Canadians deserve local access to their preferred forms of recreation, including clothing-optional recreation without fear of legal repercussions. As our experience has demonstrated, this is easier to achieve than most naturists would believe. The best part is that “official approval” isn’t even needed!
Hidden Beach in Calgary
In 2020, Calgary Nude Recreation (CNR) moved forward with plans to establish a new clothing-optional recreation area within the city. This was motivated first by concerns over the accessibility of the existing nude beach that has been in use for over 2 decades, and second by the desire to demonstrate our “don’t ask, do tell” strategy can scale beyond single outdoor events.
The selected location took about 2 years to find. Located at the northern edge of Fish Creek Provincial Park, “Hidden Beach” is situated at a natural bend in Fish Creek and hidden by cliffs to the north and a lot of tall vegetation to the south. Adjacent trails pass by the area, but few pass through the vegetation to the water. For context, Fish Creek Provincial Park is the second-largest urban park in Canada and surrounded by suburban residential communities on all sides.
The “don’t ask, do tell” approach relies on the Legal Opinion (developed by a Canadian law firm specializing in constitutional issues) as correctly classifying contextually appropriate naturism as a lawful activity. Understanding that contextually appropriate naturism is trouble-free and already completely legal, one simply needs to proactively inform the relevant authorities of the intention to use the space with a description of what that use will look like. Once again, one simply needs to proactively inform the relevant authorities of the intention to use the space.
Don’t Ask, Do Tell
There are a few different aspects that need to be understood for this approach to make sense.
- First, while there IS a provision against nudity in the Criminal Code of Canada (s174), there are so many definitions and exceptions that it’s effectively not applicable. This makes sense because otherwise changing at the pool, modelling for an art class, or even walking from your shower back to your bedroom would be illegal. (Read the full breakdown HERE).
- Second, note that local or provincial authorities cannot pass laws or ordinances which are more restrictive than federal laws. This actually makes things in Canada better than in the US, where the lack of federal statute concerning nudity allows state and local governments to pass their own rules. Nullifying s. 174 would likely be counter-productive to our interests.
- Third, virtually every park bylaw contains provisions that protect the “peaceful enjoyment” of the park (or similar language). Remember that this also protects the park use of those engaging in clothing-optional recreation.
- Lastly, the role of the police is to “keep the peace”, or said another way “deal with problems”. Most police services (especially following the attention given to police brutality in 2020) do not operate to proactively seek out citizens and arrest them without very good reason. It is CNR’s understanding that mediation is the first option used by police rather than judicial enforcement.
Based on our experience, when a group expresses an intention to use an area for contextually appropriate clothing-optional recreation, it is passed to an internal legal department. Months later, acknowledgement is given that the group has a right to use the park like any other citizen and that reports of criminal activity will be referred to local police. If pushed on the issue, Its possible to get an acknowledgement that those participating in nude recreation would have a right to peaceful enjoyment of the park just as any other park user, and that complaints against anyone who interfered with their peaceful enjoyment of the park would be acted upon.
Note that no part of the response endorses or permits nudity in the park. This is perfectly okay – it is not the job of parks administrators to give permission for every activity that is going to take place in the park. The necessary legal structures already exist to address unlawful activities.
Proactive Relationships with Police
CNR regularly communicates the date, time, and location of all our pre-organized outside activities to the Calgary Police Service (CPS) ahead of time. CNR has a fantastic relationship with CPS, so we have no fear of prosecution for contextually appropriate nude recreation.
Historically, clothing optional areas often fall into what is perceived as legal grey area, meaning users typically assume the area is not officially “legal”. This creates problems when there are criminal acts where the police should be called, because nobody wants to feel like they are calling the police on themselves, too.
Predators may gravitate to places where people are unlikely to call the police. This allows them to commit crimes brazenly. Such crimes include things such as masturbation, assault, or other disruptive behaviour.
A good relationship with your local police department is considered essential. Instances of public masturbation and other safety related issues are the types of things that tarnish the validity of nude recreation. Its these poor representations that get clothing optional areas shut down permanently.
Any person or club looking to establish a beach must be willing to be stewards of the area. There MUST be a willingness to call the police when needed. The benefit of working with police ahead of time means a police response won’t be a frightening ordeal.
