Sunday, November 21, 2010

Canada: Naked hiker cleared

Dropped charges may set precedent for naturists


The law has tried to stop an Orillia man from walking naked. But it failed.

"It's like total freedom. You can just feel the breeze, the sun, unless you try it you have no idea what it feels like," says the 60-year-old free-hiker who frequents a local recreational trail.

"Other naturists are still fearful of being in the general public on out of the way trails because of the fact they think they're going to get convicted."

On Monday, the man who requested anonymity, went to trial in an Orillia court charged with an indecent act.
Two off-duty police officers witnessed him walking naked on the Uhthoff Trail in Severn Township in September 2009.
The charges were dismissed.

Gleb Bazov, a Toronto-based lawyer who represents the man, believes the decision sets an important precedent.
"It is a landmark case in the sense that the law has been applied to nudists and naturists. Now there is a clear pronouncement that a naturist is not engaging in an indecent act."

The man was initially also charged with nudity in a public place, but that was withdrawn in September of this year.
The Crown did not receive consent from the Attorney General to commence proceedings, which is required on a nudity charge.
The indecent act charge was dismissed because what the man was doing was not harmful, Bazov said.
Acts that would constitute this charge are public masturbation, luring for sexual act, luring children and flashers, he noted.

"They might not think it's appropriate, or they might think it's not moral, but it's not indecent in the sense that it causes anybody any harm."

Charlene Ewanchuk disagrees.

Her home on Thorburn Road backs onto the Uhthoff Trail. She has called police on the "naked man" several times.
"I find it offensive. If I catch him going by my house, I'll call the cops."

One day while travelling the trail with her children, now aged 10 and 14, they came across the man.

"Turn your head the opposite way and just go by," Ewanchuk told her children. "Don't look, don't talk to him, just go by."
Ewanchuk questions why Orillian walks in Severn Township.

"If it's so acceptable why isn't he doing it in downtown Orillia? Why does it have to be out here?"

Severn Township Mayor Phil Sled says the township has received complaints about the man "a few times."

"It's more shock than anything that he would be out there exposing himself in that way."

The township wrote a letter to the man in November 2006 "prohibiting" him from using the Uhthoff Trail while "improperly clothed."

"The Uhthoff Trail is used for recreational purposes only and to provide a benefit to all users young and old alike," the letter states.

"If the courts can't charge him, I guess he's within his (rights.) Personally, I don't think it's appropriate," Sled said.

The man requested anonymity to protect the reputation of his family members.
He has two grown children, who live in the area, disapprove of his lifestyle.
"I understand (their opinion) but I don't agree with them. I don't force myself lifestyle on them."
His two sisters, who also live here, are very bothered by his activity.
"They are frightened to death of naturism in any sort. Very strict upbringing."
Once a very self-conscious man, he became curious about naturism and decided to visit a nudist resort.
"(The resort) changed my whole life, it gave me my life back. I wish I had tried it many, many years ago."
He has been a naturist for 10 years. 
The man wanted to share his story with the public to let other naturists know they are "well within their rights."

Having a good understanding of the law, he would like to start a freehiker group in Orillia.

"I want to get across to naturists that they don't have to fear being out in the public."

Stéphane Deschênes, director of the Federation of Canadian Naturists, says naturists are just embracing their "natural self."

"We, as a society, have a real phobia about our own body. We are so incredibly uncomfortable that we find our own image embarrassing, shameful and offensive."

Deschênes is also the owner of Bare Oaks Family Naturist Park, a year-round naturist park and campground near Toronto.

The park has 1,500 day visitors this season and 4,180 overnight visits. Deschênes says there are at least two families in the Orillia area who attend the camp.

Deschênes says most naturists prefer to practise their lifestyle only in nudists resorts.

"They are aware that others will take great exception to their body for whatever reason. Social pressure is far more powerful than any law."

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