The first week of August is World Breastfeeding Week. In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, it's important to discuss the current state of breastfeeding laws in Canada. If you feel like your right to breastfeed your child has been jeopardized (or even if it hasn't yet), you need to know the laws and what you can do about any issues you might face.
Breastfeeding Rates in Canada
Nearly 90% of Canadian mothers breastfeed immediately after birth. One in four mothers in Canada still breastfed their babies at six months old. While the breastfeeding rates are higher than those in the United States, they're comparatively low to countries like Norway and Australia, which hover just below 100%. Women need to feel comfortable nursing in public and pumping when they return to work in order for the rates to rise.
Breastfeeding Laws in Canada
The Human Rights Code is a code in Canada that protects discrimination based on gender. The code protects women from being discriminated against because they are pregnant, may become pregnant, or had a baby. Unfortunately, Only Ontario and British Columbia have laws that protect breastfeeding women specifically.
These specific breastfeeding laws give women the right to breastfeed in public. A woman can breastfeed their child in any public area in which they are permitted themselves. Not only is it legal, but it is illegal to ask a woman to stop. No one can ask you to go somewhere else or even to cover up.
If someone does harass you about breastfeeding in public, you can contract the Human Rights Commission and make a formal complaint. The Human Rights Code protects you no matter which province you are in. However, there isn't much you can do beyond that, unless you are in Ontario or BC. In Ontario or BC, you can pursue a lawsuit. If there are businesses that are continually harassing breastfeeding woman on their property, it's important to hold them accountable for their actions. Take notes about the incidents, and try to find other women who are having an issue. Write down names of specific employees who have harassed you and the other women, and you could have a serious lawsuit on your hands. A lawyer will be able to give you specific details about everything you need, and how to move forward with your lawsuit.
Breastfeeding and the Workplace
Upon returning to work, you will need to pump throughout the day if you're still breastfeeding. No employer is allowed to refuse to hire you, lay you off, or fire you because you are breastfeeding your child. As for the Human Rights Code, workplaces must support your decision to breastfeed. Your work is required to accommodate your need to pump breast milk, and they are not allowed to take away your regular meal breaks.
You're not required to make up the time you missed working while pumping unless your employer can prove that your time missed causes undue hardship. For example, if you have a job that requires you to finish a certain task by a deadline, you may be required to stay later to make your deadline if pumping keeps you from finishing.
If you are returning soon from maternity leave, do what you can to make that transition easier for you and your employer. Come up with a plan and discuss it with your employer ahead of time. Make sure your boss knows what you need, so there is no confusion when it comes to accommodations. If your employer refuses to meet your needs or fires you, contact a workplace injury or personal injury lawyer.
Breastfeeding women are trying to do what is best for their baby and should not be discriminated for it. Know your rights, and don't hesitate to speak to a lawyer if someone is trying to impede on these rights. If you are looking for a lawyer, you can check out the site here.