Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Poolside feeding prompts eviction

No-food-or-drink rule includes baby bottles

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An angry mother of two is gearing up to launch a human rights complaint against the Steinbach Aquatic Centre for evicting her and her eight-month-old son for feeding him from a plastic bottle near the pool.

The aquatic centre says because its poolside area is relatively small compared to larger centres, food and drinks are not allowed so the area is kept safe and clean.

But Niverville mom Jodee Mason believes there is a difference between a snack and her youngest son Kolby's basic needs.

"I felt like a mom that was breastfeeding and felt like I wasn't allowed to be somewhere," she said, adding her family won't return to the pool. "I felt that my rights as a mom feeding my baby were taken away."

On Tuesday, as she was watching older son Maddex's last swimming lesson, pool staff asked her to leave the viewing patio area when they spotted the bottle.

"I was just shocked," she said. "I couldn't even believe what was going on. I made sure everybody in the pool knew exactly what was happening and why I was being asked to leave because it was not right," she said. "I could've just put the bottle away -- he was pretty much almost done it -- and gone into the lobby if he fussed, but that's besides the point."

Steinbach Aquatic Centre facility manager Dean Janzen said the no-food-and-drink policy is in place for health and safety reasons.

"It's a small area, and in a small area with a heavy traffic use. And we take great pride in having a clean facility and having a safe facility and having a facility which all our patrons can enjoy," Janzen said.

Mason, 29, said she understands the need for the pool and deck area to stay clean from spilled drinks, dropped food and broken glass, but a baby's feeding time is separate and above those concerns.

When a lifeguard tapped her shoulder and told her to leave, Mason demanded to speak to the pool's supervisor. He said no food or drink was permitted poolside.

"I turned around and addressed everybody sitting in the pool area, 'Do you guys realize what's happening here? This guy is telling me that I have to leave because I'm feeding my baby a bottle,' " she said. "I turned to him and said, 'Do you realize how ridiculous this sounds?' "

Mason and the supervisor took their discussion out into the lobby while her husband stayed in the pool with Maddex.

It didn't end well.

Mason, a provincial cabinet spokeswoman on maternity leave, has since written the Steinbach Carillon and emailed Steinbach Mayor Chris Goertzen about the incident and is in the process of filing a complaint with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission. A Steinbach city official spoke to Mason on Friday about her complaint, but nothing was resolved.

"I'm not looking for an apology. I'm not even looking for them to acknowledge what they did was ignorant or inappropriate, I just want them to change the policy that they have so another mom or dad doesn't have to feel like they can't be there because they're feeding their baby."

A commission spokeswoman said there are a series of steps Mason must follow for the commission to decide if the incident should be investigated or if it could be solved through mediation.

A City of Winnipeg spokeswoman said plastic baby bottles at city pools are allowed.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 15, 2013 0

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