An Edmonton woman is spearheading a push to change the Alberta Human Rights Act to prevent discrimination against size.
Connie Levitsky and the Canadian Obesity Network have launched a petition asking the province to add size and appearance as protected grounds under human rights.
They say people who are overweight often face discrimination at school, work and even at the doctor’s office.
“I do struggle with depression and anxiety,” Levitsky said. “I also have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and I’ve been told all three of those conditions will go away if I lose weight.”
There are similar petitions in Ontario, B.C. and Manitoba. It’s all part of a national #SizeismSUCKS campaign created by Toronto activist Jill Andrew.
Levitsky is also an advocate with the Health at Every Size Movement (HAES).
Last fall, she created a social media campaign with the obesity network called the Weight of Living, inspired by Humans of New York. Photos of overweight and obese Canadians were posted on the obesity network’s Facebook page, along with their personal story.
However, the photos were not shared in the context of “I want to lose weight” or “this is the before picture.” Instead, the posts celebrated the individuals for exactly who they are.
“One of the issues you commonly have in the health care system is that large patients sometimes get refused care because of their size,” said Dr. Arya Sharma, the scientific director with the Canadian Obesity Network, said.
Sharma said telling a patient to lose 20 pounds before they can have a hip or knee replacement, for example, is unfair.
“It might, in fact, be impossible for someone who has severe knee or joint pain – who is unable to exercise, unable to sleep because of the pain – to actually lose that kind of weight, which really means essentially that they get denied treatment.”
According to Yale University, 50 per cent of doctors felt obese patients were “awkward” and “weak-willed.”
To learn more about the size discrimination petition, click here.
Part of it reads:
“In Alberta, human rights are protected by the Alberta Human Rights Act. Albertans are protected on 13 grounds (race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, religious beliefs, gender, physical disability, mental disability, age, sexual orientation, family status, and status of income) in five different areas (employment, tenancy, goods and services, publications and notices, and membership in trade unions).
“Unfortunately, appearance-based discrimination is not a protected ground under the Act. Adding appearance-based discrimination to the Alberta Human Rights Act is not just about protecting those who are fat. Protection against physical appearance discrimination means no one can lose their job or be denied housing because of body modifications, because of alopecia, scars, height, and many other differences that make us unique.”
“The word ‘fat’ isn’t our enemy,” Levitsky wrote. “Size and physical appearance discrimination is.”
With files from Su-Ling Goh, Global News