October 1 to 7 is World Breastfeeding Week. Many mothers wonder whether breastfeeding is allowed in public. The courts have already ruled on this.
Not covered in the law, but not prohibited either
In Quebec, breastfeeding in public is not covered by a specific law. But the courts have ruled that women can’t be prevented from breastfeeding in a public place such as a courtroom or a store.
This was the case a few years ago when a mother was asked to leave a furniture store because she was breastfeeding her baby. The judge ruled in favour of the woman and held that she couldn’t be stopped from nursing her baby in the store.
Discrimination based on sex
Québec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms protects people against discrimination based on sex, age or religion, for example.
In the furniture store case, the judge ruled that, since breastfeeding is something only women can do, stopping a woman from breastfeeding in a public place is discrimination based on sex.
The same argument was accepted in an earlier case where a woman was asked to stop breastfeeding in a courtroom. Here again, the judge ruled in favour of the woman. The judge stated that breastfeeding is not an exhibitionist act but rather a natural behaviour closely linked to a woman’s ability to give birth to a child.