The only clinic in Canada where certain gender-affirming surgeries are performed was severely damaged Monday night in a suspected case of arson.
A fire was set at Centre Métropolitain de Chirurgie in Montreal at 8:45 p.m., police told BuzzFeed Canada.
While the sprinkler system stopped the fire from spreading, TVA reports the water and smoke caused several hundred thousand dollars of damage. No injuries were reported and police are now seeking a man in connection with the blaze.
The cosmetic surgery clinic is home to Canada's only doctor performing more complex gender-affirming surgeries like vaginoplasty and phalloplasty. Led by Dr. Pierre Brassard, transgender patients from across the country are referred to the clinic. With wait times already spanning years — and that's after the wait for a referral — there's concern the fire damage could make the situation even worse.
Dr. Brassard's office declined to comment on how patients could be affected, but transgender Canadians and their allies are concerned about the potential impact and motivations.
Montreal police spokesperson Manuel Couture told BuzzFeed Canada the case has not been transferred to the hate crimes unit.
"Be assured that if we have any information or any doubt, it will be transferred to our hate crimes unit," said Couture.
Whatever the motive, it shows how few resources are available to transgender Canadians seeking surgery.
"Regardless of the reason why, there is definitely an impact on trans folks who are looking for gender affirming surgeries," said Gabrielle Bouchard, trans advocacy coordinator for the Centre for Gender Advocacy in Montreal.
Bouchard told BuzzFeed Canada it's not surprising that a single clinic holds such significance given the lack of doctors trained in gender-affirming surgeries. But it's the people currently waiting for their surgery date who may be affected most.
"Imagine if you have to wait up to two years to get authorization," said Bouchard. "Then the only clinic that is able to do so goes up in flames."
Trans Canadians in distress can reach out to Trans Lifeline at (877) 330-6366.
UPDATE: The Centre Métropolitain de Chirurgie has released a statement saying that although some procedures have been cancelled, they are working to move surgeries to other facilities.
Surgeries scheduled between May 3 and May 6 have been cancelled as the clinic works to repair the damage.
"While these repairs are taking place, the CMC has taken steps to temporarily transfer its activities in order to avoid surgery cancellations and delays for its clients," said the statement.
They also said employees are clients will be informed of further developments. In the mean time, the clinic is working with authorities investigating the cause of the fire and additional security measures have been put in place.