Nursing mom asked to breastfeed in basement after golf club diners complain
Published Monday, October 17, 2016 8:51AM EDT
A Toronto mother is demanding an apology from a golf club after she said she was escorted to the venue’s basement to finish breastfeeding after other guests complained on Saturday night.
Alexandra Shimo and her partner Lia Grimanis brought their two-and-half month old son Jacob to a charity event at the Lambton Golf and Country Club in the Dundas Street and Royal York Road area in Toronto’s west end. Shimo told CTV Toronto on Sunday, that when Jacob became hungry she found a quiet corner in the hallway outside the dining area to nurse him.
“I’d been happily feeding Jacob and a couple people came up and said how sweet he was and I thought that it was really quite idyllic,” she said.
As she was sitting in a corner of the hallway breastfeeding, Shimo said she was approached by a male service manager carrying a large tablecloth to hide her. She said the manager said a few patrons had complained to the club’s management that they could see her from the members-only restaurant. Shimo was told the diners said they “didn’t want to see this while they were eating.”
“I thought this is ridiculous,” Shimo said. “Why do you find the sight of a baby breastfeeding disgusting and why have you made me feel ashamed?”
Shimo said she immediately stopped nursing Jacob and covered up. The club manager then led her downstairs to the basement so she could finish feeding her child.
“The way it was handled,” Shimo said. “I was slightly embarrassed because he made me feel like it was a shameful thing by sort of covering me up and saying people didn’t want to see it.”
Grimanis said she eventually located Shimo breastfeeding on a couch in the basement and decided to photograph the moment. She posted the photo on Facebook on Saturday evening, to demonstrate what Shimo looked like while she was nursing. Soon after, Grimanis said, her post “exploded” with outraged comments.
“We had messages from people in Denmark, from the U.K., from the United States and all across Canada,” Grimanis said. “I think we’ve really tapped into that idea that we’re not going to go quietly into the basement anymore, this is our right to breastfeed.”
Many of the commenters on the Facebook post expressed indignation at the incident and questioned whether the golf club was legally allowed to ask a breastfeeding woman to move.
Other users urged the couple to file a human rights complaint or take legal action against the club.
By Sunday, the golf club’s Facebook page was overrun with comments remarking on the episode. Many of the club’s posts dating back to December now have comments scolding the club for its actions on Saturday.
The club’s Happy Mother’s Day post from May 8 received the most comments about Shimo from angry users.
A manager at the club told CTV Toronto that they’re “well aware” of the incident, but they haven’t released an official response yet.
Women have the right to breastfeed in public and should not be asked to “cover up” or move according to the Ontario Human Rights Code. However, because the golf club is a private facility that was holding a public charity event, it’s not clear whether the code would be applicable in Shimo’s case.
Shimo wants the club’s staff to undergo sensitivity training, and has requested a formal apology, but hasn’t yet had a response.
“They haven’t responded to that, or what’s happening on social media. So, if they continue to ignore this event and this issue, then yes, I probably will file a complaint with the human rights tribunal,” she said.
Shimo said she’s hoping her story will change some perceptions about women breastfeeding in public.
“This is 2016. We’re tired as women being made to feel ashamed of our bodies,” she said. “This is a natural and beautiful thing and it’s also a human right.”
With a report from CTV Toronto