Making weight discrimination illegal: Activist seeks changes to human rights code
Karolyn Coorsh, CTVNews.ca
Published Thursday, April 14, 2016 9:28AM EDT
In Canada, there are few laws that prevent employers from discriminating based on a person’s body size or weight.
Toronto activist Jill Andrew has made it her mission to change that.
Andrew, co-founder of Body Confidence Canada Awards and co-creator of the fashion blog “Fat in the City,” is scheduled to meet with the Ontario Human Rights Commissioner next week to discuss possible changes to the Ontario Human Rights Code. Andrew aims to make it illegal to discriminate against a person due to their weight, size or body shape.
All her life, Andrew has had experiences where she’s been discriminated against “or laughed at” whether it be due to her size, skin colour, or hair, she said.
“Something was always not right, according to certain people’s perspectives, ” Andrew said in an interview on CTV Canada AM Thursday. “So very early on, I learned that many of us are judged based on a difference, or what people perceive to be different.”
Andrew was at a women’s empowerment event in her early 20s when she suggested to a politician that empowerment should include body shape, weight and size.
“That politician said, ‘Fat people need to diet,’” Andrew said.
There is a societal assumption that size or body weight is something that “we can just change overnight,” Andrew said.
“There’s this assumption that if you eat less, or if you do two more hours on the treadmill, we’ll all be thin,” she said. “And the reality is, our biology dictates the size of our body. We don’t ask a taller person to cut themselves off at the knee, so they become shorter.”
Andrew said she speaks on behalf of a community of people who due to body size, have not had employment opportunities, have been discriminated against in school settings or are afraid to visit their healthcare providers for the “fear of being fat-shamed.”
And she added that while some physicians understand that weight isn’t a choice, the argument really isn’t about whether it’s an individual’s choice to be fat or not.
“The argument is, we deserve human rights,” she said. “We don’t deserve to be discriminated against in a place of employment or finding housing.
“We shouldn’t have subjective limitations placed on us.”