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Melanie Joly, minister of tourism, official languages and La Francophonie, at an office building in her riding of Ahuntsic-Cartierville, in Montreal on Aug. 29, 2018.Dario Ayala/The Globe and Mail

A number of high-profile women from Quebec – including federal cabinet minister Mélanie Joly – are urging the provincial government to reinstate a fertility clinic’s licence in the wake of news its physicians may no longer be able to perform in vitro fertilization.

OriginElle Fertility Clinic & Women’s Health Centre is a Montreal-based clinic that was founded by Dr. Seang Lin Tan as the McGill Reproductive Centre, and became OriginElle in 2010. Lyanne Winikoff, a lawyer representing the clinic, said OriginElle had a licence to perform IVF treatments from 2010 until 2014, when its physicians began using another facility to perform IVF. That clinic, Procréa de Montréal, had a licence but recently closed. Regardless of its closing, Ms. Winikoff said, OriginElle had to apply to have its licence reinstated because of a new law that would no longer permit OriginElle to use another clinic’s space for IVF.

Ms. Winikoff said the application for the clinic’s permit met all of the legal requirements and they were awaiting ministerial approval when they received a letter saying the ministry was likely going to refuse their request.

Quebec’s Ministry of Health and Social Services wrote to the clinic on May 25, informing OriginElle’s clinical director Dr. Andrew Mok that the minister can make decisions on licensing based on the needs of the region a clinic would serve.

“After analyzing your request, it appears that the provision of medically assisted procreation services is sufficient in the Montreal region,” the letter states in French. “In light of this, we inform you that the minister of health and social services intends to refuse your request for the operation of a [clinic.]” The letter is signed by the department’s deputy minister, Dominique Savoie.

The Quebec Health Ministry said in an e-mailed statement to The Globe and Mail that a final decision has not yet been made regarding OriginElle’s request for a licence.

In the meantime, Dr. Tan, who is also the professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at McGill, said the situation is causing his clinic’s patients “unnecessary stress and anxiety that is not beneficial to their fertility journey.” He said in a statement that his team will continue to pursue the process with the Health Ministry to ensure his clinic can continue to care for its patients.

Ms. Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages, told The Globe that she considers any decision not to grant the clinic its licence “a form of injustice.”

Ms. Joly began seeking fertility treatment from Dr. Tan after having an experience at another clinic that she said left her in tears. Her friend, prominent Quebec media figure Julie Snyder, suggested Ms. Joly contact Dr. Tan.

If Dr. Tan is no longer allowed to perform IVF, Ms. Joly said she and her partner will have to find a new physician, which means restarting treatment and rebuilding trust with someone new.

“Going through fertility treatment is extremely difficult … you need somebody who is empathetic, who is able to address your every concern and who really shoulders you through this process, and for me that’s Dr. Tan.”

Ms. Joly said she supports the Quebec government’s plan to cover one cycle of in vitro fertilization, but that she would not benefit from that because it only covers people up to the age of 41, and she is 42.

“I think it was an important gesture on the part of the CAQ government, but at the same time recognizing rights and compensation must come with accessibility,” she said.

Ms. Snyder, who is a former patient of Dr. Tan’s, said when she was having fertility problems she sought out a physician in New York on the recommendation of Celine Dion, but had no luck.

“A miracle happened with Dr. Tan,” she said. Ms. Snyder said she began treatment in the fall of 2007 and was pregnant in 2008.

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