The Conservative government has ordered Correctional Services Canada to halt all medical coverage for gender reassignment surgery. The change took effect immediately, on Friday, November 19th.
"The courts have ruled that CSC must provide essential medical services to inmates. However, we do not believe that sex change surgery is an essential medical service or that Canadian taxpayers should pay for sex change surgery for criminals," Public Safety Minister Vic Toews told QMI Agency.
Even so, regardless of what they may have been convicted of, inmates are entitled to essential medical treatment. A 2001 Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision, backed up by a 2003 federal court ruling, required that GRS be considered essential medical treatment. So the Conservative government is in direct violation of what it has already been ordered to fund. The 2003 National Post article is no longer online, but is archived at Prisonjustice.ca:
Friday, February 07, 2003
OTTAWA - Canada's federal prisons will be forced to allow sex-change surgery for transsexual inmates as a result of a court ruling that concluded a blanket ban is discriminatory.
"If the medical opinion is that sex reassignment surgery is an essential service for a particular inmate, it follows that it should be paid for by Correctional Services Canada, as would any other essential medical service," wrote Madam Justice Carolyn Layden-Stevenson of the Federal Court of Canada.
Corrections Canada will revise its policy because of the decision, spokeswoman Michele Pilon-Santilli said.
But she warned that sex-change operations will not be available for all transsexual inmates.
The decision upholds a 2001 decision from the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal in the case of Synthia Kavanagh.
The tribunal said that it was discriminatory for prisons to have a blanket ban on sex-change operations but not on "non-essential" services such as the removal of tattoos.
The Corrections and Conditional Release Act requires prisons to provide essential health care to inmates.
The timing of this is curious, considering it coincides with a wave of religious right opposition to Bill C-389, which would extend equal rights to trans people. One has to wonder if the intent is to exploit Canadians' lack of sympathy for convicts in order to show off a faux worst case scenario of "we're going to have to pay for sex changes for murderers and rapists if we give them rights."
"CSC is legislatively mandated to provide every inmate with essential health care and reasonable access to non-essential mental health care that will contribute to the inmate's rehabilitation and successful reintegration into the community," said CSC spokeswoman Sara Parkes.
Of course, what could better facilitate a transsexual person's reintegration into the community than helping align their physical sex with their identity if they need it? Although we tend to think of the extreme of murderers and sex offenders when we think of inmates, the majority of those convicted are there because of a poverty issue or come from an environment of poverty that made it easy to slide into crime. I fail to see how releasing someone into society with an inevitable poverty issue (having to self-fund GRS) is going to help them avoid reoffending.
Currently, CSC houses inmates according to the genitalia they have. Amazingly, CSC fails to see how this might make someone particularly vulnerable to the problem of prison rape. One quarter to half of trans inmates are not taking hormone therapy or denied access to it.
For more information, see the earlier article, Why "Sex Change" Surgery is Medically Necessary.