West Kelowna council breastfeeding friendly after all

After initial hesitation, district council backs an initiative to show its municipal buildings are breastfeeding friendly spaces.

Citing the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, West Kelowna council has reconsidered its earlier lack of action on a request to support an initiative to promote public breastfeeding.

Saying the charter mandates all public and private organizations to allow breastfeeding in public places and the cost of the proposed program would be immaterial for the district, council approved a motion Tuesday, calling for training all municipal staff and West Kelowna’s contractors to understand the rights of nursing mothers. It will also place baby-friendly stickers in municipal facilities, as per the original request by a group of UBCO nursing students.

While council voted unanimously in favour, Coun. Rosalind Neis, who was the most vocal opponent of the initiative when it first came to council, was not present.

Mayor Doug Findlater welcomed council’s decision. “This is a relatively happy ending,” he said.

But while she voted in favour, Coun. Carol Zanon remained concerned about the stickers, asking about all the other “worthy” initiatives that may want their stickers put up on municipal buildings.

Chief administrative officer Jim Zaffino said staff are working on a policy to address similar future requests.

Earlier this year, the UBCO students asked council to support making nursing mothers feel more comfortable feeding their babies in public. But council declined to take action at the time with some councillors questioning the program, saying mothers who do not breastfeed could be made to feel awkward by the initiative.

But according to a report to council by Zaffino, the charter considers it sexual discrimination to oppose a woman breastfeeding in public and so does the B.C. Human Rights Code.

Zaffino said he checked with Lake Country and Kelowna to find out what they did about the proposed initiative by the UBCO students and was told Lake Country accepted it while Kelowna’s mayor and city manager met with the students, and told them the city already has a similar policy. It has not put up the stickers in its public buildings.

Kelowna Capital News