The NDP passed a queer health resolution at this weekend’s convention in Halifax, vowing to fight discrimination in Canadian healthcare.
“We passed a major resolution on the subject of health of [queer] people,” says Matthew McLauchlin, LGBT Committee co-chair. “It had three main areas of focus — one was on [queer] health in general, one was on coverage of services specifically for trans people, and one was on blood, organ and tissue donation.
“[The] part of the resolution on [queer] health in general builds on some of the work that the Rainbow Health Coalition is doing,” McLauchlin says.
He points to the Coalition’s human rights complaint which says the government’s failure to take action on queer health is discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
“The fact is that our community suffers a high level of negative health care outcomes — inability to access care, mistreatment by health care professionals in some cases, and the range of complaints, the range of ill-health that ought to be the focus of government action, and yet isn’t,” McLauchlin says. “The fact that [queer] people’s special health needs — well-documented needs in health care — are not the subject of such a program is unacceptable, and that’s what we’re saying.”
The party’s position is also that sex reassignment surgery (SRS) is a medically necessary procedure that should be covered across the country. When asked about the position taken in Manitoba, where an NDP government recently rejected a plan to fund SRS, McLauchlin agrees it’s something that needs work.
“They [the Manitoban NDP government] discussed increasing the listing, expanding the listing, and they chose not to,” McLauchlin says. “What we’re arguing at the federal level and what Bill Siksay is arguing is that there needs to be full medicare coverage for trans people.”
Other participants noted that contentious resolutions weren’t given high enough priority — and thus they were never discussed on the convention floor. These resolutions included the dropping the “New” from the party name, as well as the resolution on separate memberships for federal and provincial party organizations.
The lack of debate on some issues was an issue of frustration for some.
“There were two resolutions that I really wanted debated that got buried,” says MP Libby Davies. “One was on the Middle East and the siege in Gaza, and it was way down the list, and we tried to get it moved up but it didn’t happen. The other one was a resolution on drug policy, around prohibition, and this is my second convention that I’ve tried to get something through because we actually don’t have policy from the convention. Certainly our caucus has taken good positions based on what I’ve put forward as the critic, but I was very disappointed.
“I felt that we needed to have more opportunity to debate policy, particularly where it’s new, even if it’s controversial,” Davies says. “To me, a convention is a place where members can be heard and can debate things that are important. I think it’s easy to debate things that we all agree with, like housing, EI and pensions. And sometimes those things do need updating, but it’s also about debating new policy, where we need to go.”
Davies says she plans to follow up on the lack of opportunity for such debate.
Nevertheless, Davies says that she enjoyed the convention — in particular the speech by Obama organizer Marshall Ganz.
“I really connected with what he was saying in terms of how we should be doing politics,” Davies says.
QUEER HEALTH RESOLUTION PASSED
The first “be it resolved” was proposed by the Manitoba Young New Democrats, and the rest by the LGBT Committee:
BE IT RESOLVED that the New Democratic Party of Canada work to reverse the discriminatory ban on gay organ donors and to allow any Canadian, regardless of sexual orientation, to be able to donate healthy organs and tissues, including blood;
BE IT RESOLVED that the New Democratic Party of Canada explicitly adopts the following principles:
- the provincial governments ought to work proactively against all homophobic, transphobic, and heterosexist discrimination in the health care field and proactively work to ensure that all health care providers provide health care in a way that properly meets the particular needs of LGBTT people;
- there ought to be full medicare coverage for all medical treatment necessary for gender reassignment, since this care is medically necessary to the physical and psychological health of transgender and transsexual persons;
- the federal government must apply the Canada Health Act so as to ensure that LGBTT people have equitable access to health care and that Canada’s health care system meets the particular health needs of LGBTT people;
- the federal government must take legislative and regulatory action and work, through programs in federal ministries and through funding for NGOs, to ensure appropriate response to the particular health needs of LGBTT people, the same as it works or ought to work on the health needs of other target groups;
- the above principles are to be interpreted in compliance with provincial and federal areas of jurisdiction, including the NDP’s policies on the special status of Quebec.