Bare breast bat­tle brews

Hu­man rights com­plaint tar­gets On­tario city’s pool pol­icy on fe­male top­less­ness

The Western Star - - Canada -

An eastern On­tario city is fac­ing a hu­man rights com­plaint over its pol­icy on fe­male top­less­ness in pools, more than two decades af­ter it be­came le­gal for women bare their breasts in public in the prov­ince.

Corn­wall Mayor Les­lie O’Shaugh­nessy said a woman has com­plained to the Hu­man Rights Tri­bunal of On­tario al­leg­ing the pool pol­icy dis­crim­i­nates on the ba­sis of gen­der.

“Our pol­icy states that girls over the age of 10 must wear a top,’’ O’Shaugh­nessy said. “The clause that’s in there is spe­cific to fe­males.’’

City coun­cil­lors will de­cide whether to fight the com­plaint or change the pol­icy in the com­ing weeks, and were set to be briefed by city lawyers Mon­day evening, he said.

The tri­bunal has not yet sched­uled a hear­ing on the mat­ter and the full de­tails of the com­plaint haven’t been made public, but O’Shaugh­nessy noted the com­plainant doesn’t live in the city or the sur­round­ing coun­ties.

The com­plaint also tar­gets an eastern On­tario wa­ter park and seven ho­tel com­pa­nies.

Corn­wall’s top­less­ness pol­icy dates back to 1996 — and O’Shaugh­nessy said he doesn’t know the rea­son­ing be­hind it.

Bare breasts were a mat­ter of public de­bate at the time.

In De­cem­ber of that year, the On­tario Court of Ap­peal ruled that a woman’s top­less stroll down a street in Guelph, Ont., was not ob­scene, mak­ing it le­gal for all women in On­tario to be top­less in public.

Mu­nic­i­pal poli­cies on the is­sue have been chal­lenged in a num­ber of On­tario cities on the ba­sis of that rul­ing in the in­ter­ven­ing years.

Cam­bridge, Ont., elim­i­nated its top­less­ness pol­icy af­ter two women were charged with tres­pass­ing for swim­ming top­less in protest of the city’s ban in 1997.

Guelph, Ont., changed its pol­icy af­ter an eight-year-old girl was told by city staff to cover up while she was in a wad­ing pool wear­ing only a swim bot­tom in 2015.

The re­cent hu­man rights com­plaint wasn’t sparked by a sim­i­lar in­ci­dent, ac­cord­ing to Scott Lecky, the owner and gen­eral man­ager of the Ra­mada Corn­wall, one of the re­spon­dents.

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