CAMH reaches settlement with former head of gender identity clinic

Canada’s largest mental health centre has apologized to one of its former psychologists and said it will pay him more than half a million dollars years after it published a report that erroneously described the doctor’s interactions with patients.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health released a statement acknowledging that there were errors in an external review of its Gender Identity Clinic, which also detailed the practices of the head of the clinic at the time, Dr. Kenneth Zucker.

“The purpose of the review was to identify best practices and determine how CAMH can best serve children and adolescents with gender dysphoria and their families. The review was not intended to examine Dr. Zucker’s behaviour or specific clinical practices,” said the statement.

The Toronto-based centre said the report wrongly stated that Zucker referred to a patient as “hairy little vermin” among other errors. It noted the report was made public without Zucker’s review or comment.

CAMH apologizes to Dr. Zucker

“CAMH apologizes without reservation to Dr. Zucker for the flaws in the process that led to errors in the report not being discovered and has entered into a settlement with Dr. Zucker that includes a financial payment to him,” the statement said.

According to the settlement documents, the centre will pay him $586,000 in damages, legal fees and interest.

“He is very happy … to have vindication of his reputation in the form of both financial and non-financial terms,” said Zucker’s lawyer, John Adair.

He said his client is also pleased the settlement is not confidential because it “was quite important” to Zucker that there was “transparency and accountability.”

The review, which was completed in 2015, was sparked by criticisms that the clinic was practising conversion therapy on transgender young people.

The independent reviewers said in their report that they were unable to ascertain whether the clinic was in fact practising reparative therapy, but that the clinic focused on intensive assessment and treatment, while current practice favours watchful waiting, and educating and supporting parents to accept a child’s gender expression.

After the review was published, CAMH announced it was “winding down” the clinic’s services and that Zucker was no longer with the organization.

Adair said CAMH “fired” Zucker from his role as head of the clinic, which he led for about 35 years. He said the centre paid Zucker two years of severance, which was independent of the amount paid in the settlement.

In January 2016, Zucker filed a lawsuit against CAMH for defamation and wrongful dismissal.

“CAMH stands by its decision to close the child and youth gender identity clinic following an external review which concluded the clinic was not meeting the needs of gender expansive and trans children and their families,” the centre said in a statement on Sunday.

“We believe our modernized approach to delivering services to youth better supports diverse patients through best practice and timely care.”

CAMH continues to operate a gender identity clinic for adults, aimed at people over 18 “who wish to explore issues related to their gender identity.”

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