Do Naturists Offend Public Order in the 21st Century?

Brian Coldin, a naturist and owner of a nude resort in Barrie, Ontario, considers clothing optional even in public places. Coldin has launched a constitutional challenge of the Criminal Code provisions against public nudity, saying the Code limits freedom of expression and is too broad. Coldin’s lawyer, Clayton Ruby, calls the Code’s nudity provisions an oddity, meaning they are outdated and improperly worded.

This constitutional challenge is part of Brian Coldin’s legal defence against allegations of public nudity. He has been charged with three counts of being nude in a public place and two counts of being nude and exposed to public view while on private property. The incidents are alleged to have happened between April 2008 and May 2009 on and around a resort that he operates and at several restaurant drive-thrus.

The alleged odd and unconstitutional provisions of the Criminal Code are written as follows:

Indecent acts
173. (1) Every one who wilfully does an indecent act,
(a) In a public place in the presence of one or more persons, or
(b) In any place, with intent thereby to insult or offend any person,
is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

(2) Every person who, in any place, for a sexual purpose, exposes his or her genital organs to a person who is under the age of 16 years is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

174. (1) Every one who, without lawful excuse,
(a) is nude in a public place, or
(b) is nude and exposed to public view while on private property, whether or not the property is his own,
is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

(2) For the purposes of this section, a person is nude who is so clad as to offend against public decency or order.

Note that police require the permission of the attorney general in order to lay charges under the above sections of the Criminal Code.

Well I guess the attorney general did consent to the charges because the criminal trial started in the fall of 2010. At the hearings, several witnesses were upset, angry and even wept on the witness stand when explaining their encounters with a naked Brian Coldin and how it harmed them.

The rest of the trial has been postponed until May 17, 2011.

Supporters of this constitutional challenge such as the Federation of Canadian Nudists (FCN) say:

Canadian nudity laws are archaic because they define nudity as generally “indecent” and intended to cause “harm” to those who witness it.

The FCN has asked the Federal Government several times to review Sections 173 and 174 of the Criminal Code to better reflect present-day attitudes of a more enlightened society toward nudity, particularly in the context of nudist/naturist recreation and lifestyle.

Nudists say they’re just doing what comes naturally.

As the law says, a person is considered “nude” not only when completely naked, but also if clad in a way that offends against public decency or order.

However, the standards of decency and propriety have varied a lot over time. To decide whether or not being nude in public is “indecent”. In making its judgment, the court must apply the evolving standards of decency and propriety in the 21st century.

But has society become accepting (tolerant) of public nudity? Or is there increasing public indifference?

Trying to figure that one out is not an easy task.

Our society seems so divided on what is morally right and what is against public decency or order, can there be an acceptable social norm in regard to public nudity in our day and age, such as the standard of the Victorian era?

Are you ready to walk down Yonge Street and see a naked person walking towards you? Or to sit in a cinema beside a nude partaker? Or better yet, to see a witness appear in court in the nude?

Based on the above, is the law so outdated and imperfect that it should be re-examined by Parliament?

I know that I am not quite ready for that.


  1. You are likely to touch a (naked) nerve with this topic. I wrote a column for a few years for the National Post. A piece on topless rights for women triggered the most mail. Mainly male mail. Co

  2. Your opinion on nudity is a valid one; people who enjoy being nude would possibly disagree. Either way, everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

    Personally, walking down Young street naked and thinking it would be accepted by everyone is about the same as driving through a Tim Hortons drive-through and thinking they would be pleased.

    In Canada, the big problem for nudist to me would be, there are just “No” places for a nudist to go.

    Maybe take a 2 hour drive to Toronto to get on a boat to arrive to an island for a half hour walk and finally arrive to a beach that is dirty, provides no shelters, no water to drink, etc, etc.

    Option 2: Pay a Resort such as Brian Coldin’s to have the right to be nude. What right is it, if you have to pay for it?

    Perhaps if there were some options for people who enjoy being in the buff, more beach’s, parks, or just small sections of.

    It still amazes me how most people would rather see a murder, then a naked person on television, perhaps in real life too?

    For me, if someone wants to be naked, who cares? If you don’t like “PT Cruisers” , “Don’t Look at Them”. Or just maybe, we should have them banned!

  3. Yes, I would not have any problem seeing a naked person on television (within reason and context) rather than a murder. However, I do sometime enjoy a good murder mystery. This said, would I like to walk out of my front door and see a murder or encounter a naked person, no.

    However, I do agree with you that options should be available for people to express their rights and preferences WITHOUT offending.

    What does options are, I do not know.

    On an aside: My sister read my comment and is wondering why people have to impose their preferences and quirks on other people? if anybody has an answer for her, I would like to pass it on. Thanks

  4. I wish I could help you with that whole “people imposing their preferences and quirks on other people” thing.
    I can not for the life of me figure out how clothing-pro people/tactiles/Victorians can feel justified imposing their preference to be clothed on poor unsuspecting naturists.

    I think there’s a huge difference between lewd behaviour and pure naturism. Unfortunately that difference is in the mind of the naturist, but they are charged and tried based on the perception of the tactile.

    I think there are many societies where nude people are no big deal. Logically: This is a person with clothes, this is that person without clothes. How important are those clothes? If you look at them in a pile on the floor, would you have a conversation with them? The person is the same person with or without clothing. And people are wonderful. God made them that way and God made them without clothes… In fact I think God was angry when the first people put on clothes ~ that’s where the problems all started.

    Anyhow, back to the mind of the perceiver; that’s where the real problem is. If you perceive someone attacking you sexually, then you are right to defend yourself, fight back, charge criminally, or do whatever you have to.
    If you perceive a person without clothing and think about sexuality and blame your thoughts on them… then you have a problem. Some people look at a painting and feel sick – should that painting (or art in general) be banned? Or should that person more rightly get help for their cognitive dissonance?