KSA to offer gender-affirming health care coverage, students raise concerns over possible termination of CASA membership

KPU leads B.C. post-secondaries in gender-affirming care coverage, president says council needs break from CASA

The next KSA council meeting is scheduled for Feb. 2 at 11:00 am. (File photo)

The next KSA council meeting is scheduled for Feb. 2 at 11:00 am. (File photo)

The Kwantlen Student Association held a council meeting on Jan. 12 at 11:00 am in Birch 250 at the Kwantlen Polytechnic University Surrey campus and hybrid over Microsoft teams. 

Council members Jashanpreet Singh Maan, Jashanpreet Sekhon, Jashandeep Singh, Abdullah Randhawa, Gurtejpreet Kaur Kaliyan, Upeksha Gunatilake, Destiny Lang, Jaspreet Shokar, Gurnoor Kaur, Jasmine Kaur Kochhar, Yugveer Gill, Nitin Aggarwal, Amandeep Brar, Amitoj Singh, Manraj Grewal, Taranpreet Singh, Akashdeep Sidhu, and Akashdeep Singh were in attendance. Jobanpreet Singh and Mehakdeep Singh were absent. 

During the Jan. 5 council meeting, it was announced that Civic Plaza Representative Asad Husain resigned from his position in December as he is moving to Calgary. The position remains vacant. 

In collaboration with Gallivan, KPU student’s health and dental provider, Queer Students Representative Lang gave a presentation to council about gender-affirming care and how the KSA can be a leader in implementing coverage. 

Gender-affirming care are the services and support systems that affirm an individual’s gender identity when it differs from the gender they were assigned at birth. Lang said KPU’s 2022 student satisfaction survey found 2SLGBTQIA+ students are more likely to have a mental health condition, possibly because of gender dysphoria, but are not proportionately likely to access KPU mental health services. 

“It’s important to note that gender dysphoria is not a mental illness and being transgender is not a mental illness either,” Lang said. 

Affordable access to gender-affirming services would help remove barriers and support transgender and non-binary individuals’ gender identity and mental health, Lang said. 

Sean Gallivan, the client relations specialist at Gallivan, said adding gender-affirming care coverage to KPU students’ current health and dental plan would cost an extra $9 plus tax per student per year, and all KPU students who use the plan would have to pay it. For those who don’t need gender-affirming care, Lang said paying $9 a year would help those who need it. 

“If I can support [students] who need to get gender-affirming surgeries and hormonal treatments in order to feel affirmed in their gender and potentially save their life, I think that’s a very important $9 plus tax,” they said. 

This addition would cover multiple gender-affirming procedures up to $5,000 per procedure to a maximum of $10,000. The coverage would also provide legal support, which would help individuals change their legal name.   

“We can create a safe and inclusive … environment for transgender students by telling them that, ‘hey, your health is supported, and we do have it covered in your student health and dental plan,’” Lang said. 

“If we can be a leader in this, we can show everyone what it means to be inclusive, what it means to care about our students and advocate for them.” 

Council passed a motion to add gender-affirming care to students’ health and dental plan, which will take effect in September. This makes KPU the first post-secondary school in B.C. to offer gender-affirming care coverage with Gallivan. 

The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) also gave a presentation to council, sharing the benefits of being a member and why the KSA should renew their membership. The KSA has recently been in discussions about ending their membership with CASA. 

CASA is a federally focused student advocacy organization, currently representing over 365,000 students across Canada. When a student association becomes a CASA member, the membership carries down to each student at the school, meaning all KPU students are currently members of CASA. The alliance allows all KPU students to advocate for issues they care about at the federal level. 

Sylvia Simpson is an example of such students. An Indigenous student at KPU, Simpson joined CASA’s National Indigenous Advocacy Committee (NIAC) where she was able to go to Parliament Hill and advocate about Indigenous issues. Simpson said there is no Indigenous representation for KPU in Ottawa, a gap that will never be filled if the KSA ends their CASA membership. 

“When I heard that the decision was on the table to end the relationship with CASA, I was very upset. I wanted that to not even be an issue, because this was my first year to be able to come as an Indigenous person, to speak on Indigenous Peoples issues here at Kwantlen,” Simpson said. 

“To hear that if I wanted to do it for next year, that … they won’t have that opportunity, … I think that’s not fair to the other people who are going to be in this school [longer] than any of us here to be able to have that experience.” 

Simpson also raised concerns about how the KSA will be able to represent Indigenous students if they end their CASA membership, adding that she, along with other Indigenous students, are not aware of the KSA’s council meetings, that students can attend them, or that students are able to run for a council position. 

“If the council decides not to take that step and further their relations with CASA, I come personally offended as … an Indigenous person,” Simpson said. “This is not good stuff because it goes against everything that [KPU] is fighting for, a face, a voice, a person who’s able to give Indigenous perspective on the issues that are arising here.” 

Randhawa responded to Simpson by saying the KSA is addressing Indigenous issues by working to implement a waiver to reduce association fees for Indigenous students to $1, which was passed but then repealed as it conflicted with their Bylaws. He also encouraged Simpson and other Indigenous students to run for the Indigenous student representative council position at the upcoming elections. 

As for CASA, Randhawa said council will take Simpson’s concerns into consideration. 

“We just want a break [from CASA]. … We have to go [to their conferences] four times a year, and that is time consuming. We have to travel and go there,” Randhawa said. 

“We need to focus internally first and have a strong relationship with students and the university management [about] how things work here, and then we can move out on the federal level.” 

The KSA’s Chief Returning Officer (CRO), Sameer Ismail, presented important upcoming election dates to council. The CRO conducts, organizes, and reviews elections, according to the KSA’s Regulations

Nominations will open Jan. 16 at 10:00 am and close Jan. 30 at 12:00 pm. The all candidates meeting will take place Jan. 31 at 12:00 pm, and the polling will open Feb. 14 and close Feb. 15. 

The meeting adjourned at 1:49 pm. The next council meeting is scheduled for Feb. 2 at 11:00 am in Birch 250 at the Surrey campus and online. Interested students can email info@kusa.ca to join.