Torontonians who disapprove of lewd conduct and public nudity should steer clear of the city’s annual “gay pride” parade, because the authorities are reluctant to enforce their own laws. In September, the Crown decided not to prosecute seven nude men arrested in the June parade on the grounds there was “no reasonable prospect for conviction.”

According to lawyer and Totally Naked Toronto Men Enjoying Nudity (TNT MEN) member Peter Simm, the men were all wearing shoes, so “it’s not a criminal offence as long as the person has some item of apparel somewhere on the body.” Simm also told reporters the Crown cannot simply speculate about the harm caused by public nudity, but prove it in court. “The fact that some individuals complain they are offended does not legally constitute harm,” said Simm. Penalties for public nudity can include up to six months in prison and a $2,000 fine.

While the homosexual community was pleased with the Crown’s decision, others were left shaking their heads. In a letter to Ontario Attorney-General David Young, REAL Women of Canada president Lorraine McNamara called the decision “an insult to the intelligence of the Canadian public.” McNamara argued “the public display of nudity is clearly contrary to the community standard of tolerance – especially when minors under the age of 14 were present. It also interferes with the ordinary and peaceful enjoyment of the streets.” She added that “no thinking person would ever consider that the men, marching in the parade, were not breaking the nudity law simply because they wore shoes, the reason given for withdrawal of the charges. It is obvious to everyone that the charges were not dropped because they were wearing shoes, but because they were gay.”

Speaking to The Interim, Brian Rushfeldt, the executive director of the Canadian Family Action Coalition, largely concurred with McNamara. “It’s an outright and outrageous flaunting of the law,” he said. “We clearly have a justice system that’s biased in favour of homosexual activity. I can tell you that if I took off all my clothes and paraded in the street to make a point, I’d be charged with public nudity regardless of whether I was wearing shoes.”