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Manitoba government rejects bid for human rights protection of body size

Dietitian Lindsey Mazur speaks at a rally outside the Manitoba legislature in Wiinipeg on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Steve Lambert
November 02, 2017 - 2:19 PM

WINNIPEG - The Manitoba government voted down an opposition attempt Thursday to expand human rights protection to people who are overweight or have dwarfism.

Members of the Progressive Conservative government caucus defeated a private member's bill from Liberal Jon Gerrard that would have broadened the province's human rights code to ban discrimination based on physical size or weight.

Gerrard said overweight people need protection because many have been bullied, shamed, passed over for promotions or denied health-care services.

"It's particularly problematic in the health-care system, from the literature, but it is also a concern in workplaces," Gerrard said.

People with dwarfism have also been denied equal treatment in Manitoba, he said.

Gerrard introduced his bill last year and was supported by Lindsey Mazur, a dietitian who said some overweight people she works with were being denied surgeries and other care unless they lost weight first.

Mazur said it's an important human rights issue, especially for women, which is gaining support around the world.

"I'm extremely disappointed and saddened of the lack of support for Bill 200 today, but I am even more saddened by the lives that continue to be affected by this form of discrimination," she said in a release.

Manitoba's human rights code bans discrimination on several grounds including age, gender, religion, sexual orientation and disability.

Across Canada, there have been human rights commission rulings in favour of obese persons, but they involved people considered disabled by their obesity. In 2010, the Quebec Human Rights Commission ruled a morbidly obese woman was discriminated against by her condominium association when she was denied a parking spot for the handicapped.

Gerrard said people should not have to be obese to the point of being disabled before they can be protected from discrimination. He received support from members of the NDP.

Tory legislature members criticized Gerrard's bill as too vague because the wording "physical size or weight" would be hard to enforce.

"I know I could lose a few pounds. But what are the measurements we are using?" legislature transcripts show Tory backbencher Blair Yakimoski asking when the bill was first debated last year.

Another Tory, Dennis Smook, said Gerrard's bill seemed to run counter to the province's efforts to encourage people to live healthier lifestyles and reduce obesity rates.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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