2023 Activity Report
2nd Annual Activity
August 26th, 2023
Lake Louise, Alberta
Our second annual event was uninterrupted by park authorities. We have demonstrated that skinny dipping can be lawful, is a valid form of recreation, and need not be hidden from public view. This activity was conducted without any permits because Canadians do not need administrative approval in order to participate in a lawful activity.
This year we had 14 people in attendance, a few less than in 2022. It makes sense that less people would show up after the ridiculous heavy handed approach by park authorities in 2022 where they threatened to arrest everyone. We are happy that the law and reason prevailed this year.
Frisbee was once again the activity of choice. A few adventurous souls went for a quick dip in the lake.
The weather could have been a bit better this year. The wind was blowing over the top of the mountain and bringing the clouds with it. We had moments of sun, but it was mostly cloudy. The wind was a bit chilly blowing down off the glacier. Since we were in the middle of they valley we were right in the corridor of wind. This is mountain weather for you.
Once again, we were in a highly visible location but nobody had to walk through our group to get to their destination. We were 150 meters off the trail at the closest point. Other park users enjoyed the immediate area around us without issue.
We brought tarps this year to lay out on the ground, which worked great to keep our towels dry from the damp sand.
Parks Canada's New Official Position
The new and most official position from Parks Canada is:
We will continue with our approach to responding to complaints raised by visitors to Banff National Park.
This is a completely fair and reasonable position for Parks Canada to take (finally). Under no circumstances should Parks Canada declare that they will never investigate complaints made by any park user. However, this is simply one snippet from an email, and it omits mentions of nude recreation.
We continue working towards a clear policy regarding nude recreation in national parks. This is important to us because of a media response they had prepared for our 2022 activity that included:
Given that we have proven Parks Canada's position to be incorrect, and for the stubbornness of Parks Canada over these last few years, we feel that a formal policy on the matter is reasonable. This would assist in a uniform application of the law and park regulations for future occurrences in other national parks.
We have gotten statements from other municipal and provincial administrations that simply say that complaints of nude recreation are considered a law enforcement matter, and we would consider the same answer from Parks Canada to be perfectly adequate. Such a statement would be an admission that nude recreation is not a violation of park regulations as Parks Canada claimed for over 2 years with us.
The RCMP's New Official Position
The Lake Louise RCMP got a new detachment commander shortly before the 2023 iteration of this activity. This new supervisor is level-headed and reasonable, and the Lake Louise RCMP's new position reflects that accordingly. While this is a good turn of events, the fact that the law can change so easily based on who happens to be on shift is troubling.
Our complaint with the CRCC is still open (as of Sept 2023) regarding the RCMP interruption our 2022 activity. It was filed on 18 Aug 2022, well past their goal of resolving complaints within 90 days. We remain optimistic that this is a good sign, and we hope the RCMP is considering the implementation of a decision aid as recommended by the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service.
This link is the example that was provided by the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service as a reasonable decision aid. We would be ecstatic if a similar decision aid was implemented by the RCMP.
We will keep this website updated as new information is available regarding the ongoing complaint.
We are pleased that logic, reason, and the law prevailed on this matter. We find it a bit concerning how difficult it was to get to this point. The law should not be this subjective.
We are also pleased that we have reached an understanding with Parks Canada that any park warden response should be complaint based.
Most of all, we have shown that skinny dipping really is a legitimate and lawful activity in national parks.
Skinny dipping is an amazing way to reconnect with nature when most people are usually surrounded by city, and we welcome anyone and everyone to join us wearing as much or as little as they choose.
2022 Activity Report
1st Annual Activity
July 23rd, 2022
Lake Louise, Alberta
Our first annual event was a success with a fantastic group of 17 people in attendance. The weather was sunny and warm. We played an EPIC game of frisbee on the best playing field in the national park system. We even swam in the lake a bit.
Our location was in a visible location but nobody had to walk through our group to get to their destination. We were 150 meters off the trail at the closest point, with a trek through shin deep water that was required to get to our location.
The sand looks dry until you sit on it for a bit and water soaks into your towel. Next year we'll be bringing tarps to put our towels on.
Despite being given notice months ahead of time, the Lake Louise RCMP contacted GNB by phone just 2 days before the planned activity to explain the criminal charges that would be considered, likely in an attempt to invoke fear, apparently hoping for an activity cancellation. Proposed charges included Indecent Acts (s. 173 of the Criminal Code). Unbeknownst to the RCMP, we are quite knowledgeable on the law, and an Indecent Act must have a sexual component such as masturbation. We were advised that our activity may impact local businesses (horse tours), so we emailed the local stables so they could make their own choice on the matter. We were notified that some people may be offended, seemingly with the implication that one's offense is what determines the criminal nature of the activity rather than the law.
It is notable that even at this time, the RCMP had NOT declared the activity to be illegal, they were simply informing us of the factors that they would be considering if they chose to pursue criminal charges. It is our interpretation and understanding that none of the proposed charges apply to skinny dipping for self fulfilment purposes, so we advised the RCMP of our intentions to proceed with the activity. We reiterated that we would be more than happy to get dressed if asked because we wish to demonstrate that we are reasonable people and not a problem.
One hour and fifteen minutes after peeling down 2 RCMP officers and a park warden supervisor arrived, instantly declared the activity to be illegal, and asked us to get dressed, which we did. The RCMP implemented several different intimidation tactics throughout this interaction.
