Canada’s Public Nudity Law Upheld

One year ago I wrote about Brian Coldin, a naturist and owner of a nudist resort in Barrie, Ontario, who was 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. As part of his defence, Coldin launched a constitutional challenge to the Criminal Code provisions against public nudity. He states that the Code limits his freedom of expression and is too broad.

On Thursday January 12, 2012, Justice Jon-Jo Douglas convicted Coldin on the three counts of being nude in a public place. Douglas upheld the constitutional validity of Canada’s public nudity laws stating, “requiring people to wear some modicum of clothing when in public is a reasonable limit.” The judge found the law prohibiting nudity in a public place doesn’t infringe on freedom of expression or the right to practise naturism.

On the other hand, however, the judge did state that aspects of the legislation that restrict nakedness on private property have little to do with the preservation of order and decency:

It is difficult to conceive how public order and decency is preserved by preventing people from going unclothed on private property even when they are visible to others.”

Thus, Coldin was found not guilty on two counts of being nude and exposed to public view while on private property, the clothing-optional resort he operates in the Bracebridge area.

Coldin was sentenced to two years probation and $3,000 in fines.

In my last post, I asked: Is the law so outdated and imperfect that it should be re-examined by Parliament? The answer, from the Court at least, is: not yet!

To this end, the judge added:

Coldin’s actions expressed “not much more than his desire to be publicly nude.”

Attending at the pickup of Tim Hortons, of A&W, without one’s pants expresses little meaning about naturism to others, and it is certainly not perceived as having important meaning.”

Coldin may appeal. He and other naturists may look for support to Judge Douglas’s comments about being nude on private property but visible to the public. But that’s only a small part of what Coldin is seeking, and the Supreme Court doesn’t seem likely to open up a wider debate on the topic.

I guess we’ll just have to keep our eyes open and perhaps Coldin and his case will get more exposure. Of course, I doubt Coldin is so brazen in his protest at this time of the year in Barrie.

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