Canadian Conservative contender Michael Chong confirms columnist’s bizarre breastfeeding confession

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 March, 2017, 8:39am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 March, 2017, 11:54pm

Canadian Conservative leadership contender Michael Chong has responded to a bizarre incident described by a national newspaper columnist, who recounted trying to breastfeed the MP’s infant son without consent, before Chong stumbled upon the disturbing scene at a Toronto house party.

The incident, which Chong confirmed took place more than a decade ago, involved the Globe and Mail’s Leah McLaren, who wrote about it in a column titled “The joy (and politics) of breastfeeding someone else’s baby”. The column was initially published online on March 22, but was swiftly deleted; however, it has been preserved in online archives.

McLaren described how she encountered the infant alone in a portable car seat in a room, next to an audio baby monitor. When the baby smiled at her, she said she felt an instant “connection”, despite not knowing who the child’s parents were. 

“I leaned over and gingerly picked him up and then sat down in a chair to give him a cuddle. He felt gorgeous in my arms, all warm and lumpy and milky-smelling in the way small babies are,” wrote McLaren.

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“Somehow, my pinky finger ended up in his mouth and I was astonished at [the] strength of his sucking reflex. ‘C’mon lady,’ said his eyes. And I suddenly knew what he wanted.”

Despite not lactating, she then decided to offer the baby her breast, “just to see what it felt like”.

McLaren said she unbuttoned her blouse. It was at this moment that a “flummoxed” Chong walked into the room.

She described his reaction: “I see you’ve met my son. May I take him now?”

The article went viral on Sunday evening when archived copies began circulating on social media, where it was dubbed “Lacgate”.

There was alarm as well as some scepticism, since McLaren said the incident occurred when she was 25 – about the year 2000, four or five years before Chong’s first child was born.

Chong responded on Twitter on Monday morning, confirming that the strange event had indeed occurred.

“Incident happened over 10 years ago,” Chong said. “It was no doubt odd, but of no real consequence. Let’s focus on the important challenges facing Canada.”

In a statement cited by the National Post newspaper, Chong said he would not discuss the incident any further. The Globe and Mail did not immediately respond to questions about the handling of the article, and nor did it respond on McLaren’s behalf.

Chong, 45, is vying for the leadership of Canada’s opposition Conservative Party and hopes to become the country’s first ethnic Chinese prime minister. His centrist platform, which includes support for a revenue-neutral carbon tax, has distinguished him from a rightward shift in the party. He has three sons with wife Carrie.

McLaren, who freelances for the Globe and is also Maclean’s Magazine’s London correspondent, has previously drawn criticism for using a Globe real estate column to try to sell her own house in 2012.

She ended last week’s column with self-admonition, declaring that while breastfeeding and co-feeding of infants among mothers was “lovely and marvellous”, “just don’t try it with a stranger’s baby in a bedroom at a party if you are 25 and stupid”.

“Apologies to Mr and Mrs Chong,” she wrote.