Last week marked a disappointing moment in the fight against obesity stigma in Canada. Manitoba Bill 416, which was intended to amend the Human Rights Code to include ‘physical size or weight’, was voted down (6 to 4).
As noted in Obesity Canada’s response to this disappointing outcome,
Obesity has long been misunderstood, trivialized and stigmatized as a simple “lifestyle” issue that can be effectively addressed by the mantra of “eat-less-move-more”. This simplistic view of obesity disregards both the lived experience of persons with obesity as well as the vast body of scientific evidence showing that, like other chronic diseases, obesity is a heterogeneous condition resulting from the complex interaction of a multitude of socio-psycho-biological factors that promote excessive weight gain and ultimately impair health.
In addition to their condition being trivialized as a simple “lifestyle” problem, people living with obesity face widespread discrimination – on par with other forms of discrimination such as racism or homophobia. Moreover, obesity is the number-one reason for teasing and bullying in childhood.
Weight discrimination manifests across multiple settings such as healthcare, employment and education, the consequence of which are far-reaching.
How are we putting up with this, or any, kind of discrimination in our society? Can you imagine if this bill was voted down but the topic of discrimination was different – consider gender, ethnicity, or disability – it would be categorically unacceptable. In fact, it would be unthinkable that any province would even need to pass a bill because the Canadian Human Rights Act already stands against such forms of discrimination.
We as a society need to stand together to eliminate obesity stigma – join Obesity Canada as a public supporter or professional member as one of the most energetic voices in this journey!
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