May 3, 2012 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
The Human Rights Commission of NL (HRC) has dismissed a 2009 complaint against the NL Medical Care Plan (MCP) by Jennifer McCreath, due to what they say was a lack of evidence in their investigation. McCreath now has until May 28 to appeal (to the Supreme Court).
McCreath, a local public figure in St. John's who is best-known as a transsexual who runs marathons, incorporated gay pride, and lost her job, filed a Human Rights complaint after being denied funding by MCP for procedures that had been deemed medically-necessary by her doctors in St. John's.
MCP's policy for transsexual health has not been reviewed since 1996. The policy states that corrective sex reassignment surgery will only be covered if a recommendation is obtained from the controversial Centre for Addictions and Mental Health (CAMH), in Toronto, ON. Furthermore, the policy only covers a small handful of trans procedures, and will only cover them if treatment is not received at a domestic private facility (even though Canada's only surgeon, and one of the world's best, Dr. Pierre Brassard in Montreal, is used by four other provinces).
Notwithstanding this policy, McCreath's doctors advised against her visiting the CAMH due to the long waiting lists, the financial burden of travel costs for multiple visits, and their reputation for being behind the times and not assessing patients using global best-practices.
After being denied coverage, McCreath borrowed the $20000 needed for the surgery and proceeded to have the operation performed in Montreal. Brassard agreed to operate on McCreath given that she and her doctors had successfully applied the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH.org) Standards of Care - a global industry-recognized best-practice assessment protocol for the care of Transsexuals, that has existed since 1979.
"40 years ago, transsexualism was viewed as a mental illness, so sending people away to the institute in Toronto seemed logical; however, medical science has evolved, and most global experts recognize this as a physiological birth-defect, where diagnosis can be done by practically any team that consists of a psychiatrist and family doctor, and treatment includes hormonal therapy and surgery," said McCreath. While McCreath is disappointed with the dismissal, she vows that the matter is not over. Having already undertaken consultative discussions with three human rights lawyers, she feels she has a very strong case for her appeal.
Furthermore, win or lose, McCreath feels it is important as an advocate to not only raise awareness to trans issues, but to point out concerns with the HRC. Specifically, the length of time the investigation and review process took seemed unreasonably long; and the fact that HRC and MCP lawyers both report to the Minister of Justice could point to a potential conflict of interest. McCreath also has concerns that the lack of explicit protection in the Human Rights Act on the grounds of 'gender identity' and 'gender expression', may have also played a role in this decision.
Already in the process of launching Newfoundland Patient Association for Transsexual Health (NPATH.net), a non-profit society to undertake advocacy work for transsexual health accessibility, McCreath will now expedite this launch and start work immediately. Whether through this organization, or as an individual, McCreath hopes to find support. She knows she is not alone in her fight for trans rights in this province. Given her rough financial situation, and her inability to find employment that can match her earning potential, she is hoping to find sponsors and/or finding a lawyer who is willing to take on this case Pro Bono or at a reduced rate.
Also at stake, appears to be the credibility and reputation of the provincial health care system as a whole, as the suggestion that doctors in the province aren't competent to assess McCreath and other trans patients, would appear to be a major insult to what is supposedly a have-province.
Jennifer continues to proves MCP policy makers wrong every day that she functions and flourishes in society as a post-transitioned female.
For all inquires, contact Jennifer McCreath: