Jon Gerrard, Manitoba Liberal, Wants Obesity Protected Under Human Rights Code

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WINNIPEG — A Manitoba politician wants obese people protected from discrimination under the province's human rights code.

Jon Gerrard, one of only three Liberal legislature members, has introduced a private member's bill to forbid discrimination based on people's "physical size and weight."

The code already forbids discrimination on other grounds such as sex, religion and disability.

jon gerrard
Manitoba MLA Dr. Jon Gerrard speaks to the media in Winnipeg on Sept. 23, 2011. (Photo: Trevor Hagan/CP)

Gerrard says no other jurisdiction in Canada prevents discrimination against obese persons, and Manitoba should lead the way.

He says his bill was prompted, in part, by a man who alleges he was refused proper medical treatment because of his size.

Bills from opposition members rarely become law, but the Progressive Conservative government says it will take a look at Gerrard's idea.

"Obesity is a serious health concern that affects a significant segment of our population," Amy McGuinness, press secretary to Justice Minister Heather Stefanson, wrote in an email Thursday.

Precedent for such potential changes

"Our government is currently reviewing the implications of the bill."

There have been human rights commission rulings in favour of obese people, but the cases have involved people who were considered disabled by their obesity and they were protected under the disability category.

In 2010, the Quebec Human Rights Commission ruled a morbidly obese woman was discriminated against by her condominium association for denying her a handicapped parking spot.

Gerrard says obese people can suffer discrimination in the workplace, in housing and other areas. And he has read about many concerns in the health care system from obese people "who should have had screening tests but didn't, who should have had immunizations but didn't, who didn't get the kind of care they should have got," he said.

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