Earlier this year, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health began a study of LGBTQ2 health and how to reduce related inequities. After hearing from 33 witnesses and receiving 44 briefs from organizations working on the frontlines, the committee released ground-breaking recommendations last week that, if implemented, could radically improve the health of LGBTQ2 communities across Canada.
The report provides an overview of the current state of LGBTQ2 health — and it doesn’t paint a pretty picture in the areas of substance abuse or physical, mental and sexual health. The committee firmly lays the blame of the presented inequities on the social, legal and economic factors that marginalize queer, trans and gender non-conforming people, and fundamentally limit their access to health and wellness.
Here are a few recommendations from the report:
An awareness campaign
The report recommends that the Government of Canada should “develop and implement a national awareness campaign on sexual and gender diversity that reflects an intersectional analysis in order to address the stigma and discrimination faced by LGBTQIA2 communities in Canada.” For queer, trans and gender non-conforming Canadians, such a campaign could highlight the ways in which compounding facets of identity — such as race, class and ability — affect how our communities experience violence, hatred and bigotry.
Inclusive sex ed
The committee recommends that Health Canada take charge of sex ed and “work with the provinces and territories to encourage the provision of age-appropriate education on sexual orientation and gender identity to children and youth of all age groups as well as parents and caregivers.” If implemented, it would introduce the first federal standard on evidence-based and inclusive comprehensive sexuality education, holding provinces and territories up to a certain standard.
Better sexual health
Healthcare providers often fail to understand the specific needs of queer and trans communities, and for many LGBTQ2 Canadians, going to the doctor can be a difficult, sometimes traumatizing, experience. That’s why the committee recommends that the federal government work alongside provinces and territories to “establish a working group to identify ways to promote training and education of health care professionals about the health needs of sexual and gender minorities.”
Grants for LGBTQ2 Canadians
Nobody knows the intimate and unique needs of our communities better than its own members. Currently, many LGBTQ2-serving organizations struggle to meet the significant needs of their local communities with the limited funds available to them. As a result, the report suggests a grants and contribution program “focusing on the health of LGBTQIA2 communities” to allow queer and trans organizations the opportunity to solve some of the ongoing healthcare problems plaguing our communities.
Better shelter support
Given that a disproportionate number of queer and trans people — especially youth — are homeless or displaced from their homes and many of them feel unsafe accessing shelter supports, the committee recommends that the feds fund shelters that consider the needs of LGBTQ2 folks. Specifically, the report mentions the needs of trans and non-binary folks, who face a great deal of violence and discrimination in places where space hasn’t been made for them.
Coverage for hormones and gender-affirming surgeries
As part of the development of a national pharmacare program, the committee has called on the government to cover the cost of hormones that trans folks require, along with the “uniform coverage across Canada for gender-affirming surgeries.” Currently, coverage is piecemeal, varying significantly from province to province. Uniform coverage would help raise the bar in provinces lagging behind, and improve access to transition-related healthcare across the country.
End conversion therapy
While a bill in the Senate could make this recommendation a reality, the committee stresses in its report that the federal government must work with provinces and territories to end the practice of conversion therapy. It also suggests “making further modifications to the Criminal Code.”
While some provinces have banned conversion therapy in some form — including Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia — many have not. And while the practice might be criminalized under certain provisions of the Criminal Code, such as kidnapping, forcible confinement and assault, there is no explicit ban on conversion therapy on the federal level.
Education for health providers
The report also called for the federal government to work with provinces and territories, as well as their respective professional and regulatory bodies, to identify ways to promote training and education on supporting LGBTQ2 clients. The recommendation addresses the prevalence of bias in health services, and the frequent inability of providers to meet the unique needs of LGBTQ2 patients.
Consultation on intersex surgeries
The report suggests that the government consult intersex people on the Criminal Code subsection that allows for surgeries on intersex adults and children — a practice that many intersex activists consider harmful. In addition, the committee calls for the postponement of surgeries on youth until they are able to “meaningfully participate in the decision,” unless there is an immediate medical risk.