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MLAs pledge support for LGBT community as Health P.E.I. updates gender-affirming surgery policy

Health P.E.I. has approved a new policy to expand P.E.I.'s coverage of gender-affirming surgery, but it still needs cabinet approval.  (Jane Robertson/CBC - image credit)
Health P.E.I. has approved a new policy to expand P.E.I.'s coverage of gender-affirming surgery, but it still needs cabinet approval. (Jane Robertson/CBC - image credit)

Members of the P.E.I. Legislative Assembly have unanimously pledged to express "unreserved support" to the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, and urge government to ensure stable funding to allied groups and improved access to gender-affirming care.

The vote came after Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker and MLA Karla Bernard put forward a motion on the topic.

"We all need to become better allies, and to be sincere and willing leaders in this and the change we want to see," Bevan-Baker said.

"We have to listen up, then we have to show up, we have to speak up, we have to lift up, and we have to ante up."

Bernard said people in the transgender community need better financial support and gender-affirming care that is now available only off-Island.

Health P.E.I. has approved a new policy that would expand the number of gender-affirming surgeries covered by the province, but it's up to the provincial cabinet to decide whether that policy will result in action.

A spokesperson for the agency told CBC News in an email that details on the new policy couldn't be shared "due to cabinet confidentiality."

But the agency confirmed the new policy would "broaden the scope of what is considered medically necessary surgeries to increase access to more services, including out-of-province surgical procedures."

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CBC

Health P.E.I. also confirmed what the group Gender Affirming Care P.E.I. (GACPEI) has claimed: that an internal government review concluded the province's existing gender-affirming surgery policy, dating back to 2019, is "at odds with peer-reviewed scientific evidence and accepted standard medical practices."

Policy called 'out of date'

Jocelyn Adams, co-founder of GACPEI, said a review was conducted by the province's interministerial women's secretariat after her group raised concerns about the policy being out of date "and enforcing a male/masculine gender bias."

The results of that review have not been made public. But Adams said the new policy includes standards "supported by the Canadian Medical Association as well as the Medical Society of P.E.I., so we hope that the political process does not interfere too much with the delivery of this health care."

Wednesday's motion came two months after a recording of Premier Dennis King speaking to a constituent during the spring election campaign became public. When the constituent raised the topic of trans issues, King could be heard saying: "You don't gotta drive everything down everybody's throat."

Around that time, a drag storytime event scheduled for the Kings Playhouse in Georgetown had to be postponed because of online hate toward the performer.

In a world where there is so much hate, an increasing amount of hate, so much fear and ignorance, this is our opportunity to stand up and spread love. — Karla Bernard

King later apologized for the remarks captured on tape, but Pride P.E.I. nonetheless effectively banned all politicians from taking part in the Island's annual Pride Parade.

Bernard challenged her fellow MLAs to attend an event by the queer or transgender community to become a more educated and better ally.

"In a world where there is so much hate, an increasing amount of hate, so much fear and ignorance, this is our opportunity to stand up and spread love," she said Wednesday.

Four MLAs, including King, were not present for the vote Wednesday. King's office said he was not present because he had a meeting scheduled with the other Atlantic premiers and federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault.

However, earlier in Question Period, King reaffirmed his support for the LGBTQ community and drag storytime events by responding to a direct question from Bernard.

"Do you unequivocally support drag storytime and other 2SLGBTQAI+ initiatives on P.E.I.?" she asked.

"Yes," King answered. "I just want everyone to be the very best they can be, to be loved and to be respected and honoured, and that's the way I'll continue to conduct myself."

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CBC

PC MLA Brad Trivers said he couldn't imagine anyone not supporting the motion.

"At its core, if you strip away all the verbiage around it, it's 'Develop respect and care for everyone'…. Why wouldn't we all be striving for that?"

Liberal MLA Gord McNeilly used his time during the debate to say he will continue to push for an inclusion commissioner for P.E.I. He made an impassioned plea for everyone to be united in supporting vulnerable communities including LGBT Islanders.

"If we don't take a strong stance in this, you bring indifference into the mix... The difference between love and hate is indifference."

Education Minister Natalie Jameson said the school system is working to foster an environment where everyone feels accepted, respected and celebrated for their individuality.

"Intolerance or hate in any of its forms poses a significant threat to our community and it should not and will not be allowed," she said.

Here is the motion approved in the legislature Wednesday.

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CBC