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Topless women walking -- legally.

The Ontario Appeal Court ruled December 10 that women can legally walk topless in public. Justices Coulter Osborne, Allan Austin and Karen Weiler unanimously overturned former University of Guelph student Gwen Jacob's 1991 conviction of committing an indecent act; she was charged after walking bare-breasted through the streets on a muggy July day. Justice Osborne wrote that Jacob's action did not violate community standards, and that those offended by it were not forced to look at her.

Predictably, Jacob's lawyer, Margaret Buist, hailed the ruling as "great news for women." However, the Ontario Minister responsible for women's issues, Dianne Cunningham, was rendered "speechless" by the decision--but managed to say that "a lot of people are offended by women walking around topless."

Among the people protesting were the Catholic Bishops of Ontario. Later, Attorney General Charles Harnick said he was requesting federal Justice Minister Allan Rock to circumvent the decision by a change to the Criminal Code; this "would ensure that community standards of decency are preserved and upheld."

That led Toronto Star columnist Michelle Landsberg, an ardent feminist, to write a sarcastic article attacking the Attorney-General as a 19th-century Victorian prude.
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Publication:Catholic Insight
Date:Apr 1, 1997
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