Naturists turn out in support of Ont. nudist on trial
BRACEBRIDGE, Ont. - A man who is challenging the constitutionality of Canada's nudity laws received a boost Tuesday from a handful of naturists who descended on the small town in Ontario's cottage country where his lawyers were making arguments.
Lawyers for Brian Coldin spent the day trying to convince an Ontario court judge that it should no longer be a criminal offence to be naked in public. About six self-described naturists were in the courtroom to support him.
"I don't really have a nudist area that I go to so I pick areas around where I live that I can go naked," said Tom Balint, who travelled three hours from Ontario's Niagara region to attend the court proceedings.
"There's always that possibility that I could get caught one day and have to face the same kind of thing."
Balint said he risks having a criminal record if he's found nude, which can make it difficult to travel or find a job.
Coldin is facing five charges in connection with incidents at a Tim Hortons and A&W restaurant near the naturist resort he operates.
The Crown alleges Coldin went through a drive-thru without any clothes and pretended to reach into his non-existent back pocket and grab a wallet. Some witnesses who served him wept during the trial while testifying about seeing his genitals.
Coldin's lawyers have disputed the claim, saying he was wearing a towel during the incidents.
The judge will rule on the constitutionality of Canada's nudity laws and whether Coldin is guilty at the same time. The case is now adjourned until Sept. 28, when the judge is expected to set a date for his final decision.
Not all naturists support Coldin since some prefer to be nude in private settings, said Stephane Deschenes, who owns nearby naturist park Bare Oaks.
But he says he wants Coldin to win because he doesn't believe nudity should be a criminal offence on par with murder, robbery and assault.
"I'm not looking to be nude in public, but I don't think it should be a criminal offence," Deschenes said outside the courthouse Tuesday.
As the laws currently stand, it is a criminal offence to be seen without clothes on private property, including in your own home. Section 174 of the criminal code says it is illegal to be nude in a public place or while exposed to the public in a private place.
Outside the courtroom, Coldin said he's confident he'll win the case.
"It's about rights and the abuse of freedom of a person and their expression," he said. "It doesn't mean the fear that rampant naked people running all over the place is going to take place."
Coldin wore a grey suit and passed pictures of naked people sitting on a beach to people in the front row while the court proceedings took place.
Much of the day's arguments revolved around whether being nude in public is an act of freedom of expression, which is protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Crown lawyer Zachary Green argued that being nude would only be protected under the charter if there was a deliberate attempt to convey meaning to others. Coldin's example doesn't apply, he said, since it would be difficult for people who see him without clothes to interpret what he intends the meaning of his actions to be.
"If there's no evidence that he reasonably expects his message will get across, there's almost nothing left" for a charter challenge, he told the court.
Coldin's lawyer Nader Hasan countered that it's not important whether other people receive any meaning from someone's nudity but whether someone was attempting to convey meaning in the first place. Hasan also argued the law is too broad and should be struck down.