An Ottawa trans man who paid out of pocket for a double mastectomy has launched a Charter challenge against the Ontario government, arguing that a law that forces trans people to obtain approvals for sex-reassignment surgery from one overburdened Toronto clinic is a violation of his rights.
A notice of application filed in the Ontario Superior Court on Friday asks the court to strike down a Health Insurance Act regulation that says trans people can obtain public funding for their sex reassignment surgeries only if they first get the go-ahead from the Adult Gender Identity Clinic at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).
As of last month, there were 680 people waiting for appointments at the clinic, the vast majority of them seeking consent for publicly insured sex-change operations. Wait times are now approaching two years and the demand for the procedure is growing.
"I think that by forcing people to travel halfway across the [province] to do an interview process to allow them access to health care that everyone should have automatically, it's an unfair process," said Chrystofer Maillet, the 35-year-old federal government employee who is hoping to strike down the regulation. "It just seems like we're making it a whole lot harder for anyone to just be themselves."
Mr. Maillet's lawyer, Tim Gleason, plans to argue that the regulation violates his client's right to life, liberty and security of the person, and his equality rights, both of which are guarded by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
"This regulation, in my view, is a relic," Mr. Gleason said. "It's a relic of a past that's rooted in ignorance and bigotry. This regulation treats transgender people differently than other people, exclusively on the basis of their gender or their sex … it can't be justified."
The Globe and Mail reported last month on the case of Mr. Maillet, who decided to extend his line of credit to cover the $7,401.50 cost of a double mastectomy he underwent on March 3, 2013.
The alternative – waiting months or possibly years just to be seen at CAMH – was not something he felt he could endure.
"The applicant's wait for [sex reassignment surgery] during his transition caused serious suffering and hardship," the court application reads. "During this period, the applicant was isolated and suffered extreme depression."
Nine months after his surgery, Mr. Maillet secured an appointment at CAMH and a retroactive approval from the clinic.
But the Ontario Health Insurance Plan, and a quasi-judicial panel that reviews OHIP rejections, refused Mr. Maillet's claim because the regulation clearly states patients must obtain approval before, not after, their procedures.
Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins said last month that his ministry is already looking into the possibility of expanding the number of sites that can approve sex-reassignment surgeries. He said he hoped to be able to move on the issue in the "near future."
In the meantime, Mr. Maillet is hoping that his court case will eventually make accessing health services easier for other trans people in the future.
"If I can help kids who are coming up now who won't have to endure the same kind of issues that I had to endure over my lifetime, then that's phenomenal," he said. "That's the end result that I want to see: That people get access to health care [who] need it, end their pain and suffering and for them to live amazing lives."