Day: August 1, 2019

Breastfeeding Week Exists Because Moms Are Still Shamed All The Damn Time

Airlines were some of the worst offenders for breastfeeding shame in 2019.

Once again, it’s time to celebrate an advocacy week we shouldn’t still need, but clearly do.

The first week of every August is World Breastfeeding Week, the goal of which is to empower parents and enable breastfeeding. By now, most of us know that the world’s top health experts recommend exclusive breastfeeding until a child is six months old, with continued breastfeeding to age two and beyond.

But those who choose and are physically able to breastfeed still face a slew of practical, social and physical barriers. Moms are still fighting to be able to pump at work. Breastfeeding parents are still being asked to cover up. And somehow, they’re still being asked to leave the premises for feeding their babies in public.

WATCH: Breastfeeding mom asked to cover up on flight. Story continues below.

Although breastfeeding in public is a legal right in Canada and the U.S., not everyone is on board. A 2018 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 10 per cent of respondents disagree that women should have the right to breastfeed in public spaces, and another 21 per cent are on the fence.

Another survey found that 66 per cent of working moms experience “frustration or embarrassment” at work, due to their need to pump (Again, employers are obligated to allow women to express milk at work). 

It’s 2019, and breastfeeding moms deserve better than hiding in closets to pump or being asked to leave swimming pools because they showed some flesh, don’t you think?

Still don’t think we need a World Breastfeeding Week? Read on. Here are some of the major places breastfeeding and pumping moms were shamed this year. 

1. Airplanes and airports

Flights definitely take the prize for worst offenders this year. There are so many blood-boiling stories, it’s hard to narrow them down.

There was the U.S. mom who says a gate agent tried to take her TSA-approved breast pump away, then shamed her for flying with a pump but no baby (oh, dude). Then there was the Dutch KLM airlines debacle, where a woman was told to cover up while breastfeeding, and then the airline tweeted that their policy is to ask mothers to cover up “should other passengers be offended by this.”

There’s reason to be offended, alright, and it’s not the breastfeeding mom.

And if you think we’re so much more progressive in Canada, think again. In March, a mom tweeted that an Air Canada rep told her she’d have to breastfeed her infant in the plane bathroom (the company later clarified that this wouldn’t be the case, but sheesh).

More of this, please: Remember last year when a flight attendant on a Philippine Airlines flight breastfed a passenger’s baby because the mother had run out of formula? Now THAT’s support!

2. Work

Just because women are supposed to be allowed to pump at work doesn’t mean it happens. An Alabama mom lost her job at a small company this year over her request for breaks to pump when she returned from leave (apparently there are variations in accommodation rights there when a company has less than 50 employees, a lawyer explained to WHNT News).

In July, an Idaho mom asked a judge to reconsider dismissing her lawsuit against her employer, Home Depot, for not allowing her request for unpaid breaks to pump. While the judge did find that the store director made derogatory comments about her requests to pump (including that it was just her “diet plan to lose weight”), he didn’t agree that she was “constructively discharged,” ie. had no choice but to quit.

Her lawyer argued that “no reasonable working mother would stay in a job that did not allow her to pump enough milk to feed her baby or stay in a job where she had to work in physical pain because of engorged breasts leaking milk,” according to the Idaho Statesman.


More of this, please: Not everyone is the worst. In January, an Arizona mom received such a refreshing response from her manager about her request to pump at work that she posted it on Reddit.

Now, if only this wasn’t so rare that it makes headlines, eh?

3. Pools, schools, or just everywhere

You name a public place, a mom has probably been shamed there for breastfeeding in the last year alone.

In July, an Indiana mom said a local water park told her she couldn’t breastfeed in public there. In June, a Texas mom was told to cover up or leave while breastfeeding at a public pool. When she refused, the manager called the police, and the mom had to leave the pool. Cool, cool.

That same month, a Pennsylvania mom took to Facebook to complain that she was told to cover up while nursing her baby in a pizzeria, with the manager going as far as to bring her an apron. 

