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Letter to Oshawa City Council on breastfeeding

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February 4, 2014

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Sandra Kranc
City Clerk, City of Oshawa


Dear Ms Kranc,

I understand that the issue of a councillor, or other people, breastfeeding at Oshawa City Council chambers may be considered by Council.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission’s Policy on Discrimination Because of Pregnancy and Breastfeeding contains our interpretation of the provisions of the Ontario Human Rights Code relating to pregnancy and breastfeeding.

The Policy looks at the different ways in which women experience discrimination on the basis of pregnancy and breastfeeding. Discriminatory behaviour may be rooted in negative attitudes and stereotypes. It may be systemic or institutional. It may arise out of a failure to accommodate the needs of a woman relating to pregnancy or breastfeeding. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding may also experience harassment and poisoned environments when working, receiving services or accessing public facilities. Women should be able to participate equally in all areas of life while they are breastfeeding and should not be discouraged from breastfeeding in public places.

Case law has clearly demonstrated that breastfeeding must be accommodated in facilities, employment, housing and services to the point of undue hardship. For example, accommodating a nursing woman may require providing a supportive environment to breastfeed or permitting a caregiver to bring a baby into the workplace to be breastfed. The duty to accommodate also means that women have a right to nurse undisturbed and cannot be prevented from breastfeeding a child in public facilities unless there is a bona fide reason related to cost or significant and objectively verifiable health and safety concerns. Various other accommodations may meet the needs of an individual but that must be resolved on a case-by-case basis with the parties involved.

More information is contained in our policy, which can be found here:

Please don’t hesitate to contact the OHRC if you would like more discussion of this issue,


Barbara Hall, B.A, LL.B, Ph.D (hon.)
Chief Commissioner