Mom told to breastfeed baby in washroom gets apology

A woman cannot be discriminated against because she is pregnant, may become pregnant or gave birth, and includes breastfeeding mothers.
A woman cannot be discriminated against because she is pregnant, may become pregnant or gave birth, and includes breastfeeding mothers. (Photo: iStock)

Do women in Ontario have the right to breastfeed in public? According to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, yes, they do.

A Thornhill, Ont. community centre should have known the law and enlightened its staff about it, especially if they planned to have kids and caregiver classes that would include breastfeeding mothers.

A woman who was in just such a class, proceeded to breastfeed her daughter when her daughter became hungry.

Another woman in the class was not comfortable with her feeding her child during the class and a staff member asked the mother to go to the bathroom to breastfeed her daughter. She refused and a second staff member approached her and asked that she move to the bathroom. When she asked what policy dictated that she couldn’t breastfeed in the class the staff member said that it was the “policy of the classroom.”

After the debacle the woman went home and proceeded to file complaints with the city of Vaughan as well as the community centre. She also decided to file a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

What does the law say about breastfeeding mothers?

A person cannot be discriminated against due to family status, which includes a parent and child relationship. To do so is to violate the Human Rights Code of Ontario.

This means a woman cannot be discriminated against because she is pregnant, may become pregnant or gave birth. This includes breastfeeding mothers.

The OHRC goes on to explain “You have rights as a breastfeeding mother, including the right to breastfeed a child in a public area. No one should prevent you from breastfeeding your child simply because you are in a public area. They should not ask you to “cover up,” disturb you, or ask you to move to another area that is more “discreet.”

After she filed the complaint, the city of Vaughan apologized and issued a statement saying that they’re “taking this opportunity to provide additional coaching to staff about policies.”

The mother said she brought the incident to public attention, because she wanted to stand up for her right to breastfeed in public.

It’s sad that in 2016 women still have to fight for their right to breastfeed in public, even though it’s perfectly legal to do so.

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