Gay pride nudity: school trustees ask about enforcing laws

Some Toronto District School Board trustees have issued a formal request asking whether public nudity laws will be upheld at this year's Pride parade.
A parade marcher greets the crowd during Toronto’s Pride parade. (Ivy Cuervo/CBC)

Some Toronto District School Board trustees have issued a formal request asking whether public nudity laws will be enforced at this year's Pride parade.

Three trustees — Sam Sotiropoulos, Irene Atkinson and John Hastings — will put forward a motion at Wednesday's meeting that calls on the board chair to write to Mayor Rob Ford and city councillors, asking them clarify whether nudity laws will be upheld at Pride events.

Attended by thousands every year, the Pride parade often features participants in various states of undress. Toronto's usual week-long celebrations will this year be replaced by the even larger WorldPride, which gets underway June 20. 

Displays of gay pride and its occasional lack of clothing have recently become hot topics at Toronto City Hall. Sotiropolous got into a Twitter battle last month with Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam over the legality of public nudity. Shortly after, Coun. Doug Ford — addressing Mayor Rob Ford's refusal to attend Pride — remarked he does not condone "men running down the street buck naked" during the celebrations. 

Around the same time, Mayor Ford lost a battle to remove a gay pride rainbow flag from in front of city hall. 

The TDSB has run floats and a bus at the Pride parade, and participates in many Pride events.

The motion says nudity at Pride "raises legal concerns and implications" for "TDSB students and their families."

In email sent to other trustees, Sotiropoulos included a photo sent to him by "a member of the public" showing a fully naked Pride participant standing on Bloor Street between Church and Jarvis streets. In the background is a couple with a toddler in a stroller. 

Some have criticized the trustees' motion as homophobic, a claim Sotiropoulos says is "nonsense."

"This is a municipal matter and it has to do with the policing and the enforcing of the laws of Canada in the streets of Toronto," he told CBC News. "If you were to do this in any other ward throughout the city at any other time of day during that same period, you'd likely be arrested."

Sean Hillier, co-chair of Pride Toronto, says this is the first time school board has raised the issue. 

"We have been very accommodating to many organizations such as the TDSB and … we've never heard a complaint or concern from them to my knowledge. This is really the first time it's become such a large issue for anybody," Hillier said. 

Hillier added he hopes the school board will be involved again this year. 

With files from the CBC's Steven Bull


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