'There's too much fat-shaming': Group says weight-based discrimination impacts health

A forum was held in Winnipeg Monday night to discuss the negative impacts of weight-based bias and discrimination on people’s health and well-being.

Advocates say bias surrounding obesity puts people at risk

Obesity Canada held an event Monday night to discuss obesity. Advocates spoke about the causes, possible solutions, and the stigma that surrounds it. (Travis Golby/CBC)

A forum was held in Winnipeg Monday night to discuss the negative impacts of weight-based bias and discrimination on people's health and well-being.

Obesity Canada invited people to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights to talk about how weight-based discrimination affects people's basic human rights.

"There's evidence showing that there is weight bias and discrimination when it comes to educational settings, when it comes to employment, and unfortunately, when it comes to accessing health care," said Dr. Arya Sharma, with Obesity Canada.

Sharma said 7 million Canadians are living with obesity but many more are at risk of developing it at some point in their lives.

He said the event was aimed to give people a better understanding of obesity, its causes, and some of the possible solutions.

"A lot of people think obesity is simply about eating healthy and moving more, when in fact the research shows obesity is far more complicated than that," he said.

Dr. Arya Sharma said there are many causes of obesity and therefore, not just one single solution. (Travis Golby/CBC)

Manitoba Liberal MLA Jon Gerrard was at the event. 

He's re-introduced a private member's bill that would expand the province's human rights code to ban discrimination based on physical size or weight.

"I brought it back the third time, we're hoping the third time is lucky," said Gerrard.

Last year the Tories defeated the bill saying the wording "physical size or weight" was too vague, and that the bill would be hard to enforce.

Bill 216 will be debated at its second reading in the legislature on Oct 25.

"This is really a bill for people who are obese, but it's also a bill for people who are large in size, or small in size," said Gerrard.

Liberal MLW, Jon Gerrard, has re-introduced a private members bill for the third time that would see a person's size and weight be added to the province's human rights code to prevent discrimination. (Travis Golby)

The bill would also protect Manitobans living with dwarfism.

Gerrard said society's views on obesity make it hard for those who are overweight to access services like health care.

"There is too much what we call fat-shaming," he said.

"And fat-shaming, which people may do sometimes with the intent of trying to get people to lose weight, unfortunately has adverse health effects on people who are obese."