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CAS Investigates Breastfeeding

February 7, 2014 permalink

When Durham council member Amy England breastfed her baby at their meeting, children's aid was alerted and questioned her at length.



Children’s Aid called after Oshawa councillor takes newborn to City meeting

Councillor Amy England said breastfeeding her baby at council meetings in no way endangers her newborn

Amy England
WHITBY -- Oshawa Councillor Amy England said she was investigated by the Children’s Aid Society after a complaint was filed because she took her baby to council meetings so she could breastfeed.
Ron Pietroniro / Metroland file photo

OSHAWA -- An Oshawa councillor said she was investigated by the Children’s Aid Society after a complaint was filed because she took her baby to council meetings so she could breastfeed.

Coun. Amy England said the complaint was filed sometime after she took her daughter, Amelia, born on Dec. 13, to the first council meeting of the year on Jan. 6.

“Obviously I was upset and I spoke to Children’s Aid at length and they indicated to me they had no concerns for me and my daughter and that breastfeeding my baby was in no way putting her in danger,” she said.

She said Durham Region Children’s Aid Society officials explained they were legally obligated to investigate all complaints, even if they’re frivolous.

“They made it very clear that they weren’t concerned and they also made it very clear that they had to do a follow up by law.”

As to the nature of the complaint, Coun. England said she understood that it was because the meetings sometimes run late and because there’s sometimes yelling and stressful situations. There was a physical altercation last year when police and security guards forcibly removed two activists. Coun. England was pregnant at the time and stepped away from her desk and into a back room until the situation calmed down.

Since January, the councillor estimates she has taken her baby to meetings at the City and at the Region, and to her office, between five to 10 times. She said whether she takes her daughter depends on how long the meeting will be and if she can pump enough milk to leave her at home.

“If she gets a little fussy I always step out,” said the councillor. “I’m not here to make a disturbance.”

Coun. England said she’s received some negative feedback about her choice to take her daughter, but she has also received support including during a Regional council meeting, where several mothers had taken their babies as a show of solidarity.

“I know it’s contentious and I understand being a working mother is not everyone’s choice, but it’s mine,” said the councillor. “I’m trying to balance my duties as a councillor and feeding my daughter which means she has to be at work with me sometimes.”

Among the organizations showing support for her is Equal Voice, a national multi-partisan organization dedicated to the election of more women.

“We’re very concerned that she appears to be under attack for bringing her newborn to work, obviously we believe she’s fulfilling her duties as a duly elected councillor and she’s in no way compromising her baby or herself by having her child with her,” said Equal Voice executive director Nancy Peckford.

“We actually think she’s an outstanding role model for other women who may be interested in running for politics who may have children or may be considering having children.”

A complaint to Children’s Aid goes beyond the normal political scrutiny a councillor could expect, said Ms. Peckford.

“For her to encounter this kind of attack, this kind of highly negative scrutiny is really uncalled for and is completely -- in our view -- out of line.”

Ms. Peckford said that while municipal politics is the level of government considered most accessible to women, nationwide only 25 per cent of council seats are held by women and only 16 per cent of mayors are women.

She said her organizations will be conducting a study shortly on how family friendly legislatures and municipal councils are across the country.

Meanwhile, Coun. England said she expects to take baby Amelia to meetings, on and off, until March.

Source: Metroland / Durham Region

Moms gather inside council chamber

Mothers supporting Durham councillor Amy England

About a dozen moms and their little ones took a seat in the gallery of the Regional council chamber as a sign of support for new mom Oshawa Councillor Amy England.

Her daughter Amelia was born on December 13, 2013 and since she became pregnant Councillor England stated she intended to bring the baby to council and committee meetings. She says seeing the moms at the chamber was encouraging as they all breastfeed, which is something Councillor England is doing as well.

“They just wanted to show their support because it’s the first time at Regional council,” she says. “It got out there what I was doing.”

The councillor wasn’t met with any opposition from her fellow colleagues during the meeting. The Ontario Human Rights Commission states it is illegal to discriminate against a woman because she “was pregnant, had a baby, or may become pregnant.” A woman also has the right to breastfeed a child in a public area.

“It was perfectly fine at Regional council. Council members are really supportive. It’s nice to know,” she explains, adding she did take Amelia to the back where her husband was waiting so she could breastfeed. “You can actually watch and participate from the back room. It’s a lot more conducive to breastfeeding. My husband was there when I was out on the floor.”

Councillor England says when her daughter gets a bit older, around six months, she won’t be bringing her to meetings anymore, but for the time being she says she can balance the needs of the constituents and the community.

“We do represent kids. The decisions we’re making affect their future,” she states. “I read her my agendas as bedtime stories.”

Source: Oshawa Express

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