Nude recreation is rare, and it is unreasonable to expect all police officers to be knowledgeable on this area of law. Initiating conversations ahead of time gives authorities the chance to find out through their own legal department as to what is acceptable.
Make sure people can find it
While Hidden Beach is itself rather hidden despite being in the middle of a bustling city, the online presence of Hidden Beach is quite prominent. CNR has a web page for Hidden Beach that ranks highly with Google search results. Google Maps has Hidden Beach and Weaselhead (the original nude beach) marked, with a link to the directions to get there.
Within 2 weeks of being added to Google Maps, Hidden Beach achieved over 24,000 views and over 16,000 searches by name.
A photo journalist with the CBC even did a photo spread about Hidden Beach, which was quite well received. Surprisingly, the overwhelming response by Calgarians was that people were shocked that Calgary had not one but TWO clothing optional beaches.
What about signs?
A sign is NOT needed for nude recreation to be legal. In fact, nude recreation need not be confined to a specific area, as demonstrated by CNR’s countless outside activities in public areas. CNR even had a naked bike ride which took place entirely on bike paths along the river. The bike ride wasn’t even conducted as a “protest”, it was purely recreational.
There are certainly benefits to signage, such as letting other park users know what to expect just up the trail. The practical problem is that the creation and installation of signage is very likely going to require “official creation” of the area, via a vote of elected officials or decision of a specific public servant. It introduces a whole different set of challenges.
The good news is that lots of different groups use public parks without signage or official designation. For example, Fish Creek Provincial Park also has a mountain bike terrain park, which is also entirely unofficial despite it also being shown on Google Maps.
Philosophically, the major drawback of signs is that they inadvertently convey that signage is needed for nude recreation to be acceptable or legal, which is the complete opposite of what we have established. Nude recreation is already legal in lots of places, regardless of signage or area designation.
Nude Mandatory vs Clothing Optional
This is an important topic among nudists, who sometimes believe all spaces for naturism should be nude-mandatory. However, we live in a time where individual choice is valued over group assimilation. What this means is that younger generations demand a level of autonomy over their bodies and their choices in ways that may feel unnatural to older generations. Times change and we need to change with them.
Anyone not offended by nudity should be considered an ally. Period. What someone else is wearing has no bearing on YOUR use of the area. You have no right to see others naked. You have no right to demand others take off their clothes for your comfort.
The government CANNOT mandate that people remove their clothing via ordinances. Individuals cannot demand that anyone remove their clothing. Any public beaches used for naturism are “clothing optional”. Any member of the public is welcome to use the public area wearing whatever they wish, and they are entitled to do so free of harassment for what they choose to wear.
Summary - How To Establish A Clothing Optional Area
1 – Be reasonable in your expectations about the location. Find a decent area that is as quiet as reasonably possible. The area need not be completely isolated or immune to random passers-by, but should not be a high traffic area. CNR encourages people to seek an area INSIDE city limits if possible. The location should be central and accessible via transit.
2 – Contact CalgaryNudeRecereation@Gmail.com for assistance. CNR can and will provide coaching and guidance for how to facilitate the required conversations. We want every major city across Canada to have an easily accessible area for clothing optional recreation!
3 – Contact the police and initiate a dialogue. This isn’t nearly as frightening as it sounds.
4 – Contact the controlling authority of the area you wish to use. Due to the length of time the internal legal review may take, Fall is a good time to do this so that people may begin using the area in the Spring.
5 – Make a web page with directions and instructions. Add the location to Google Maps and claim it as your business. Take steps to ensure the web page ranks well with Google search results (Search Engine Optimization).
6 – Enjoy the fruits of your labour!
The future is now
Nude recreation WILL be normalized in the future to the point that someone swimming in the river naked will be just as normal as someone wearing a swimsuit. With everyone’s help, we can make this a reality much sooner.
Calgary Nude Recreation has already made this happen in Calgary, only 3 years after bomb threats shut down our first wave pool swim. If this can happen in Calgary, this can happen anywhere in Canada that there are enough enthusiasts who take the initiative to make it happen.
Questions and comments can be directed to CalgaryNudeRecreation@Gmail.com