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Breast-feeding supporters crowd West Kelowna council

Breast-feeding supporters outside West Kelowna council chambers.
March 24, 2015 - 6:29 PM

MAYOR ASKS FOR PROTOCOL TO DEAL WITH FUTURE DELEGATION REQUESTS

KELOWNA - Crying and cooing babies provided the soundtrack as proponents of breast-feeding crowded West Kelowna council chambers tonight to show their displeasure at what they said was a lack of support for their cause.

Breast-feeding mothers nursed their babies inside and outside of council chambers, joined by 60 or so friends and other supporters as they waited for council to address the issue. They didn't have to wait long as Mayor Doug Findlater quickly brought the agenda item forward from the end of a long list. His recommendation that staff explore the issues related to supporting the Breast Friendly Initiative and report back to council was passed unanimously.

Breast-feeding mothers inside West Kelowna council chambers.
Breast-feeding mothers inside West Kelowna council chambers.

Outside council chambers, Coun. Rosalind Neis denied that council originally said no to the Baby-Friendly Initiative brought forward by an Interior Health public health nurse and three UBC Okanagan nursing students at the last council meeting. Should staff recommend council support, Neis said she would vote the way her constituents tell her, based on emails and phone calls she has received.

"There is another side to this issue and you don't see those people here today," said Neis, who added that mothers who can't breast-feed face reverse discrimination and public shaming even when they want to breast-feed. "Why would they come to an event when you are going in as a known minority and it's an emotional issue," she said, when asked why mothers holding the opposite opinion had not shown up at the council meeting.

Lisa Ford, representing the West Kelowna Feed-In, said she would never discount any mother's personal experience, but that incidents where breast-feeding mothers are asked to cover up are far more prevalent.

"I haven't seen that. We do see, however, that breast feeding mothers are harassed frequently," she said, refering to the recent viral video of a mother on a plane who was asked to cover up by a flight crew.

Ford also said council's insistence they had not turned down the original Baby Friendly Initiative didn't fly with her or the other supporters which was why the protest had proceeded as scheduled.

"I watched the video. I would suggest that negative comments and doing nothing would suggest they are against it," she said.

In addition to sending the Baby Friendly Initiative to staff for a report, Mayor Doug Findlater also made a motion for staff to develop a procedure to deal with requests from future delegations.

To contact the reporter for this story, email John McDonald at jmcdonald@infotelnews.ca or call 250-808-0143. To contact the editor, email mjones@infotelnews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

Updated 8:11 Tues., March 24 with new quotes from Coun. Rosalind Neis and West Kelowna Feed-In representative Lisa Ford.

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