Montreal mom gets apology from clothing store over breastfeeding controversy
The Canadian Press
Published Monday, January 10, 2011 7:06PM EST
MONTREAL - A woman who was told to quit breast-feeding her infant daughter in a secluded part of a children's clothing store has received an apology from the company's president.
Shannon Smith was shopping at a Montreal boutique last Wednesday when her five-month-old daughter got hungry, so she began to nurse her in a secluded play area meant for kids.
Employees at the Orchestra store told Smith she wasn't allowed to breast-feed there.
Smith complied with the request and soon left. But she grew angry and blogged about the incident, prompting a torrent of outrage against the store and an outpouring of support for her.
Jean-Claude Yana, president of Les Vetements Orchestra Canada Inc., wrote Smith last Friday apologizing for the incident, which he blamed on a new employee who was not property trained.
Yana told Smith he understands how the actions of the employee, who has been disciplined, "may have offended and hurt you.''
"As the father of three children who were breast-fed by their mother, I fully understand your anger and frustration,'' he wrote in the letter, which was made public Monday.
He said customer service is taken seriously by the 400-store chain but it is impossible to police the actions of all employees.
"Still, I want to assure you that the employee acted in a strictly personal manner and in no way spoke on behalf of the store,'' Yana wrote.
"As well, I assure you that our policy is undeniably that clients be able to breast-feed in the store if they must. We will do anything in our power to ensure that this incident will be the last of its kind.''
Smith said she accepts the apology.
"I'm very happy that I've received an apology and that the policy is in fact that women are allowed to breast-feed in their stores whenever they like,'' she said in a telephone interview.
"I will be accepting the apology, of course.''
Smith said she was surprised by the reaction to her breast-feeding her child when the incident happened.
"It's very unusual that this would happen,'' she said. "I've had three kids and I've breast-fed them all and I've never really had a negative comment like this so it was very surprising.''
A group independent of Smith was organizing a nurse-in protest that was slated to take place at the store in the near future. Smith said she didn't know if it would go ahead now that the apology has been issued.
Yana said in his letter he would like to meet Smith face-to-face at the end of February and apologize in person.
He said he would have spoken to her sooner but that he is nursing a fractured jaw.