Montreal woman wants weight discrimination to be added to Quebec charter

Edith Bernier is asking elected officials to amend article 10 of the Quebec charter of rights and freedoms to acknowledge discrimination based on a person’s physical appearance, including their weight and size.

Fatphobia is a systemic issue in the province, says Edith Bernier

Edith Bernier, who started a website that gives information on fatphobia, started the petition because she says it's a systemic issue. (Laura Marchand/CBC)

A Montreal woman is asking the National Assembly to take a stand against a different kind of discrimination: fatphobia.

Edith Bernier is asking elected officials to amend article 10 of Quebec's Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms,  to acknowledge discrimination based on a person's physical appearance, including their weight and size.

The charter says one cannot discriminated based on certain physical characteristics, such as race, sex, gender identity or sexual orientation. Body weight and other physical attributes are not included.

But it's a systemic problem that should be properly addressed, said Edith Bernier, who runs, a website that shares information on fatphobia.

"[Larger people] who are not as comfortable in their own skin as some others may be ... might realize, if their size is now part of legal discrimination, that maybe they're not the problem," Bernier said. "That maybe the system could be."

Bernier's submitted a petition on the National Assembly website, sponsored by Québec Solidaire co-spokesperson Manon Massé. 

It says that weight discrimination is rooted in the belief that body weight is the result of personal choices, despite "science demonstrating the contrary."

That discrimination against obese individuals could lead to social isolation and psychological problems, and also contribute to their access to health care, it says.

"For example, I would show up to the doctor with an ear infection, and they say 'well lose weight, it's going to fix everything,'" she said.

Bernier said that similar laws already exist in other jurisdictions, such as the state of Michigan.

Since the petition went live on Monday, Bernier said she's already received significant backlash online.

"People come in [on social media] saying, 'we're going to take you seriously when you lose weight,'" she said. "So it demonstrates how people are not taking fat people seriously sometimes."

The petition is available on the National Assembly website and runs until Feb. 25, 2020.


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