The ruling last week by Andrew Scheer, the Speaker of the House, to allow MPs to bring infant children into the Commons under certain circumstances is a wise and evenhanded one, and sends the right message to Canadians.
Mr. Scheer was caught off guard this month when an NDP MP, Sana Hassainia, brought her three-month-old son into the House in advance of an important vote.
The baby’s presence caused what Mr. Scheer considered to be an unacceptable disturbance when other MPs began taking pictures, a violation of a rule banning cameras from the chamber. The Speaker sent a page over to ask that the cameras be put away, but somehow Ms. Hassainia was led to think she was being asked to leave because of her child.
Mr. Scheer insists it was never his intention to throw Ms. Hassainia out of the House, and everyone is inclined to believe him. The result of this misunderstanding is some clarity on the issue. Mr. Scheer has ruled that infants are welcome in the chamber, as long as they don’t cause a disturbance and are there because their mother or (less likely) father has been called to an emergency vote or because a pre-existing childcare arrangement has fallen through.
Ms. Hassainia is luckier than many mothers of newborns. She has a well-paying job, a husband to share the load and, now, a workplace that is understanding of the fact that being a working mother requires flexibility from employers.
For many mothers, a call to come to work unexpectedly or a breakdown in daycare plans can result in a scramble to find backup, sometimes at great cost and always at great inconvenience. In the worst circumstances, the inability to find a last-minute childcare solution could put their employment in jeopardy. Mr. Scheer’s ruling is a clear demonstration that, even in the most august settings, mothers must always be able to bring their babies to work with them when emergencies arise. It is not a legal precedent, but it is certainly a moral one.