Here is a selection of TERA news releases from 1997 to 2001.
2001: Evangeline Godron and
the Supreme Court of Canada.
April 6, 2001
SUPREME COURT OF CANADA
TERA regrets to announce that the case of Evangeline Godron has ended, with an unsatisfactory result. On April 5, 2001, the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear her appeal of a mischief conviction. She had swum topfree in Regina, Saskatchewan, on August 24, 1998 and saw her case go through three courts in that province without success. TERA felt that there were several clear grounds on which to launch a successful appeal to the highest court, but to no avail.
The decision not to hear the case at the Supreme Court was made primarily by three of its judges, by no means the court's most liberal thinkers. As is usual, no reasons were given.
With this result, we are in famous company: we accept the decision (because we must) but we disagree with it profoundly. You have heard that line before: recall the US presidential election, and another Supreme Court.
But we did not lose at the Canadian Supreme Court; it merely made no comment and let a lower court ruling stand.
There are unresolved matters. A crucial part of an agreed statement of facts probably disappeared at one point. A judge probably misinterpreted an important legal principle. There is a possible conflict between rulings in Saskatchewan and Ontario. The constitutional equality of women and men remains in the background, having not yet been ruled on in this issue.
At the pool, no one complained about Ms. Godron's attire; a problem arose only when the pool staff decided they didn't want her there. They pressured someone who didn't object to Ms. Godron's swimsuit to sign a form objecting to it. The police's eventual but unnecessary arrival at the pool is what brought about a disturbance.
The prosecution maintained that this case was about more than swimming without a top. That means that women's topfree swimming may not be a criminal act in Saskatchewan. Topfreedom is also gaining in British Columbia through a court victory of the persistent Linda Meyer. In Ontario, women's topfreedom is theoretically legal because of Gwen Jacob's court victory in 1996, even if we have a lot of work yet to reinforce that---and to strike down unconstitutional local bylaws and policies.
So it is not completely clear what is legal in which places under which circumstances. But the public is accepting topfree women in various parts of Canada more than before, in a variety of situations. The social trends are definitely in favour of what we believe in. Ms. Godron's loss will not change that.
So we go on. We have learned much from this case. The next one should be easier. And if there is one thing we can all be sure of, it is that there will be a next one.
Since the Supreme Court did not hear this case, we'll try to make sure that if another gets that far, several things are made very clear: women are equal to men; women's breasts are not indecent; and their owners must not be demeaned and criminalized for exercising their equal rights.
Stay with us, please. We have only just begun.
THE TOPFREE EQUAL RIGHTS ASSOCIATION
TERA is very thankful to our many generous donors over the years, who have enabled us to get this far.
We solicit funds to assist women who are in legal difficulty for being topfree in public. The Godron case put us severely in debt. Donations in any currency are gratefully received at:
To read further or to contact us:
Donations may also be made by direct deposit to TD Bank, branch 2624, acct. 636. The account is controlled by lawyer John Abrams of Hamilton, Ontario.
July 25, 2000
Good (or neutral) news this time re the USA and Canada. Although we (the Topfree Equal Rights Association) don't pretend to cover the USA completely, we take a keen interest in events there and assist where possible.
1. The Ohio University student Jaimie Beebe, who was arrested in early June for not wearing a top, has been acquitted. In early July, the judge hearing the case upheld the notion that a woman exposing her breasts does not commit an indecency.
The prosecuting attorney argued
that even if women's breasts are decent in Cincinnati (the
location of an earlier ruling), they could be indecent in
Athens. She also claimed that forbidden public nudity
includes women's breasts. TERA disagrees with her. So did
2. Another woman's case has yet to be decided. She was arrested in Santa Barbara CA in April for being topfree and wrote eloquently about the experience in the Santa Barbara Independent. She appeared in court briefly in late June. Her trial may begin in early August.
Santa Barbara County's Board of Supervisors could help by rescinding the law that criminalizes women's breasts. Although some of them may be inclined to do so, no action has been taken by the group. A ballot initiative is another possibility.
Regardless of these methods of change, it is clear that in 2000, women's breasts must be liberated from obsolete laws (written by men) that make prejudicial and harmful assumptions about women.
Further information from Santa
Barbara's Tim Geist at Top Freedom, whose e-mail is
3. In early June, Linda Meyer's challenge in British Columbia was victorious. She overturned Maple Ridge's ban of women's bare breasts: the BC Supreme Court struck down her town's bylaw on several grounds. (This information was in an earlier TERA news release but is repeated here for our new readers.) By implication, many if not all such current bylaws in BC are dead in the water.
