A B.C. woman who asserted her legal right to go topless said she was told to cover up by a police officer, and then wrongly told by two other officials that she had broken a law.
Susan Rowbottom said she was tanning topless with a friend last week on a beach in Kelowna, B.C., when a male RCMP officer approached her and told her “put your top on.”
She said she complied, but then asked, “Why? Is there a reason, a law or anything?”
The officer informed the women it was against a city ordinance, Rowbottom said.
When she called a police station, a female officer told her the same. When she called bylaw officials, the person who answered the phone also agreed going topless was illegal.
Finally, she got a call from a city clerk who she said correctly informed her “it’s perfectly legal.”
Going topless has been legal B.C.-wide ever since 2000 when a woman named Linda Meyer beat charges related to a Maple Ridge, B.C., bylaw that outlawed exposed female nipples.
Still, Kelowna RCMP Cpl. Joe Duncan said police “may suggest to the person to put their top on,” but that it’s up to them to “make the ultimate decision.”
Rowbottom shared her story after three Ontario sisters told CTV Kitchener that a male police officer ordered them to cover up as they biked around shirtless on Saturday.
After one of them started filming the officer with a cellphone, he asked whether they had lights on their bikes. They did.
Women have had the legal right to expose their breasts in Ontario since 1996. Guelph, Ont. student Gwen Jacobs was arrested for walking home from class while topless in 1991. Jacobs was charged with committing an indecent act, but fought the charge and won five years later.
Women in Waterloo, Ont., have planned pro-topless demonstration Saturday in support of the three sisters and to remind the public of that fact.
With reports from CTV Vancouver and CTV Kitchener