Mall manager apologizes to Winnipeg mom shamed for breastfeeding

A Winnipeg mother is demanding an apology after a security officer at Portage Place Shopping Centre ordered her to stop breastfeeding her baby because it was "offensive."

Winnipeg mom shamed for breastfeeding. CBC's Meagan Fiddler reports.

8 years ago
Duration 2:07
A Winnipeg mother who said a security officer at a downtown mall ordered her to stop breastfeeding because it was "offensive" has received an apology.

A Winnipeg mother who said a security officer at a downtown mall ordered her to stop breastfeeding because it was "offensive" has received an apology.

Dave Stone, the general manager at Portage Place Shopping Centre, sent an email to Tara Léger on Tuesday — the day after her story appeared on CBC News.

Tara Léger had demanded an apology from Portage Place Shopping Centre after a security guard told her that breastfeeding her baby in a quiet area of the mall was 'offensive.' (Wendy Buelow/CBC)
The general manager for Portage Place Shopping Centre emailed this message to Tara Léger. (Facebook)
In the email, Stone says the comments from the security officer are "no way acceptable from my perspective." He promised to address it promptly with the security manager and ensure guards have a better understanding "of a woman's right to feed her child."

Léger said she was walking through Portage Place on Monday when her eight-month-old baby, Zoe, started to fuss. 

Léger said she knew there was a nursing room located on another floor in the mall, but it requires a key from mall administration, which was far from where she was in the building. So she sat in a quiet area to feed her daughter, who by this time was screaming to be fed.

That's when a plain-clothed man with a radio walked up to her and said what she was doing was "offensive."

She told him "I'm OK where I am, but he insisted she move to the "family washroom."

Léger insists she was within her rights to feed the child where she was. 

"Whether it's a bottle feed, a breast, whatever it is, you need to feed your baby," she told CBC News. "It's your right to choose and I don't think anyone should be standing in your way."

Léger posted her story on Facebook and received a lot of supportive comments.

Breastfeeding protected by Charter of Rights; support group

Advocates for mothers who breastfeed say the incident is disappointing. 

"You would think in 2015, people would understand the importance of breastfeeding and how good it is for babies," said Sandi Fraser of La Leche League Canada. "And [this] made me really disappointed."

Fraser said incidents like Léger's don't happen often but it does point to the need for more awareness about women's rights to take care of their children as they see fit. 

"[Léger] wasn't doing anything wrong," Fraser said. "What she was doing was natural [and] normal, [and] is protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms."

A spokeswoman for the Manitoba Human Rights Commission said Léger could file a rights complaint if she wanted.

Patricia Knipe couldn't comment on Léger's situation in particular, but provided the following information:

"It is contrary to The Code to discriminate, without reasonable cause, against a nursing mother because she is breastfeeding her child in a public area. While service providers may provide a quiet, comfortable area for the use of nursing mothers, nursing mothers who are told to move to another place without reasonable cause may file a human rights complaint."

Tara Léger's original Facebook posting

Today while downtown at Portage Place Shopping Ctr, I experienced the worst public shaming, ever experienced while feeding my baby.

We were downtown to pick up tickets from the MTS centre box office. I had my 2 children in tow, so I chose to park in the underground parking at Portage Place and walk the sky walk to the MTS centre.

While on our way back to the car, my 8 month old baby started to fuss. I have had to over come some 'humility' hurdles with this child, as she will not nurse while covered, she will now have a full out fit if I even try. But then again, who wants to eat with a blanket over their face.

I found a quiet hallway near an elevator to feed her, in case she wouldn't nurse and we needed a quick escape. I did not want to use the family room for a number of reasons. Mostly because I would have had to back track to the other side of the mall, obtain a key from an office, take an elevator up to another floor all to feed my hungry screaming baby, that should be reason enough.

While sitting quietly on the bench feeding my baby, I was approached by a gentleman with a radio. I assume this gentleman worked for the mall, as the hallway ended with a security office and he was carrying a radio. He TOLD me I needed to go to the family washroom, I stated I was well within my right to feed my baby right there and thanked him for the offer.

He then proceeded to tell me I was being offensive, I again said I was well within my right to feed my baby and again thanked him. I was trying not to be rude, I just wanted him to leave me alone. He then again told me I was being offensive to others and that I was on public property and needed to use the family washroom.

I told him that I was fine where I was and that he needed to leave me alone. He proceeded to do this while a group of people were loading on to the elevator, making me feel cornered and embarrassed. I was done feeding my baby moments after he left, so we then left.

I have experienced looks while feeding my baby, but I have never been publicly shamed for it. Shame on you sir, for making a woman feel ashamed to feed her baby, think long and hard about that, you made someone feel ASHAMED for FEEDING a baby.


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