BRACEBRIDGE, Ont. — An Ontario court upheld Canada’s public nudity law Thursday, saying it doesn’t infringe on freedom of expression or the right to practise naturism.
While nudism could be considered a protected form of expression under certain circumstances, “requiring people to wear some modicum of clothing when in public is a reasonable limit,” Justice Jon-Jo A. Douglas told the court in delivering his judgment.
The court ruling comes after a constitutional challenge by a man charged in incidents involving public nudity in the Bracebridge area.
Brian Coldin was found guilty of partial nudity that offended public order for incidents at a park and two fast-food drive-thrus.
He was found not guilty in another incident that started on his own property, a clothing-optional resort he operates in the Bracebridge area north of Toronto.
At Coldin’s trial, A&W and Tim Hortons workers testified he was nude when he came to the drive-thru windows and one worker said he pretended to reach for a wallet as if wearing pants.
Outside court Thursday, Coldin said he said he wasn’t nude during that incident, but was wearing a towel.
He also defended his propensity for appearing naked in public as a form of protest, comparing it to the World Naked Bike Ride, an international demonstration with offshoots in Toronto and other Canadian cities.
In his ruling, however, Douglas found 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,” he said.
One of Coldin’s lawyers, Nader Hasan, told reporters he is disappointed by the decision and his client will consider whether to appeal.
In Canada, it is illegal to be nude in a public place, or while on private property but exposed to public view.
Coldin’s lawyers have said the law was overly broad and should be struck down.
Douglas expressed concern Thursday about restrictions on nudity on private property, but declined to rule on that aspect of the law because it didn’t apply to Coldin’s case.
The Crown has asked the court to fine Coldin and place him on three years probation.
The defence has argued Coldin isn’t dangerous and should be discharged.