Settlements reached in two human rights complaints involving gender identityJune 14, 2023
The Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission is pleased to announce that settlements have been reached in two complaints of discrimination in public services based on gender identity.
Mikayla Schultz and Gillian Walker, who are both transgender persons, filed separate human rights complaints against the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health regarding access to gender affirmation surgery. Gender affirmation surgery refers to required surgical procedures designed to align a person’s body with their gender identity. The surgical procedure sought by Walker was not included in the government’s Payment Schedule for Insured Services Provided by a Physician (the Payment Schedule). Walker sought guidance from health officials but received inadequate information. After some delay, Walker travelled to Ontario and paid for the cost of the surgical procedure. The gender affirming surgery sought by Schultz is not on the Payment Schedule and is unavailable in Saskatchewan. Under Ministry of Health policy, it required a prior approval from a designated authority located outside of Saskatchewan. The wait list to see a designated authority exceeded two years. Walker was prevented from accessing gender affirming surgical services due to unmanageable travels costs and undue delay.
Walker’s and Schultz’s complaints were investigated by the Commission and found to have sufficient merit for referral for a hearing in the Court of King’s Bench.
“The Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission and The Saskatchewan Human Rights Code, 2018, support the rights of transgender people,” said Barry Wilcox, K.C., Chief Commissioner of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission. “We know that transgender individuals face numerous obstacles when transitioning, including social stigma and institutional barriers. The cost associated with the surgical procedures, as well as restrictive health policies, can result in substantial barriers to obtaining necessary medical treatment.”
At pre-hearing conference at the Court of King’s Bench, Schultz and Walker reached mutually agreeable settlements with the Ministry of Health. Under the settlement agreements both complainants received financial compensation. The settlement agreements also require the Ministry of Health to review its policies, practices, and communications to improve access to gender affirming surgery in Saskatchewan. The Ministry of Health has agreed to engage members of the transgender community to assist in this process.
The Commission supports the Ministry’s commitment to an internal review and its willingness to engage with members of Saskatchewan’s transgender community about gender affirming surgery.
“The Commission commends Mikayla Schultz and Gillian Walker for filing their complaints and seeing this issue through to resolution” said Chief Commissioner Wilcox. “Coming forward with a human rights complaint is never easy, but sometimes it is necessary. Every person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Improving access to gender affirming surgeries will help ensure the dignity and equality of all Saskatchewanians.”