The City of Brossard on Montreal's South Shore is defending its decision to ban nudity in municipal sports facilities, saying that the move is in response to citizen complaints.
"When you're in a public space, we ask people to stay in a respectable state," Eric Leuenberger, the city's aquatic activities director said Tuesday on Radio-Canada's Gravel le matin.
He said the locker rooms draw a cross-section of clientele — for instance, women bringing their sons into the changing rooms or men who bring their daughters.
He said he received recurring complaints, people saying to him, "I don't want my son to be in front of naked women."
Changed in toilet stall
Brossard resident Roland Bérard, 67, has lived in the area for 30 years and often uses the public pool. He filed one of two complaints the city said it's received against the nudity ban.
He said it's unreasonable to be expected to change in a toilet stall or one of a few changing cubicles and to shower with a bathing suit on — which often means having to shower again when he gets home.
He wants to see people use discretion in the changing rooms when children are around, rather than have to abide by a sweeping ban on nudity.
"Be discreet. Be respectful. I think that's very important," Bérard said on CBC Montreal's Daybreak.
"In the instance where there is only the same gender there, it shouldn't be the rule."
He said that despite the media attention the situation is receiving, it isn't hotly discussed among those affected.
"Most of the people that I talk to just roll their eyes when the subject is brought up," he said.
Some Brossard residents agree with the changes.
"I think that's a great idea because I feel privacy is a big part of our future," John Kalopedakis said.
New aquatic complex
Brossard advised residents in its newsletter this month it wouldn't allow men or women to walk around naked in their respective locker rooms and showers.
For now, the penalty is a simple warning.
The city said the new rule is not a bylaw so no one will be fined if they don't follow it. They say this rule is a way to get people to change their behaviour and form new habits.
The changes come as Brossard breaks ground on a new aquatic complex, one that will do away with gender-specific change areas in favour of a universal locker room.
That gender-inclusive shared space that will cater to individuals, families and people with disabilities, including a common area and private showers and change stalls.
Resident Nicole Boivin said she's more at ease in a changing room that is only for women.
"But anyway we have to cope with changes, eh?" she said.
Such spaces already exist in Calgary and Guelph and are commonplace in some countries in Europe, including Switzerland, France and Belgium.
Brossard's new aquatic complex is expected to be ready in 2019.
Until it's built, the city is using two high school pools with limited locker space.
Leuenberger defended Brossard's new rules as necessary, adding "we can't have different rules for a category of citizens — we want one rule for everybody."
He said people like Bérard will simply have to live with it.
Locker-room nudity also surfaced as an issue in Montreal this past summer when signs cropped up at a pool asking swimmers to show discretion and not hang around in the buff.