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Breastfeeding incident may lead to lawsuit

Posted on February 12, 2014 by Taber Times

A Vauxhall couple is contemplating legal action after what they feel is a case of discrimination involving public breastfeeding.

Lisa Garrett and her husband Blair were in Taber provincial court on Feb. 4 tending to a minor traffic issue. While Garrett was breastfeeding her nine-month-old son Lucius-Reign in the courthouse lobby she was approached by a uniformed female sheriff who according to Garrett told her they had received a complaint.

“I’ve walked in downtown Calgary breastfeeding him uncovered. Up until (Feb. 4) when the sheriff approached me, I was completely comfortable breastfeeding in public and I’m hoping to be so again, I’m still sort of in shock in this day and age that this happened,” said Garrett.

According to Garrett, the complaint was she was breastfeeding when there was another child present in the room.

“As far as I can recall, all there was, was my (other) child (Karma-Joyce) in the room,” said Garrett. “She asked if I could cover up and I told her I can’t, my son won’t eat covered up, being premature, he panics when something is on his face. I’ve tried…..but I have a legal right to breastfeed in public.”

Simply tasked with a job to do to respond to the complaint, not wanting to trample on her rights, the sheriff informed Garrett if she could not cover up she would have to feed her child in the bathroom.

“She opened up the door and offered a chair for me. I asked her, if I bottle fed him, would I have to do it in the bathroom and I asked her if she ate in the bathroom,” noted an agitated Garrett. “She offered me a chair again and I told her I’m not feeding my son in the bathroom.”

Garrett was offered a compromise and escorted to another room which ended up being a lawyer’s room in which lawyers consult with clients. But a lawyer walked in, and Garrett thought it was not appropriate to take up that space.

Garrett finally relented, and ended up sitting on the floor to breastfeed her child in the restroom, in which the mother sobbed feeding her child as someone entered the room and proceeded to urinate in a stall.

The Garrett family is trying to raise money for a legal fund being on a fixed income in hearing how much legal counsel would cost to have this issue pursued.

Coming in contact with breastfeeding and human rights advocacy groups, it is a cause the Garrett family wants to pursue to raise awareness and hope no other families have to go through being ashamed of what is a legal right in the province.

“Right now we are in contact with some breastfeeding advocacy groups. A lawyer had said it would be $400 an hour and we didn’t know about any pro-bono lawyer or how to go about finding one who would take the case and take their fee out of the end, so we decided to fundraise,” said Garrett.

“We struggled with how are we going to do this, we didn’t want to ask for help, but it came down to we had to ask for help. We want to put an end to breastfeeding discrimination.”

A Facebook page has been set up entitled “Help Put a Stop to Breastfeeding Discrimination.”

“It tells what we plan to do if we do win a lawsuit like donate a good portion to breastfeeding advocacy groups, some to the milk bank. We considered the STARS program that took my son from Taber to Lethbridge,” said Garrett, adding a portion will also go towards their children’s education in a RESP fund.

Having been in contact with the Human Rights Commission, the family is waiting to receive the complaint papers to come in the mail along with the family having e-mailed the World Health Organization and united Nations.

“CBC has asked us if we would be willing to go on TV about this,” Said Garrett. “We’ve reached out to everybody that we could think of. i was more embarrassed for my son than I was myself. I hope something like this encourages him and sister to pursue advocacy in human rights.”

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