Sex change funding cuts unlikely to be revisited

Alberta’s finance minister doubts the province will reverse its decision to drop sex changes from its list of publicly funded surgeries, despite advice from a gay rights group.

EDMONTON — Alberta’s finance minister doubts the province will reverse its decision to drop sex changes from its list of publicly funded surgeries, despite advice from a gay rights group.

The Queer Allied Network is an Edmonton-based advocacy group formed after the province de-listed gender reassignment surgery as a medically necessary procedure in the spring budget.

The network has presented Alberta lawmakers with a “work list” for the upcoming legislative session.

In addition to reinstating provincial funding for sex-change surgery, the group wants the government to repeal Bill 44.

That law allows parents to pull children out of classes focusing on sex, religion or sexual orientation.

But Finance Minister Iris Evans says it’s unlikely the sex-change de-listing, which shaved $700,000 a year from the budget, will be re-examined.

“I have not been privy to any conversations that would change the government’s position on that,” said Evans, noting she is not part of the health committee that would lead any such discussions.

“We don’t discuss our legislative tabling prior to the session but I’m certainly not aware of anything related to that.”

While the program only funded between 10 to 20 surgeries every year, network spokeswoman Bethany Padfield said the procedure is crucial for transsexuals and she’s hoping the government will have a change of heart.

“Despite how it’s listed now, it is a medically necessary procedure that’s a matter of life and death for some of these people,” she said.

“We’ve sent an email to the leaders of all of the parties and our allies because they need to be aware of these issues and maybe somebody will bring it up.”

Padfield acknowledged the group, which currently has about 60 members, could face an uphill struggle trying to get the ear of politicians.

But she noted while it lags behind some other provinces, particularly in legislation that supports the gay and transgendered community, Alberta is ahead in many grassroots areas and that could be enough to provoke change.

“Even if they ignore us, at least they’ll know that we haven’t forgotten,” Padfield said.