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Toplessness: A Right All Women Deserve

Compiled by Suzanne MacNevin

"Celebrities go practically topless at the Oscars... so why can't we?"

Toplessness Legal in Ontario!

On December 10, 1996, a three-member panel of the powerful, incompetent, and appointed-for-life Ontario Court of Appeal unanimously ruled that a troubled young lady, Gwen Jacob, had not violated community standards by walking topless down a street in Guelph, despite indisputable proof to the contrary. In this ruling, these hated judges stripped Ontarians of any right to determine their own community standards and transferred that power to themselves.

Socialist Canada is not a nice place to live in. Comparable to police states, Canada's judiciary is now a world leader for putting people in prison. Hostile to free speech, Canada is ranked 13th in the world for free speech rights. Canadians are burdened with the second highest taxes in the world, 1/4 of that just to maintain interest payments on government debt. Since 1990, the average Canadian has suffered a massive 20% drop in standard of living compared to the average neighbouring American. High-level corruption is out of control. Canada is a failure by most standards one has to measure such things, and not surprisingly, is exhibiting the classic symptoms of failed communist states.

79% of Canadian women want toplessness prohibited in public. 80% of Canadians want meaningful judicial reforms. The Federal Canadian government, popularly called "The Five Year Dictatorship" has simply refused or ignored pleas for either. In fact, Canada has been perverted into such a defacto dictatorship that most MP's don't even bother to read the bills they vote for.

Toplessness won't bust out in Alberta

By PATRICK CARON, SUN MEDIA CALGARY -- The acquittal of two Saskatchewan women caught going topless won't stop the province from busting women doffing their tops here.

But at least one Calgary lawyer said she would gladly represent any woman willing to challenge the "ridiculous" law.

Wednesday's ruling by Saskatchewan provincial court Justice Eugene Lewchuk doesn't change a thing in Alberta, Alberta Justice spokesman Peter Tadman said.

"Women who try to go topless in public will be charged with indecent exhibition or indecent exposure," he said.

Lewchuk ruled Kathleen Rice, 42, and Evangelene Godron, 64, didn't violate community standards when they when they sunbathed topless in a Regina park last August. But Lewchuk warned the acquittal came attached with a few qualifiers - anyone acting erotically or going topless in the presence of children could still be charged.

That hardly constitutes a victory for women wanting to go topless, Tadman said.

"The Saskatchewan decision is a limited decision - the judge found these two not guilty only under certain circumstances," he said.

Alberta's laws will be enforced without exception, Tadman said. But Calgary lawyer Bina Border said she'd be willing to defend any woman who wants to peel off her top and cool down in public.

"I'd take up a case like this," said Border, a lawyer with the firm Van Harten, O'Gorman and Foster. "It seems ridiculous that a man can go topless in a public place but a woman can't."

It's time to change not only the law making female toplessness illegal, but the public's mindset as well, said Border, adding that won't happen overnight here.

"Considering the (political) climate, it would be an uphill fight."

But one possible edge for Border is the precedent set in 1996 when the Ontario Court of Appeal overturned the conviction of Gwen Jacob. The Guelph, Ont., resident had been found guilty in 1992 of committing an indecent act for taking off her top on a hot day in July 1991.

Jacob said she couldn't understand why men could expose their chests and women couldn't.

To date, no one has challenged Alberta's indecent exposure laws.

July 10, 1997



By Roxanne Beaubien

Free Press Chatham Bureau

CHATHAM -- A handful of people in Kent County are planning another push to make it illegal for women to go topless by piggybacking onto a Windsor-based group's petition, an organizer says.

"We feel that toplessness is an attack on everything we value in society and that it was done undemocratically," Shirley Faas said.

The Windsor-based coalition hopes to collect 250,000 signatures to urge the federal government to pass a law that will either bar or restrict women from going topless, Faas said.

POOR STANDARD: Chatham Mayor Bill Erickson said city council has already endorsed one petition that has been sent to the province and to the federal justice minister. "We are saying it sets a poor standard for youth in our community," Erickson said.

Last month, council passed a motion asking for legislation to make toplessness illegal for women in Ontario. The resolution has been sent to other municipalities across Ontario for approval.

Faas and the other grassroots members of the Kent County branch of the Coalition Against Toplessness are holding a meeting Monday at 7:30 p.m. at Chatham Christian high school to distribute copies of the petition that will be delivered to the House of Commons in the fall. The branch has about five members, Faas said.

A woman's right to go bare-chested "is not more important than my right to protect myself and my children from the view of half-naked women," Faas said, the mother of four children between the ages 10 and 17.

But some people say the whole debate is a red herring.

"I think this topic is really derailing us and taking us away from important equality issues," said Michelle Schryer, executive director of the Chatham-Kent Sexual Assault Crisis Centre.

But if there were to be restrictions on toplessness, they should apply equally to men. "You can't convince me that some people aren't stimulated or offended by men's naked chests," Schryer said.

Chatham police deputy chief Carl Herder said he is only aware of one incident of a woman going topless in the city since December, when the Ontario Court of Appeals overturned a 1991 indecency conviction against a Guelph woman who walked down the street topless. And so far, no women have tried a topless swim in any of the city's pools, a city official said.

