to Jim Flaherty, the Federal Finance Minister–and a member of Poilievre’s Conservative Party–asking for assurances the federal government won’t fund this ‘medically unnecessary’ procedure.
There is even the possibility Flaherty might also indulge in his own bravado–as part of an ongoing criticism of the Liberal party that makes up the Ontario government. But bravado and bluster is all that it will be.
The Canada Health Act which is the federal legislation governing the way federal money moves to the provinces simply does not define what “medically necessary services” are and despite this great achievement of former federal Liberal Health Minister Monique Begin it is unlikely this government, any more than any previous one, would actually infringe upon a province’s discretion.
In my conversations with Bill Siksay, the NDP MP who is the author of a private member’s bill to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to include gender identity and gender expression (GI/E) and another private member’s bill to amend the Criminal Code provisions on hate crimes and sentencing directives also to include GI/E, he has made it clear it is not within longstanding tradition to dictate to provinces either to include something as “medically necessary” or to exclude it. And is not something he will attempt.
Smitherman’s press secretary, Laurel Ostfield, is quoted in a Canadian Press story in the Toronto Globe and Mail today:
“This sexual reassignment surgery is regarded amongst the mental health community as a necessary treatment for a very small number of individuals,” she said.
“It is listed in other provinces, such as Alberta. So, if Mr. Poilievre wants to play politics with people’s health, it’s really rather unfortunate.” http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080520.wsexchange20/BNStory/National/home __._,_._
For those even slightly in the loop–such as myself–there is little question the current initiative will be nothing more than what was and that hopes for the positioning of the Sherbourne Clinic–which specializes in trans health, is trans-positive and employs many trans people–as the gatekeeper instead of the old Clarke, now the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and the home of both Kenneth Zucker and Ray Blanchard, are unlikely to be answered.
There are more than a few ripples going through our communities today and there will be some response in the media in coming days.
However, as with so much concerning us, this seems not really to affect the inevitability of things–even, in this case, the inevitability of something positive.
But then that is the definition of marginalization in society. Whether the stupid statements of someone like Pierre Poilievere or the Executive Director of Egale Canada.ttle
Quite frankly, I’m so glad I’m now beyond what a Ken Zucker, Ray Blanchard, Pierre Poilievre, or the Executive Director of Egale Canada can do–or not do.
Even though it still mightily offends my sense of what is right and what is wrong–and if anyone actually asked for my help, I would be glad to give it. Though in these communities, that is a long shot at best.
More on Pierre Poilievre