Bare Breasts in Public: Legal?

In the News

It’s been a very hot summer. Taking your top off might have crossed your mind. In Mauricie, one woman has spoken out about the right to sunbathe topless at the beach. What does the law say?

Not illegal

Simply having your breasts uncovered in public is not illegal by itself. In fact, the Criminal Code does not forbid it expressly.

Canadian courts have also confirmed that it is not illegal. For example, in 1996, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that a woman was allowed to walk topless in public. This rule applies across Canada. In addition, Quebec women can normally walk down the sidewalk or ride a bike topless.

It should also be noted that cities and municipalities do not have the power to forbid women from going topless in public.

Indecent acts are illegal

In some cases, bare breasts can be considered indecent. It all depends on the context. For example, if sexual acts are involved then it could be considered indecent.

However, bare breasts themselves are not considered indecent. For example, women have the right to breastfeed their infants in public.

Nudity can be illegal

Being nude in public without a “lawful excuse” is illegal. It’s also illegal to be naked and visible to the public while you’re in a private space. For example, washing your car in your garage with the door open. For nudity to be illegal, it must against ‘public decency’ (beyond what the community finds tolerable). This means that you can be partially nude in public if it’s considered ‘decent’.