"I can't see it happening much here," Herder said, adding that no problems were reported during the hot, humid days of Chatham's recent Festival of Nations.

Faas said she has heard of more than one incident.

STRAIN: Allowing women to go topless is an attack on what women have accomplished with their brains and it puts an "unnecessary strain" on relationships when a man looks at another woman's breasts, Faas said.

And in the end, it is just plain confusing to young people, whose hormones are already raging, she said.

"Why restrict young people from going into strip joints? Why put pornographic magazines in brown wrappers on the back shelf . . . and yet say to (youth), `It's OK, you can just look at it on the streets.' "

Topless in New York

In 1992, the New York Court of Appeals ruled that a group of women protestors did not violate a New York State nudity statute by protesting topless in a Rochester public park. In the 1940s and 1950s the Tammany Hall judiciary was among the extreme in corruption in picking judges in the U.S. There was virtually no quality control and the resulting judiciary was loaded with hacks, incompentents and occasional crooks. Although there has been significant reform in the past quarter century, it is more likely that a New York state judge was a lawyer who was friendly with a senator.

Topless in Texas

In 1972, the Texas Equal Rights Amendment was passed into law. Subsequently, it has been used as a legal basis for striking down gender-specific ordinances in Lewisville and Fort Worth. However, women appearing topless in public are typically charged under public nuisance laws. The Texas Court of Appeals has consistently upheld convictions of women appearing topless in public, most recently the conviction of topless Angie Carreras by the 14th Texas Court of Appeals (Houston) on December 30, 1996..

(Not) Topless in Michigan

Women going topless in public in Michigan may be charged for disorderly conduct which, upon conviction, carries a sentence of up to 90 days in jail. An Ontario woman, who works as an exotic dancer in Windsor, decided to go topless in the vicinity of a Detroit area beach. After many complaints and repeated warnings she was finally arrested and put in jail pending bail.

Topless lawn mowing ruled legal in Newport

By Brenda Seekins, Of the NEWS Staff -- NEWPORT - A recent complaint of public indecency filed with the Newport Police Department has no shortage of willing investigators. However, it appears no laws were broken. A resident of the Martin Stream Road, the former Old Lunt Road, contacted police Sunday when a female neighbor was seen mowing the lawn topless. The complainant's concern for public safety because of the potential for distraction to motorists made its way to Town Manager Kenneth Knight this week.

Knight said Wednesday night that there is no state law prohibiting a woman from going topless on her own property. A local ordinance prohibits the exhibition of genitalia or sex acts committed in public.

''Female breasts are not genitalia,'' he told town selectmen Wednesday night, ''and mowing the lawn is not a sex act.''

Knight took the issue to the board to ask if an ordinance governing public nudity was in order. The answer was a resounding and unanimous ''no,'' as selectmen flashed grins and comments on how to resolve the complaint.

Complaints from residents on the Martin Stream Road were voiced in numbers Wednesday night. Shirley Davis came to express her frustration with the accumulation of unregistered, abandoned vehicles allowed to sit in a neighbor's yard.

Davis claimed the cars had numbered up to nine at one time in previous years. Her current complaint cited six cars in violation of state junkyard laws. Davis claimed no one is enforcing the laws.

Davis extended her complaint to dogs, also unlicensed, running at large in her neighborhood. She claimed that Newport's animal control officer is not enforcing laws governing the licensing and leashing of dogs.

Selectmen assured Davis that both matters would be reviewed.

Former Selectman Evelyn Roussin addressed the board on behalf of a frustrated contingent of senior citizens.

''What can we do to cut this [school] budget? The water [rate] is going up. And the sewer. Most of us are on a fixed income. What can we do to cut our taxes? A lot of people don't know what they're going to do,'' she told selectmen.

Roussin suggested that the board look into changing from a school district to a school union where local selectmen would have control of the budget for their town schools.

''There is a lot of waste in the school budget. I know. I see it every day,'' she said. Roussin works part time as a substitute teacher.

Part of the problem lies with the referendum vote, said Al Worden, board chairman.

''They tried to make it possible for more people to vote,'' he said. ''But it doesn't allow for changes like the district meeting did.''

In years past, adults concerned about the budget could attend the district meeting and make motions to change the budget.

''They have a voice there,'' he said. ''There are more people actively participating there than now with the referendum. You only have two choices - pass it or defeat it.''

Knight presented the board with several options to allow greater control over the school budget. He said the board could initiate a petition drive to go back to the district hearing; try to convert from a district to a union; or lobby for legislation in Augusta to require selectmen's approval of a budget before a referendum.

Roussin pledged her support for whatever tactic the board would choose. If getting more people out to a district meeting to control the budget is needed, Roussin is willing to call people.

Any decision on the issue could be a very political and controversial choice, Knight reminded the board.

Going to the school board or a district budget meeting with a united concern or objection, ''there's not a person on that board who wouldn't try to do something,'' said Worden. ''It's when people complain and then they don't go to meetings or vote that lets this continue.''

The board may meet with local legislators and the selectmen from the other district towns to discuss budget concerns.

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