An Ontario mother claims she and a friend were asked to leave a restaurant for breastfeeding a baby, but amid the resulting storm of criticism online, the eatery insists the trouble was caused by her otherwise unruly behaviour.
Holly Treddenick says she went to The Irish Cottage Kitchen and Ale House in Wiarton, Ont., a small town about 200 kilometres northwest of Toronto on Friday. Treddenick told CBC News she was asked to leave when she started breastfeeding her baby. She then sat outside and waited for her friend Angola Murdoch to arrive.
When Murdoch arrived, Treddenick says they went back inside to clarify why Treddenick was asked to leave. They were told it was because she was breastfeeding, Treddenick said.
"Angola and I was just kicked out ... for breastfeeding Ivy," wrote Treddenick on Facebook on Friday.
"Kicked out of a restaurant for breast feeding!!!" added Murdoch.
The women claim the restaurant staff were rude and raised their voices, as did two other customers who sided with the restaurant. Treddenick told CBC News she and Murdoch also got angry but did not yell when the two men chimed in.
They have called on people to boycott the restaurant.
"I will never eat here and you shouldn't either," wrote Murdoch.
It is against the Ontario Human Rights Code to prevent a woman from breastfeeding in public.
No one can "ask you to 'cover up,' disturb you, or ask you to move to another area that is more 'discreet,'" according to the website of the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
'Misunderstanding,' restaurant says
The restaurant called the incident a "misunderstanding" on its Facebook page.
Referring to Treddenick only as "the young mother," The Irish Cottage said she "refused to order food or any beverage and even declined a free bottle of water. She exposed her baby to the hot sun on our patio while nursing."
She was not asked to leave because she was breastfeeding, but "because she was very argumentative with others who were seeking nothing more than a quiet meal."
The restaurant said it would work with local health authorities and The Young Mothers' Club to make sure it is following the rules regarding breastfeeding.
In a separate post, the restaurant's operator and manager, who said she handled the incident, spoke up.
Jacqueline Fretz apologized to anyone offended by "the verbal altercation" between the mother and other patio patrons.
She also apologized to the mother for "not supporting ... her 'long fought for' right to feed her child wherever she wishes." Fretz said she is a mother of three.
"I am sorry it escalated to a shouting match with other customers, which caused all to be asked to leave."
Fretz also did not refer to Treddenick by name but said she will not have to use the restaurant's existing "'mother-daughter' station."
Treddenick could not confirm she interacted with Fretz, as she did not recall her server's name.
Treddenick said she has not heard from restaurant management other than their public apology, but intends to respond to it.
The Irish Cottage has not responded to requests for comment.
In an subsequent post Saturday night, Treddenick refuted some of the restaurant's claims.
The Irish Cottage's Facebook page has been flooded with dozens of one-star reviews, the lowest possible rank. Its overall rank was 1.4 out of five stars by late Saturday night. It had climbed up to 1.8 by Sunday afternoon.
"Needless to say, the staff is likely regretting their actions today, and will hopefully do the mature and respectful thing and send a heartfelt apology," wrote commenter Jessica Hotson.
"I will never visit this restaurant both because of how they treated a breastfeeding mother and their response to the outrage," added Jill Ricica. "Despicable."
However, at least one reviewer defended the restaurant and gave it a five star rating for the manager's "fantastic job trying to accommodate the mother, but to no avail."
Facebook user Rick Ricksterto claimed he was present when the "belligerent young mother decided that she would just sit down on the patio with no intentions of even becoming a patron."
Other breastfeeding tales
It's far from the first time a woman has claimed to be asked to leave a public place or to be more discreet while breastfeeding.
In mid-June, a Maple Ridge, B.C., woman claimed she was told to cover up at The Frogstone Grill. Owner Todd Pratt sparked more controversy when he said there were limits to women breastfeeding at his restaurant.
"What we don't want is women that feel they need to bare it all while feeding their baby. They will be asked to cover themselves up," he said in a Facebook post. "There is already one topless bar in town and council won't approve another."
He apologized for what he said was an inappropriate comment in a subsequent Facebook post.
In March, a woman claimed a United Airlines attendant threw a blanket at her husband with orders to "help her out" while she breastfed their baby.
That same month, a Winnipeg shopping centre general manager apologized to a mother who claimed a security officer ordered her to stop breastfeeding because it was "offensive."