Another mom in Detroit says she was threatened with a call to the police in July if she didn’t stop breastfeeding in a local restaurant.

“I have my four-year-old sitting next to me scared asking me ‘Is Mommy going to jail?’” the mom told WXYZ News.

In April, an Arizona mom was bringing snacks to her daughter’s first-grade classroom when her baby needed to nurse. She was nursing outside during recess when the assistant principal asked her to move to a private area, People reports. In March, a Kentucky mom, who was helping out with school picture day at her childrens’ school was asked to move to an office when she started nursing her baby. 

Good. Lord.

More of this, please: In June, moms were once again singing the praises of Target after a Texas store posted a note that moms are “free to nurse wherever and whenever you like while you shop because we think #momsrock.”

And in a historic first, India’s picturesque Taj Mahal is getting a baby-feeding room. It will be set up this summer to help “millions of mothers who visit with their babies,” Vasant Kumar Swarnkar, a top official at the Archeological Survey of India (ASI), told Reuters.

See? It’s possible to be supportive.

Be more like the Taj Mahal and Target.

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Toronto neurosurgeon who murdered wife to face disciplinary charges

A Toronto neurosurgeon who murdered his wife two days after she filed for divorce now faces a disciplinary hearing before Ontario’s medical regulator.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario said Mohammed Shamji faces allegations of professional misconduct related to his murder conviction and to previous criminal charges.

In a notice dated last week, the regulator alleges Shamji provided inaccurate information in his application for independent practice in 2012 by failing to disclose criminal charges related to a domestic assault in Ottawa in 2005.

It also alleges Shamji has been found guilty of an offence that is relevant to his suitability to practise.

“Where physicians have breached the public trust, it is our responsibility to apply disciplinary measures that are consistent with the specific issues,” a spokesman for the college said in an email.

“This means, in the most significant cases, the physician is not only removed from practice in Ontario but the CPSO also takes steps to ensure that other jurisdictions are aware of the disciplinary findings and associated sanctions.”

The college said no date has been set for the disciplinary hearing at this time.

Shamji was sentenced in May to life in prison with no chance of parole for 14 years. He had pleaded guilty a month earlier to second-degree murder in the November 2016 death of 40-year-old Elana Fric Shamji, a well-respected family physician.

Court heard Fric Shamji served her husband with divorce papers two days before he attacked her, broke her neck and ribs, and choked her to death as their three children slept nearby.

He then stuffed her body into a suitcase, drove 35 kilometres north of the city and dumped it into the Humber River.

Fric Shamji’s mother told the court the abuse began early in the couple’s relationship, adding she repeatedly begged her daughter to leave Shamji.

The couple separated for a few months after their first child was born, but reconciled after a time, court heard.

Justice John McMahon, who presided over the case, called it another tragic instance of domestic homicide.

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60 days in jail for Michigan man who spiked wife’s coffee

MOUNT CLEMENS, Mich. — A suburban Detroit man convicted of poisoning his wife by spiking her coffee with an antihistamine has been sentenced to 60 days in jail on weekends.

Therese Kozlowski was suspicious of Brian Kozlowski and put cameras in the kitchen of their Macomb Township, Michigan, home. The coffee spiking occurred in 2018 while the couple’s divorce case was pending. They are now divorced.

Therese Kozlowski says she felt tired and sick and had blurred vision after drinking the tainted coffee. She told a judge Thursday that she considered the poisoning “attempted murder.”

Brian Kozlowski apologized in court. Defence lawyer Brian Legghio says Brian Kozlowski has “great profound remorse” and was going through an “ugly divorce.”

Macomb County prosecutor Eric Smith sought a prison sentence and called the poisoning “despicable.”

The Associated Press

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‘Court system only made things worse,’ Eaton Centre shooting victim’s family says ahead of sentencing

The family of a then 13-year-old boy shot at the Eaton Centre back in 2012 is calling for changes to the judicial system that would favour victims rather than criminals.

