Friday April 29, 2016

Should it be illegal to discriminate based on body size?

Jill Andrew, Toronto body image advocate, wants 'size' added to the list of protected classes under the Ontario Human Rights Code

Jill Andrew, Toronto body image advocate, wants 'size' added to the list of protected classes under the Ontario Human Rights Code (Jill Andrew)

Listen 8:42

In Canada, you can't fire someone for being gay, refuse to rent an apartment to someone because they're disabled, or pay someone less because they're not married.

Across Canada, different provinces each have their own list of protected classes, which are legally protected from discrimination.

In Ontario, one woman wants 'body size' added to that list.

Jill Andrew is a body image advocate, founder of Ontario's Body Confidence Canada Awards, and one of the people behind the plus-size fashion blog Fat in the City.

She's on a campaign to convince Ontario politicians to amend the Human Rights Code, to include discrimination against people who have large or small bodies. Jill identifies as "fat" and says she's faced discrimination while applying for jobs, and hears the same from others. 

We know that size discrimination, particularly fat discrimination, is a real thing. It's a definite real thing. - Jill Andrew

Jill says discrimination appears in the usual places, such as employment and housing. She also says there's one unexpected source, medical professionals. She says "fat" people receive discriminatory treatment from doctors. 

I've done interviews with people who identify as fat, as obese, as plus sized, as big boned... and across the board, there were conversations about feeling terrible to go into their doctor's office. They'd go in with a cold and be told to lose weight.   - Jill Andrew

Jill has met with the Ontario Human Rights Commission to discuss the issue, however the Commission can't make changes on its own. Jill plans to lobby MPPs to change the law. She says, if "body size" were included, people would be more comfortable challenging discrimination. She says she was once told she was too fat for a job, and wished she had a way to push back.

I might have at least had the option of saying "you know what... I wouldn't want to have to discuss the Ontario Human Rights Code with you." - Jill Andrew

Click the play button above to hear the full interview