'This is a human rights issue': Local dietitian creates campaign against weight stigma

When it comes to community support against sizeism, dietitian Lindsey Mazur says size matters.

Manitobans Against Weight Discrimination shows support for Bill 207

Registered dietitian Lindsey Mazur created Manitobans Against Weight Stigma to support Bill 207. (Supplied)

In the fight against sizeism, Lindsey Mazur says every body is affected.

"This is a human rights issue. If it doesn't affect you directly, it's definitely affected someone you know," the Manitoba registered dietitian said.

That's why Mazur created the growing awareness campaign Manitobans Against Weight Stigma. Its main purpose is to gather community support for Bill 207.

Liberal MLA for River Heights Jon Gerrard introduced the bill in October. It's an amendment to the Manitoba Human Rights Code that would protect people from discrimination based on their physical weight and size.

"Day in and day out, people in our world use language to describe those who are overweight which would never be acceptable to describe individuals in a racial, ethnic group or gender specific way, and this language is harmful," Gerrard wrote in an e-mail to CBC News.

"It's time to move Manitoba to a place where we will no longer accept bias and discrimination based on physical size."

'Respectful health care interactions'

Mazur said the amendment would remind employers and health-care workers to examine their own prejudices. In her work as a dietitian, she said she's had clients share experiences where they've gone to clinics for wrist pain and ended up getting lectured for their weight.

"This makes them fearful to go back again for other preventative health checkups for fear of being talked down to or lectured and in some cases bullied," Mazur said.

If the bill passes, Manitoba would be the first Canadian province to have weight stigma included in its Human Rights Code. There's a similar movement going on in Ontario, but the group there is currently trying to gather government support.

Mazur said this isn't about shaming health-care professionals, but about "creating a respectful health-care interaction" for all Manitoba patients and clients. 

A spokesperson from Gerrard's office said Bill 207 didn't make it to a second reading, but will be re-introduced once the legislative assembly resumes next week.

Manitoba Minister of Health Kelvin Goertzen wasn't available for comment on the matter.

In the meantime, Mazur encourages people to follow Manitobans Against Weight Stigma on Twitter and Facebook. A rally in support of the bill will be held on the legislative grounds on Nov. 23 between noon and 1:30 p.m.