Man seeking to strip Canada’s nudity laws

A man challenging the constitutionality of Canada’s nudity laws this week has a long history of legal battles with police, including at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

Brian Coldin of Bracebridge, Ont., will be in court tomorrow arguing it should no longer be a criminal offence to be naked in public, the Canadian Press reported. His lawyers say the law on public nudity is too broad and call the restrictions a violation of freedom of expression.

Coldin is fighting criminal charges over allegations he was naked at an A&W and Tim Hortons in Bracebridge. He has also been fighting charges laid against him in September 2008 and October 2009 before the HRTO over alleged discrimination on the basis of creed. According to an HRTO decision last year, Coldin identifies himself as a Christian naturist. He names the Ontario Provincial Police as a respondent in the human rights matter.

So far, Coldin hasn’t had much luck at the HRTO, where the case has faced delays over consideration of whether the tribunal can hear the matter while a related civil suit against OPP officers continues. The OPP has been arguing for dismissal of the human rights matter given that it deals with similar substance — wrongful prosecution — as the civil case.

Coldin, on the other hand, says the civil matter deals only with actions against him prior to 2005, when he became a Christian naturist. It wasn’t until 2007 that police began threatening to charge him with nudity, he says. “The applicant states that he believes the charges filed by the police in recent years are motivated by a desire to prevent him from practising his Christian naturist beliefs,” HTRO vice chairwoman Naomi Overend wrote in an interim decision on the matter.

Just last month, another HRTO vice chairman, Brian Cook ruled in favour of delaying the human rights matter given the concerns related to overlap in the cases. As a result, it may be the criminal court that has the first word on the fairness of Canada’s nudity laws in the case against Coldin this week.

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