On October 14th Willow Brooks was allegedly asked to leave a Halifax courtroom for breastfeeding her four-month-old son. Brooks told the Chronicle Herald that she immediately left after being asked by Justice Gregory Lenehan not to breastfeed in the courtroom.
A policy statement released back in 2000 by the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission confirms that breastfeeding is protected under the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act (NSHRA). The policy statement reads that breastfeeding is protected under the grounds of sex and family status contained in the NSHRA.
The policy states that women are protected from discrimination and harassment in regards to breastfeeding in a public place. Women have the right to breastfeed in public areas these include retail locations, restaurants, and theatres. This list is non-exhaustive.
A Chronicle Herald article quotes the Minister of Justice, Diana Whalen as saying, “it is a right that we have, and we stand by that, so I’m very disappointed to see anybody was denied the right to breastfeed in any public place in our province.”
Minister Whalen further stated that it is important for us to be aware that breastfeeding is a human right. The Minister of Health and Wellness, Leo Glavine, also weighed in by suggesting that we still need to make many accommodations for women who are breastfeeding.
The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission’s policy on breastfeeding states that women cannot be compelled to move to a more discrete location whilst breastfeeding.
Many international initiatives recognize the importance of breastfeeding to the health of infants. Globally we have seen a rise in the promotion of gender equality. Organizations such as the World Health Organization and UNICEF promote breastfeeding in their production of international initiatives.
The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women includes the prevention of discrimination against women on grounds of marriage and maternity. 190 countries have ratified this Convention. Canada ratified in 1981.
Ms. Brooks’ aunt, Cheryl Maloney, is the president of the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association. The Chronicle Herald reported that Maloney would be setting her niece up with legal advocacy to talk about a complaint mechanism. According to the aunt her niece was unaware that breastfeeding in public is a legally protected human right.
It has been reported that the communications director for the Nova Scotia judiciary had responded to the Chronicle Herald where he stated that efforts were being made to set up a meeting between the Justice Lenehan, Brooks, and Maloney.
This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC RightsWatch student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCLA or PBSC.