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Canada Finally Has Nation-Wide Funding For Gender-Affirming Surgeries

Is gender reassignment surgery in Canada free?
Transgender Pride Flag map of Canada by Devin Kira Murphy. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

With last week’s announcement from the Government of Nunavut confirming that the territory will pay for mental health services and transition treatments for transgender and non-binary residents, Canada will now have nation-wide funding available for gender-affirming surgeries. Nunavut’s Health Department is partnering with GrS Montréal to provide the surgeries.

Health care in Canada is delivered by the provinces and territories and funding for gender-affirming surgeries varies depending on where a person lives. This patchwork of coverage has resulted in barriers to accessing care that have disproportionately affected people living in Canada’s territories in the North, which includes Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. While expansion of surgery funding in Canadian provinces has continually progressed over the last decade, comprehensive coverage has only been established in the territories over the past three years.

Nation-wide coverage is obviously a very positive development but advocacy is still needed to continue the work of dismantling barriers for Canadians to access surgical care. Current challenges include:

  • Getting coverage across the country for Facial Feminization, Breast Augmentation and Male Chest Contouring, procedures that are excluded from funding policies in some jurisdictions.

  • Surgeons who practice gender-affirming genital surgery are only located in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. This means that many transgender and non-binary Canadians need to travel great distances to access surgeons for primary surgeries, follow-ups and specialized care for complications, incurring significant expenses that aren’t universally covered or subsidized.

  • Wait times are a problem that is not unique to gender-affirming surgical care in Canada but with few experts performing these surgeries patients can wait up to three years just for a consultation with a surgeon.

With the Government of Nunavut’s funding commitment, the goal of nation-wide coverage for gender-affirming surgery in Canada has been achieved. Improvements to provincial and territorial funding policies are still needed but this is a milestone to be celebrated.

Review Funding Policies by Province and Territory: