A Quebec MP is calling for change after she says she was asked to remove her three-month-old baby from the House of Commons during a vote.
NDP MP Sana Hassainia said she was called back quickly to a vote in the House Tuesday and had to bring her baby boy along.
A page came up to her and said the Speaker wanted her to remove the baby from the chamber, she said.
“The rules are that no strangers are allowed in,” Hassainia told CBC News. “So certainly, yes, my baby is a stranger. But, it’s not like he was a threat to national security.”
She said the baby wasn’t crying or making noise and remained in her arms until she was told to remove him.
Hassainia, who is still breastfeeding her baby, said her husband is usually around to assist when she attends to her duties in the House, but she couldn't find him in time on Tuesday to make it back before the vote.
Photography caused disruption
Heather Bradley, director of communications for Speaker Andrew Scheer, said the Speaker did not instruct Hassainia to remove the baby.
Just as the vote was about to begin, Scheer noticed several MPs snapping pictures of Hassainia and her son.
The vote clock was at zero and the Speaker had asked members to take their seats.
A page was dispatched to ask them to sit down so the vote could get underway, Bradley said.
The rule is that the House floor is reserved for elected members of Parliament, but babies of MPs have been in the House before. There is no rule specifically addressing babies in the House, just general decorum rules that govern everything from behaviour to attire to voting.
It’s the Speaker’s responsibility to ensure that there are no distractions during votes, Bradley said. It's up to the Speaker to determine what constitutes a distraction.
Hassainia acknowledged people were snapping pictures, but maintained the message she received was that she was to remove the baby and that photos were not addressed.
One MP told CBC News the head of the House pages came to speak to Hassainia and told her the baby couldn't stay for the vote.
The MP said Hassainia passed her baby to a "pretty nervous looking page, who wasn't too sure about how to hold the baby," who then passed him to lobby staff.
Lack of support
It's already difficult for working mothers in the House as there is nothing set up to support them taking care of their children while attending to their duties, Hassainia said, adding that she often had to duck into offices to breastfeed.
“As MPs, we don’t have a lot of time for maternity leave. So, it’s a return to work that you could say is premature compared to what most Canadian mothers do,” she said.
“It’s important for me to do, but the message that the Conservatives are giving is either you work or you look after your family. It’s too bad because it discourages women, young women, from going into politics if there is nothing planned for that.”
She said more consideration should be given to how mothers can return to work to attend to their parliamentary obligations without sacrificing their obligations to their infants.
“I hope that this incident will allow the Speaker to think about these kinds of situations,” she said.
“I hope that the next time I will need to be there with my baby and I don’t have a choice, the Speaker will allow him to remain with me.”
Interim NDP Leader Nycole Turmel said Wednesday the incident doesn't send a good message to aspiring young female MPs and others who are trying to balance their professional and family life.
She said there should be a specific rule that addresses the issue of babies in the House, as well as other considerations that should be given to MPs who are parents of young children.
"It's quite difficult for them, I must say," she said.
Tuesday morning's vote in the House was on a motion to bring time allocation to debate on a bill to eliminate the long-gun registry.