Nova Scotia

Breastfeeding mom questions why she was refused entry into Nova Scotia courtroom

A woman from Cow Bay is questioning whether a judge in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia family division had any right to refuse her infant son entry into a courtroom this week.

'The baby was not welcome in the courtroom due to the fact that he could make noise,' says mother Amanda Webb

Amanda Webb says a sheriff told her the judge didn't allow infants into the courtroom. (CBC)

A woman from Cow Bay is questioning whether a judge in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia family division had any right to refuse her infant son entry into a courtroom this week.

Amanda Webb showed up for court in Halifax on Tuesday with her one-month-old son, Wilder, and was there to testify on a matter her husband was dealing with. She says a sheriff stopped her at the courtroom door.

"When I got there the sheriff told me I couldn't enter the courtroom due to the baby," said Webb.

Margaret MacInnis, the executive director of the Nova Scotia Judiciary, who was not in the courtroom at the time, insists Webb was denied entry, not because she had an infant baby, but rather because she was there to offer evidence.

Webb's version of events is different.  She says the sheriff told her Justice Elizabeth Jollimore didn't allow infants in the courtroom. Webb says she and her husband insisted that she may need to breastfeed.

"And when I went in, the judge also told me I couldn't be there with the baby," said Webb.

No ban on babies

MacInnis says Jollimore does not routinely prevent babies from entering court.

"In Justice Jollimore's court, children of all ages are often present," MacInnis told CBC News in a statement.

The provincial guidelines for press, media and public access to the courts state: "The presiding judge, however, does have significant common law and statutory power to control court proceedings to ensure a fair trial and to protect the integrity of the process."

"Breastfeeding is accommodated," said MacInnis, "subject to the requirement that the activity does not disturb the conduct of the trial or affect the trial process." 

Webb says her baby was being quiet and she told the sheriff and Jollimore of her circumstances.

"I told them my situation, how I am a breastfeeding mom and she told me I still had to leave, the baby was not welcome in the courtroom due to the fact that he could make noise," said Webb.

The incident occurred at the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia's family division on Devonshire Avenue in Halifax. (CBC)

Webb says she was told by courthouse staff that some judges allow babies in the courtroom and some do not. She says she was told Jollimore is one who does not.

Eventually, Webb says she was called to deliver testimony — and she took her baby with her.

"When I did get back into the courtroom, [Jollimore] told me that she would hope the baby would be quiet enough for her to finish up," said Webb.

She says she gave her testimony while her baby sat in a car seat near his father.

About the Author

Preston Mulligan has been a reporter in the Maritimes for more than 20 years. Along with his reporting gig, he also hosts CBC Radio's Sunday phone-in show, Maritime Connection.

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