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Women can go topless in Ontario

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Published on July 31, 2015 with No Comments

It’s been more than 20 years since Gwen Jacob walked topless down a street in Guelph, Ont., and was charged with committing an indecent act. That sparked a court battle that ultimately vindicated her, and the courts ruled it was legal for women to go topless in Ontario.

Just because it’s legal to go without tops, however, doesn’t mean it’s culturally any easier for women to do it now than it was for Jacob in 1991. The matter came up for discussion when last Friday three sisters in Kitchener, Ont., went for a topless bike ride and say they were stopped by a police officer who asked them to put their shirts back on. The sisters, Tameera, Nadia and Alysha Mohamed, said they will file a formal complaint with the Office of the Independent Police Review Director over the incident.

It’s just the latest incident involving women and girls not wearing tops that has sparked outrage. In June, an eight-year-old girl was asked to cover up her bare chest at a swimming pool in Guelph. After her parents complained that the city’s swimming attire policy was sexist and old-fashioned, the City of Guelph said it would review the policy.

The sisters are demanding an apology from a police officer who they said stopped the women as they were riding their bicycles topless and told them to cover up. A police officer driving by in an SUV saw the women, rolled down his window and told them they needed to put shirts on because it was the law. A similar incident in June garnered headlines after eight-year-old Marlee McLean was told by city staff in Guelph, Ont. to cover up while she was in a wading pool wearing only a swim bottom.

Ontario women have had the right to go topless in public since 1996, five years after Guelph university student Gwen Jacobs was charged for committing an indecent act when she walked home shirtless on a hot day. The Kitchener sisters are filing a formal complaint with the Waterloo Regional Police. The women are also organizing a rally, called Bare With Us, which they hope will help educate the public on the women’s right to be topless, but also broader issues such as women’s pay inequity and safety.

Tameera Mohamed is reported to have said that everyone was welcome to attend the rally at noon on Saturday in the Waterloo Town Square, including police officers.


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