March 25, 2015 10:48 am
Updated: March 25, 2015 5:06 pm

Sask. mother speaks out after public shaming for breastfeeding

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Watch above: A Saskatchewan mother, breastfeeding her child in a restaurant, says she was told to cover up. Wendy Winiewski asks her about the experience and finds out what the rules are.

SASKATOON – A Saskatchewan mother is sounding off after an incident Monday where she feels she was publicly shamed, humiliated, and had her human rights violated. She fed her hungry baby in public.

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“I pulled my breast out of the top of my shirt and she latched on and was nursing quietly,” Jennifer Willems explains. While at her home in Vonda, she completes the process several times, continuing to converse naturally.

On Monday, Willems, her nine-year-old daughter, three-year-old son and nine-month-old baby, Dahlia met some friends for lunch at Cora restaurant at Preston Crossing in Saskatoon.

During the meal, Dahlia became hungry and Willems began to feed her in the restaurant. That’s when Willems says her server asked her to cover up, and eventually, the restaurant manager did as well.

“I let her know it was actually a violation of my human rights and Dahlia’s human rights as well,” said Willems. “This went back and forth for at least 10 minutes,” she said in reference to the argument.

READ MORE: B.C. mom says she was shamed for breastfeeding on United Airlines flight

Willems is filing a complaint with the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission (SHRC). Chief Commissioner David Arnot said the most recent breastfeeding complaint was in 2012. A mom from Watrous, Sask., who breastfed in a restaurant, won that battle.

“We want to see the public educated about this issue,” said Arnot. “It’s been the law of Saskatchewan more or less for 41 years. It shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody.”

Cora’s head office in Montreal expects all franchises to comply with company policy.

“It’s unacceptable from our standpoint what took place,” said Cora’s Director of Legal Affairs Benoit Morel. “Our organization, if you don’t know, was founded by a single mother with three kids, three young kids. We’re very sensitive to women’s issues and women’s rights.”

Since the incident, the owner of Cora’s at Preston Crossing has apologized on the Cora Saskatoon Facebook page.

“As one of the owner’s of Cora Preston Crossing, I want to state publicly that we support a woman’s right to breastfeed at our restaurant.

Without question, we recognize that breasfeeding is a human right and women should not in anyway feel restricted in exercising this right in any way. It is not just because it’s the law for all businesses… but because it is right.” – Cora Saskatoon

The owner has also contacted Willems directly to apologize on behalf of the staff.

Willems believes the shaming could cause some to stop nursing in public and says it’s damning to the mother-baby relationship. Willems doesn’t cover to nurse for two reasons.

“It’s distracting for a baby to be covered. It’s hot. It’s really difficult to use a cover to nurse. I’ve breast fed three babies and I have trouble getting situated underneath of a blanket,” she said.

“I also don’t cover to nurse because there’s no reason to.”

“As long as my breast is feeding a baby, it’s allowed” It’s a message Willems wants heard loud and clear for mothers and restaurant owners alike. Willems hopes the result of the complaint filed with the SHRC is an education component on breastfeeding laws for Cora employees.

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