Manitoba

Winnipeg parents plan human rights complaint over NHL policy requiring ticket for baby

A Winnipeg couple say they will file a human rights complaint against the NHL for a policy requiring their breastfeeding baby to have a full-price ticket to the upcoming Heritage Classic, even after the league apologized and offered them free tickets.

Clifford Anderson says NHL shouldn't be 'making families pay more' for breastfeeding infants

Clifford Anderson and Shalyn Meady say the NHL policy that requires them to purchase a ticket for their six-month-old son, William, is absurd. (CBC)

A Winnipeg couple say they will file a human rights complaint against the NHL for a policy requiring their breastfeeding baby to have a full-price ticket to the upcoming Heritage Classic, even after the league apologized and offered them free tickets.

Clifford Anderson and Shalyn Meady went public with their concerns earlier this week, after learning they would have to spend an extra $400 for their six-month-old son, William, to attend the 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg next month.

The couple said they were told by the league that William, who is not old enough to sit upright without help, has to have his own seat for safety reasons.

On Thursday, Anderson told CBC News that the NHL's vice-president of marketing contacted him to offer two complimentary tickets.

"They were very polite and apologized for the fact that we were unhappy with the situation and offered us tickets, two tickets to the Heritage Classic," he said.

However, he said there were two catches — the couple could not publicize the ticket offer if they accepted it, and he was told similar arrangements would not be offered to other families with young children.

Anderson said they declined the league's offer. Instead, he and Meady want the NHL to change its policy so families can bring children under the age of two to the Heritage Classic game without tickets.

"You don't put the burden of safety on making families pay more for their children," Anderson said.

"That just doesn't seem appropriate and … it's inconsistent sort of with the value systems of those franchises, and I'd like to see something changed in time for the games."

Anderson said he and Meady plan to file a complaint with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission in the coming weeks. The commission hears complaints alleging a lack or reasonable accommodation or discrimination based on one or more characteristics defined by the province's human rights code, but first has to determine whether it even has the jurisdiction to address the complaint.

The couple had purchased four ticket packages for the Heritage Classic game and alumni game for $800, for themselves and for Anderson's sister and a friend. However, Anderson and Meady said they didn't realize they also had to buy a ticket for William.

Meady said she is exclusively breastfeeding William and if he cannot attend, she can't go either.

An NHL policy that requires a six-month-old baby to have a ticket for a seat he can't sit in is "absurd," a Winnipeg couple says. 0:54

Everyone needs a ticket, says league

In an email to CBC News, an NHL spokesperson said its policy has always been that every person requires a ticket regardless of age.

Anderson said the NHL told him that every game attendee must have a seat for safety reasons. He said he was also told that the policy is in place because the Heritage Classic game is outdoors.

"The explanation from the NHL was that the policy was there for capacity reasons as well as safety reasons," he said.

"It wasn't quite clear to me why they are heightened for the Heritage Classic as opposed to just a sold-out [Winnipeg Blue] Bombers game."

A B.C. couple encountered the same issue in 2014, when they tried to take their six-month-old to the Heritage Classic in Vancouver without a ticket.

Anderson said their biggest concern is that the NHL's policy is not fair to young families who want to bring their breastfeeding children to the game.

"It may go so far as to be a human rights concern for breastfeeding mothers that would have to pay double, essentially, to be able to go to a game," he said.

"Whether or not they can pump [breast milk] or not is beside the issue — that's a right to do that. It's not a convenience, it's not something that somebody else is entitled to tell them how to do that. So I think that we'd really like to see the policy changed, and we felt that if we accepted the tickets that it wouldn't change anything."

Anderson added that he feels strongly that young children and those who don't have a lot of money should be able to attend a hockey game.

"It's a small thing that these organizations can do," he said. "It's absolutely zero cost to them to allow an infant of an on-lap child to come in."

With files from Courtney Rutherford

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