My aunt and uncle from British Columbia are here for a visit with Eryn. She’s loving all of the attention that the great-relatives are showering on her. She’ll be right spoilt by the end of the week.

Tonight over dinner we were talking about maternity leave and just how lucky Eryn is to have me home for 1.5 years.

Then my aunt told us

I had to go back after 6 weeks you know. And was fired on my first day back at work. The director at BC Hydro pulled me in to his office and asked if I was still breastfeeding. I didn’t want to lie, so I said “yes”. He didn’t even blink. He just said, “well I guess your fired then.”

It was 1965. There were no labour laws protecting the rights of breastfeeding moms. I mean, we weren’t even allowed to wear pants. So I marched right back to my desk and announced to the office that I was going home to take care of my son and that I was fired for saying the word ‘breast’ in public. I didn’t work full time for another 7 years.

When I tried to find out if breastfeeding has been added to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (apparently not)*, I came across the following article in the Hamilton Spectator. Last week, after visiting her critically ill father in law, Coleen Frank, her husband and children stopped in to McDonalds to grab a bite to eat.  When her 5 week old son woke up hungry, she took him and her two-year old daughter into the play area, turned her back to the restaurant and discretely fed her son while watching her daughter play.  A female MANAGER then came up to her, told her that what she was doing was making customers uncomfortable, was also making her uncomfortable and that, “it would be a better idea if he stopped (nursing).”

“I told her ‘This is a restaurant and my child is having his dinner,'” says Frank who finished feeding the baby before leaving. “I wasn’t going to feed him in the car and I wasn’t going to make him wait.

McDonald’s Ontario communications office has responded by apologising to the family and confirms that it is McDonald’s policy to allow mothers to breastfeed in their restaurants.

The article quotes Elisabeth Sterken, executive director of the Infant Feeding Action Coalition Canada as saying that these stories are becoming commonplace as more women turn to breastfeeding to nourish their babies.

Sterken noted that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms* forbids discrimination on the basis of gender and since only women can breastfeed, they have a right do so anywhere and any time.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission also guarantees the right to breastfeed and says women cannot be disturbed, asked to cover up or ordered to move to another area.

Almost two years ago in York Region, “angry lactivists” tried to stage a nurse-in at a public pool when a mother was asked to not feed her baby while swimming. Last year a woman in British Columbia was asked to stop breastfeeding while shopping in WALMART.

Other Canadian cities permit breastfeeding moms to nurse their babies in public pools — but not Ontario apparently.

Breastfeeding in public is an ongoing issue and I think it’s time the government acknowledged this formally. We have so many coalitions, commissions and Public Health offices lobbying for a pro-breastfeeding Ontario, so I’m shocked to hear that these incidents continue.

Especially since women can walk around topless.  Since 1996.

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