The family of Connor Stevenson echoed their concern while speaking exclusively with CTV News Toronto ahead of the second sentencing for the man convicted in the shooting.

Christopher Husbands was first convicted on two counts of second-degree murder. But, the Ontario Court of Appeal ordered a new trial, finding the judge had made an error in law regarding jury selection.

Christopher Husbands
Christopher Husbands is seen in a Toronto courtroom in December 2014 in this sketch. (CTV News Toronto)

“Why are we here now? Five years ago the trial ended, they had the verdict, it was life,” Connor Stevenson’s father Craig Stevenson said. “We were ready to move on as a family as best as possible even with all the complications and here we are seven years later.”

“We’re having to relive this whole trial, why?”

In February 2019, Husbands was retried and found guilty on the lesser charges of two counts of manslaughter and five counts of aggravated assault, along with one count each of criminal negligence causing bodily harm and reckless discharge of a firearm.

Eaton Centre shooting
Police set up a perimeter outside the Eaton Centre following a shooting at the shopping mall in Toronto on June 2, 2012. (The Canadian Press / Victor Biro)

Two men were killed in the shooting, 24-year-old Ahmed Hassan died on the floor inside the downtown shopping centre, while 22-year-old Nixon Nirmalendran died in hospital nine days after the incident. Six other people were injured in the shooting, including Connor Stevenson, who was shot in the head as fourteen rounds were fired off inside the food court of the busy mall.

“It just makes me more upset with how the system’s gone,” Connor Stevenson said outside of the Eaton Centre. “It doesn’t seem fair.”

Now 20 years old, Connor Stevenson is a student at Sheridan College studying software development.

connor stevenson
Connor Stevenson is seen speaking with CTV News Toronto outside of the Toronto Eaton Centre on July 31, 2019. (CTV News Toronto)

He will be present as the man who shot him appears in court once again on Tuesday, when victim impact statements will be read during the sentencing hearing.

While the maximum sentence for a charge of manslaughter is life in prison, the parole ineligibility is likely much closer to seven years rather than the 30 years Husbands was serving following his original conviction.

The conviction Husbands has now received does not match the crime, Connor Stevenson’s mother Jo-Anne Finney, who was with her son at the time of the shooting, said.

“I personally feel victimized, I felt victimized when we walked in here in 2012 in the Eaton Centre, coming out. But, I can tell you I have been feeling victimized the entire seven years.”

Connor Stevenson
Jo-Anne Finney and her son Connor Stevenson are seen walking through the Toronto Eaton Centre on July 31, 2019. (CTV News Toronto)

She said her family has felt frustrated that they were not able to participate in the trial process more as they were limited to victim impact statement rules that curtail what can and cannot be said.

“The system has to change, things need to be more focused on victims and less on the criminals and I think that right now it is completely flipped,” she said.

Connor Stevenson, who was once a ski racer, underwent numerous lifesaving surgeries after the shooting and can subsequently no longer play any physical sports.

Following being struck by the bullet, emergency workers expressed surprise he was even able to survive.

Taylor Stevenson, the sister of Connor Stevenson, was 17 years old at the time and was also there when her brother was caught in the gunfire. She voiced her frustration with the judicial process as well while speaking with CTV News Toronto alongside her parents and brother.

eaton centre
Security camera footage shows Connor Stevenson and his mother Jo-Anne Finney getting food at the Toronto Eaton Centre before gunfire erupted in 2012. (Toronto Police Service)

“The victims of these traumatic situations really don’t have a voice throughout the court,” she said. “The court system has only made things honestly worse and been, I’d say, almost as traumatic as the actual event.”

Last month, prosecutors said they will be seeking a life sentence for Husbands, noting the killings should be considered “near murder.”

Husbands, who was initially charged with first-degree murder, admitted in trial that he was the shooter in the incident but his lawyers argued he should be found not criminally responsible due to mental illness. His defence team argued Husbands was in a dissociative state due to post-traumatic stress disorder and did not have control over his actions at the time as a result.

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