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Breastfeeding mom gets apology from clothing store Add to ...

Children's clothing store Orchestra has apologized to a 36-year-old mother who was recently told to stop breastfeeding her five-month-old daughter at its Montreal location.

In a letter dated Jan. 7, the president of the company's Canadian arm, Jean-Claude Yana, apologizes for the actions of a "new" employee who told Shannon Smith and another nursing mother, "you can't breastfeed in the store." After protesting, Ms. Smith said she left feeling upset and uncomfortable.

The letter acknowledges the experience may have been "offensive and hurtful" to Ms. Smith, and assures her the business policy at Orchestra, a chain headquartered in France, "is unquestionably" that women can breastfeed inside the store "if they need to."

Mr. Yana also says the store has taken "appropriate disciplinary measures" against the female employee.

"Hiring quality employees is not a simple business for an employer and their behaviour is sometimes completely unpredictable, as was the case here," Mr. Yana writes.

Ms. Smith demanded an apology and complained to the Quebec Human Rights Commission that she had faced discrimination based on her sex. A blog she created to describe her ordeal received thousands of hits in a matter of days as mothers, "lactivists" and others rallied around her.

"Of course I'm very happy," Ms. Smith told The Globe and Mail. "I'll be accepting the apology."

As for the human-rights complaint, she plans to "sleep on it and decide what, if any, action I'll be taking."

Her story prompted another Montreal mother, Genevieve Coulombe, to schedule a "nurse-in" protest at the Orchestra store in the Complexe Les Ailes shopping centre on Jan. 19. More than 125 people have confirmed their participation.

Ms. Coulombe said the "nurse-in" will go ahead, regardless of Orchestra's apology, in the hope of creating wider awareness.

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