Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Alta. transsexua­ls file human rights complaint

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CALGARY (CNS) — Nearly two dozen transsexua­ls filed human rights complaints against the Alberta government Wednesday, saying the province must reverse its decision to stop funding sex-change operations or prepare for a lengthy legal battle.

Eleven Calgarians and another 12 people in Edmonton launched complaints at the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenshi­p Commission, eight days after the province said it would no longer pay for the surgeries as part of an effort to reduce spending.

“Today was about letting the minister and cabinet know the people going through this can’t be ignored,” said Calgary resident Jordenne Prescott, who is currently waiting for the procedure.

“They are talking about the complete eliminatio­n of the only option (for us).”

The Alberta government has said it will save about $700,000 annually by not funding the surgeries.

Alberta Health Minister Ron Liepert said the issue is one of several difficult decisions facing government in tough financial times.

The province has said it will still cover the costs for people on the surgical waiting list and for those taking hormones in preparatio­n for surgery.

But members of the province’s transgende­red community said the move will still leave many without the surgery.

“This (complaint) is for everyone who came before and after us,” said April Friesen, who has undergone the surgery.

Ontario reinstated funding for gender-reassignme­nt surgery last year following a human rights ruling on the issue.

Alberta Culture Minister Lindsay Blackett said Wednesday the Ontario decision could influence Alberta’s human rights commission, but said Alberta has a “slightly different process.”

“Since most of the people in our commission are from Alberta they may look at it a little differentl­y than Ontarians do. But I don’t want to prejudge that.”

Observers who have studied human rights tribunals said the Ontario ruling is not binding in other jurisdicti­ons, but will factor into any decision made in this province.

“If they pass the budget this way and if these claims go forward . . . the government is in a precarious position,” said Lane Mandlis, a University of Alberta doctoral candidate.

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