That has particular relevance for Ms. Meyer's famous topfree swims. In mid-July, she went topfree at the Canada Games Pool in New Westminster BC and was asked several times by staff to leave the hot tub or pool. One repeated excuse for this action was that there were children present.
She didn't leave. She knows that
children have no problem with women's breasts unless adults
tell them to. Most people in the swim area ignored her.
Women in the locker room congratulated her.
4. Julia Goforth has found going topfree in several areas of Southern Ontario "liberating and empowering." On one occasion, police actually came over to her to ask if anyone was bothering her. This is progress!
We will write about the adventures
of this woman and her friend in a future newsletter. We
think they will be quite important in women's
5. Evangeline Godron's appeal in Regina SK is underway. She was arrested for mischief for swimming topfree in August 1998. A conviction was upheld in May 2000 in a brief opinion that ignored the evidence. The next appeal will be before a panel of judges that will have to take the presentation of Ms. Godron's lawyer more seriously. TERA definitely believes that this conviction will be overturned.
TERA is grateful to the many donors
who have helped with this appeal. Special mention must be
made of these generous companies, organizations, and
- the Naturist Action Committee and Naturist Education Foundation of The Naturist Society (Oshkosh WI)
- South Florida Free Beaches/Florida Naturist Association and the B.E.A.C.H.E.S. Foundation & Institute (Miami Shores FL)
- Wreck Beach Preservation Society (Delta BC)
- S.L.U.G.S. (Sun Lovers under Gray Skies; Seattle WA)
- The Body Objective (Eureka
As you see, our support stretches across the continent from west to east and north to south.
Further donations are needed for this and other cases! Please assist by sending a donation (of any amount in any currency) to TERA. Its funds are under the control of Hamilton ON lawyer John Abrams. All donor personal names are kept confidential.
Topfree Equal Rights
You will be warmly thanked and will contribute to a revolution in thinking about women's bodies in North America.
September 29, 1999
From: Kayla Sosnow
Jim Miller, attorney for Kayla Sosnow, received the opinion of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in Florida on Monday, September 20th, 1999, three years and eight months after Kayla's arrest and twenty day jail term for not wearing a shirt in a forest. The Circuit Court panel of judges found no proof of any member of the public being disturbed, and therefore insufficient evidence to convict. Kayla's conviction was reversed and set aside. Although the Circuit Court's opinion is not binding statewide, as an appellate court it is still persuasive authority.
This ruling confirms higher court precedent that in cases involving disturbing the peace, the person whose peace is disturbed can not be the officer who is sent to keep the peace. This prior precedent was established in a case handled by attorney Jim Miller involving a girl singing annoyingly to an officer (Harbin v. State, 358 So. 2d 856 (Fla. 1st DCA 1978)). The significance of broadening this precedent to topfree issues is that now women who go topfree at Rainbow gatherings, beaches, or other locations where no one complains, should not be arrested by an officer simply because that officer observes the behavior. If a woman is arrested, she can use this appelate decision in her defense. This decision may also be cited in cases of disorderly conduct charges against simple public nudity.
If anyone intends to inform the media about this decision, please notify me prior to doing so, so that I may be prepared to make intelligent statements.
THANK YOU FOR ALL OF YOUR ONGOING SUPPORT!!
August 31, 1998
ASSOCIATION CRITICIZES REGINA POOL AND
Ancaster Ontario Canada
The case of a jailed Regina woman has attracted attention well beyond Saskatchewan's borders. The Canada-wide Topfree Equal Rights Association (TERA) has pledged support for Evangeline Godron, who was arrested after exercising her right to choose her swimwear as most men do: topfree. Godron, 64, has swum topfree in a Regina pool several times this summer. She spent two days in jail after declining to leave the pool on August 24th.
Godron was charged with two counts of assault and one of mischief after refusing to give up her rights. Those rights were reaffirmed in July by a court decision that she and colleague Kathleen Rice did nothing indecent when topfree in a park a year ago. That decision followed a similar Ontario ruling in 1996 and the refusal earlier this year of the BC Attorney General to prosecute topfree women.
Godron pointed out that topfree men were not required to leave the pool. A Regina City Police officer is reported to have replied that Godron would have to leave because she is a woman. On being informed of the July decision reaffirming women's rights to be topfree, another police officer is said to have claimed, "The law hasn't been tested yet." Godron was told she was interfering with others' use of the pool.
TERA finds such attitudes deplorable, and the charges and detention a violation of Godron's rights. "Regardless of what they said, we believe the Regina City Police's actions are unjustified," stated the Association's President, Dr. Paul Rapoport. "This is so like what has happened in Ontario and BC, where topfree women have repeatedly been vindicated. Evangeline Godron has been seriously mistreated."
