A Montreal mother says she was appalled and embarrassed after being told by an Eaton Center security guard to stop breastfeeding her baby or have to leave.
Isabelle Côté says she was at the mall on Sainte-Catherine Street last weekend when four-month-old Leopold got hungry, so she sat on a bench to feed him.
“The security guard came up to me and told me that I was not allowed to breastfeed in that particular location. I was not allowed to breastfeed in public,” she told CTV News. “I asked her why, and then she said, ‘It’s because it’s a private act.’ It’s something I shouldn’t do in public.”
The former lawyer and current psychiatry resident at McGill University says she asked to speak to a supervisor, who reiterated the message: please stop, go to the nursing room or leave the premises.
“It’s still complicated, isn’t it? Like when baby’s hungry, he’s hungry here and right now and then if you stop in the middle of his meal, he’s going to get mad, he’s going to cry and it’s going to cause this whole crisis and I just didn’t want to not that,” Côté said.
She says it was intimidating having two people staring at her while she was breastfeeding her baby, so as quickly as she could, she packed up her things and left.
“When we breastfeed, you might see a nipple for two seconds. So by the time the baby latches and then you’re pretty much covered,” she points out. “You’re never as exposed as those ads for bikinis or perfumes…However, if you’re trying to feed your baby, it’s something different.”
Côté emphasizes this discrepancy between what society will and will not accept to change.
“It’s considered gender discrimination and it shouldn’t happen,” she said, pointing out that women have a constitutional right to feed their children. “It was decided a long time ago and I was able to breastfeed elsewhere, in other countries, and it was not a problem.”
His partner, Wayne Choi says he was stunned to hear what had happened.
“If I was eating a sandwich at the mall, they wouldn’t be like, ‘Oh, you should be eating sandwiches in this dining hall. It doesn’t make sense,'” he points out. should be able to eat wherever he wants.”
Eaton Center property manager JLL insists the incident was an “isolated incident” and says he spoke to his administrative and support staff to reiterate his policies on breastfeeding in common areas.
“The Montreal Eaton Center encourages breastfeeding in all of its common areas, as prescribed by the Quebec and Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” said Melyssa Houle, Director of JLL. “We are doing everything we can to ensure that such a situation does not happen again.”
JLL notes that the mall also offers private breastfeeding rooms “for those who prefer to breastfeed in a quieter location.”
Ivanhoé Cambridge, owner of the Eaton Centre, adds that she is also sorry about the situation.
“As owner of the Montreal Eaton Centre, Ivanhoé Cambridge remains committed to respecting and encouraging breastfeeding in all common areas of its commercial properties,” said Julie Bourgon, Head of Retail, Canada at Ivanhoé Cambridge.
A group of Montreal mothers have since held a breastfeeding sit-in at the mall, which is scheduled to take place at 2 p.m. Sunday.
Eaton Center officials are aware of the event, according to Côté and Choi, and have offered their support to mothers attending.