A Telkwa business that put up a notice refusing service to breastfeeding mothers who do not cover up sparked quite the conversation.
This is from a Province of British Columbia information sheet on sex discrimination:
“Nursing mothers have the right to breastfeed their children in a public area. It is discriminatory to ask them to cover up or breastfeed somewhere else.”
The business in question is The Telkwa Baeckerei and Kaffeehaus, which is off Highway 16 between Hudson and Hunter Avenues.
The notice posted on the bulletin board inside the business last week reads (all quotes in this story are not edited):
“If there is the need feed your child, please be Respectful of yourself and that other people and use a Cloth or some form to cover yourself or you will be refused service or asked to leave. Straight to the point and this is without discussion. Thank-You.”
It’s that notice that has sparked outrage on social media, with many calling for everyone to boycott the bakery and leaving negative reviews.
Earlier this week, The Telkwa Baeckerei and Kaffeehaus posted on their Facebook page in reply to the negative criticism:
“Thank-you to [Name withheld by The Interior News], for being the only person to contact us directly to logically listen and try to find a solution to The Breastfeeding issue. For the record, the Ladies that started this rant were always respectable when feeding their Babies and this decision had nothing to do with them, but only one person. This person obscenely flashed her breast and she was not feeding her baby. Yes, people were offended by this, but in Kanada, I guess this is ok. The best part is we have decided to close the Bakery…Ok for the most part, you ladies should be pleased….Thank-you…”
That Facebook post has since been deleted and replaced on Tuesday with this post:
“Thank-you to all the wonderful people that stopped by today and showed their support. We will not be closing our doors. Open Monday through Friday 7-5.”
Heather Tuite believes she is the person the bakery is talking about. In a post to Facebook, she wrote in part:
“I have no idea if I was the one that prompted the Telkwa Bakery to post its sign, but I suspect I was. I was in there a few days before the customer service review page talked about a sign, nursing my 5 month old daughter.
“I was there for morning coffee with a group of regulars. It is not my first time nursing there, but it is the first time I nursed while sitting in such an obvious seat. There are various reasons that I do not use a cover, but I will not justify my choice as it is mine to make and is defended by BC law. My daughter gets easily distracted, and latched breifly before someone at the table got her attention and she whipped her head around, leaving, you guessed it, my nipple exposed. This happened a couple times, before the woman beside me started to make jokes. She often tries to embarass people (in good fun) and started talking loudly about how my “titties” were out. I genuinely dont think she meant anything by it, it’s just how her sense of hunour is. She is friends with the owners of the cafe, and she made a joke to one of them about my “titties.” I didn’t say anything (though I’m sure I was blushing) and I continued to do my best to feed my child who found the other woman’s antics even more distracting! Nothing was said by the management. Nothing to me, and nothing to the other woman who is a regular and well known in the community. We finished our chat and went our seperate ways.”
Despite multiple attempts to speak with the bakery owner, The Interior News was unsuccessful in getting owner Matthias Lexow to share his side of the story on the record yet. He said he may respond soon.
Telkwa Mayor Darcy Repen said the law is clear when it comes to breastfeeding.
“I think it’s unfortunate and I think the most unfortunate thing is that there doesn’t seem to be a real approach at a resolution … The law is clear about it and breastfeeding is something that is incredibly important for early childhood development and that’s why the law protects it taking place in any place. It’s unfortunate that there doesn’t seem to be a real approach at having a resolution and for clarity as for why the notice went up … hopefully that notice has been removed at this point,” he said.
Repen added the bakery could easily apologize.
“Having a business that is trying to manage their location versus the rights of their customers, and I think instead of the conflict it could have been something easily resolved with an apology and an explanation,” he said.
“I’d like to see the parties get together and I’d like to see the concerns of both parties acknowledged and hopefully with some apologies and some bridging between them and ultimately I do feel that really should be starting with the owners of the bakery. I think they need to acknowledge that it’s illegal to infringe on the rights of breastfeeding mothers and if there was a particular situation that spurred this, I think they need to be very clear about what that was, but posting a blanket notice like that is simply — in my opinion — it’s not the way to deal with it at all,” Repen stated.
A sit in was scheduled to take place at the bakery on Wednesday, but lasted a mere two seconds. The half a dozen mothers left after not being served.
Nicole Murray was one of the moms that came out to show her support.
“We came here today hoping that this business was going to openly accept my friend [Tuite] coming in. None of us had any intentions of causing problems; we stood in-line and waited and waited and waited and he finally asked her if she was here to start trouble. To which she said excuse me, he repeated himself, she said, ‘no, I’m just here for a drink.’ He again asked her if she was here to start trouble and then she decided she wasn’t hungry — I wasn’t hungry either,” said Murray.
Telkwa councillor Leyroy Dekens, who owns the property where The Telkwa Baeckerei and Kaffeehaus is, approached this reporter and told him not to take photos of the building on Wednesday.
When this reporter went to the public street to take a photo of the building, Dekens approached him and told him to delete the photo. When informed that he was on public property, Dekens said, “I don’t care, delete the photos.”
Dekens went on to say, at a very close distance to this reporter, “you don’t want to see me mad.”
When this reporter asked if that was a threat, Dekens replied back with no.
Dekens was asked if he would like to comment on the breastfeeding story but refused citing he was, “too pissed off.”