What about the pool staff? "If someone complains about a topfree woman," Rapoport explained, "the staff may advise the complainant of the woman's rights. I know of nothing that allows them legally to expel the woman or harass her."
Godron has lodged Human Rights complaints against the police and the pool and is considering a civil suit against the police.
TERA, founded in June 1997 and based in Ontario, has assisted women across Canada and in the United States who face legal difficulties over being topfree in public. TERA is raising money for Godron and others.
October 20, 1997
SWIMMER WINS TOPLESS BATTLE
Fatima Pereira Henson of Cambridge Ontario has won the battle to exercise her right to go topfree wherever men may. On October 14th, the Cambridge City Council finally passed a bylaw which indirectly recognizes women's topfree rights to be the same as men's.
In February when Pereira Henson swam bare-breasted in Cambridge, she was charged with trespassing. Three months later the Crown dismissed the charge on a technicality. In July she repeated her swim and was again charged. The Crown dropped this second case for a more obvious reason: it could not win. The Ontario Court of Appeal decision in the Gwen Jacob case, presented last December, is decisive: bare-breasted women not engaging in sexual or commercial conduct are decent and legal.
Nonetheless, the Cambridge City Council hired its own lawyer in August to prosecute Pereira Henson, at great taxpayer expense. After several weeks, it too dropped the case, but its repressive bylaw remained---the one it had passed May 12th banning topfree women from city property.
On October 14th, Pereira Henson watched as the Council tried to pass a new bylaw. It recognized women could swim topfree but went on to allow pool staff to eject women in "inappropriate attire" if someone claimed to be offended by them. Pereira Henson felt this was worse than ever, for such a bylaw would incite people to come to pools to harass, insult, and remove innocent women exercising their rights.
After her vigorous presentation to the Council, it voted 7 to 4 to drop the vague phrase "inappropriate attire" (which started the whole problem in February), as well as the contentious sections from the proposed bylaw. The result is that women are free to swim bare-breasted in Cambridge only five months after the Council voted unanimously to forbid such activity.
Did the Councillors see the light, that the issue of bare breasts was primarily one of equal rights? "Are you kidding?" laughed Pereira Henson. "This is Cambridge. They wanted to avoid meeting the issue on the campaign trail."
What does TERA think of all this? "We were formed to achieve just this result," explained President Paul Rapoport. "But the credit belongs to Fatima. Her courage and astute persistence have brought an outcome which will be important for women's rights across the country."
TERA will continue to raise money for women undergoing legal challenges for being topfree and will continue its work to inform the public on the issue and to overturn discriminatory regulations in other municipalities.
June 14, 1997
NEW GROUP TO HELP TOPFREE WOMEN
"In Ontario now, the confusion over topfree women is incredible." So says the President of an organization just formed to assist what are usually called 'topless women.' "But we use the term 'topfree' rather than 'topless,'" he explains.
Paul Rapoport is the President of TERA, the Topfree Equal Rights Association. The Association will raise funds to help women who have difficulty exercising what Rapoport calls "their legal right to be topfree wherever men have that right." In Ontario, some municipal councils are trying to ban women's topfree swimming. He notes that this goes against a recent high-court ruling as well as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Association agrees that whether their breasts are covered or not, women have the right to use them in a non-sexual manner and have others respect that. Such has been the case in Europe and other parts of North America for decades. To forbid women to go topfree denies them a right which is given to men, and suggests authorities declaring such policies are uninformed and repressive.
Is the topfree issue trivial? "No," says Judy Williams, the Association's Special Advisor in Vancouver. "The human body should be accepted as it is. Topfree equality helps create self-esteem and respect for women."
The Topfree Equal Rights Association has opened a fund which initially will assist Fatima Pereira Henson, who faces large legal bills. She was charged with trespassing for swimming topfree in Cambridge, Ontario. After waiting two and half months, she saw her trial thrown out by the Crown Attorney, leaving the matter unresolved.
The Association will also undertake to inform the public on the issues and calm the fears which are being spread, especially in Ontario. "We will have some surprising things to say," Rapoport adds.
A non-profit volunteer group, it will use all its income from donations to further its goals. Lawyer John S. Abrams of Hamilton controls the Association's account.
The Association needs money to continue its work. People willing to promote women's equal rights are asked to send a donation of any amount to:
PO Box 81128 FGPO
Ancaster Ontario Canada L9G 4X1
or make a donation at any Toronto-Dominion Bank, to the credit of branch no. 2624, account no. 636. Cheques may be made payable to "Topfree" or to TERA.