There were no charges laid, and the police advised us that if we got dressed and stayed dressed the matter would be considered "resolved".
It is notable that the RCMP threatened to charge women for public nudity for being topless. This issue is generally considered a settled issue as result of District of Maple Ridge v. Meyer, 2000 BCSC 902 (CanLII) and R. v. Jacob, 1996 CanLII 1119 (ON CA). Additionally, the City of Edmonton has an official policy stating "All patrons are permitted to go topless in City operated pools if they so wish". The City of Edmonton's policy is located HERE and is under the "Swim Apparel" submenu located near the bottom of the page.
After the activity we submitted a Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP) request for Parks Canada email communications. We got quite a few juicy tidbits of information back from our request. Despite initiating this conversation in 2018, it appears that Parks Canada didn't even bother seeking legal advice until about 3 months before our planned activity when it finally became clear to them we intended to proceed. Parks Canada discussed using park regulations to ban us from the area (they couldn't) and tried to declare this activity an "illegal special event" even though we didn't meet any of the criteria of a special event.
Parks Canada tried to take the position that skinny dipping is so disruptive that it violates park regulation 32(1)(b) in regards to conduct that unreasonably disturbs other users of the park. Parks Canada went looking for complaints on foot and got exactly ONE complaint.
The following excerpt is from an email sent to park management on July 23rd 2022 by the park warden that shut us down:
We spoke with Parks Canada VE staff at the upper parking lot at the start and end of our hike and they had not received any feedback from visitors regarding the group or their activity. As expected, being a weekend with good weather there was a significant amount of visitors in the area. During our hike we only encountered one group of hikers who brought the nudists to our attention. They stated that they were enjoying their time at the back of the lake and were shocked when a group of people arrived, stripped down, and were hanging around naked. While they were definitely bothered by the incident they said that they would not be willing to testify if charges were laid.
Ultimately everything went quite well. It ended with a verbal warning and direction to put clothes on there is no further follow up expected.
SIDE NOTE: Despite the park warden's claims, we do NOT identify as "nudists". Skinny dipping is simply a thing we do, it is not how we identify ourselves.
GNB! organizers spent years communicating with various authorities. Our goal was to get everyone on the same page as to what the law allows. We aimed to educate authorities, give them time to do their own research, and hoped they would come to the same conclusions as other jurisdictions that we have had success with. Parks Canada's position on skinny dipping is not inline with at least 4 other organizations. For example, Alberta Parks made a complete reversal on their position after hearing from their own legal department.
NOTE: This section refers extensively to an email from the Assistant Deputy Minister of the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service (ACPS) on 16 April 2019 to the organizers of GNB. This correspondence constitutes the "official position of the ACPS in cases of this sort" per an email from the Deputy Chief Prosecutor of the ACPS to the Lake Louise RCMP on 14 July 2022.
The first organization that GNB organizers contacted was the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service to inquire about the legalities of skinny dipping. We received an email response on 16 April 2019 from the Assistant Deputy Minister of the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service (ACPS) that stated:
Any decision in this regard must be made on a principled basis, in consideration of the specific facts surrounding the commission of the alleged criminal offence as determined by the law enforcement agency.
Nobody can tell us what that principled basis consists of, or what specific facts that they would consider relevant. Nobody will provide guidelines for us to follow. The most complete answer we have been able to get is essentially what amounts to "do it and we'll let you know if its illegal or not".
One thing the Assistant Deputy Minister of the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service notably did not say is that skinny dipping is illegal. Instead, the Assistant Deputy Minister of the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service suggested a flow chart for implementation by the RCMP, saying:
You may also wish to contact the RCMP regarding the flow chart made by the College of Policing for the UK, to determine if they would be interested in creating a similar decision aid.
The Flow chart being referenced can be read HERE, and it identifies specific passive behaviours in public such as sunbathing, walking, cycling, and swimming. It goes on to say that in most cases just being naked in public will be a lawful activity. Their referral to the flow chart suggests that the official position of the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service is that there are instances of public nudity that are lawful and that those instances can include nudity for the purpose of recreation.
One week before the planned activity on 15 July 2022, the Lake Louise RCMP contacted GNB via email and was unable to declare this to be an illegal activity. They simply referred us back to the previous email with the Assistant Deputy Minister of the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service from 16 April 2019.
The email from the Lake Louise RCMP reads as follows in its entirety:
In regards to the upcoming Get Naked Banff Event planned for July 23rd, 2022. Lake Louise RCMP have been in conversation with the Deputy Chief Prosecutor regarding this event. I would like to direct your attention back to the previous letter copied below as this is the final word from the ACPS on the matter and applies to the upcoming event your planning to host in Banff National Park.
The following is another snippet from the Assistant Deputy Minister of the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service (ACPS) in which the Lake Louise RCMP referred us to:
As ultimately the decision to pursue a criminal investigation lays solely within the discretion of local law enforcement, you must work with the appropriate policing agency in the location you are considering for your outdoor activities to determine what if any further steps your group can take to avoid potential criminal charges.
It appears to us that the RCMP ignored the advice about working with law enforcement as provided by the Assistant Deputy Minister of the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service.
The comical part of the RCMP referring us to that correspondence is that the Assistant Deputy Minister advised us to work with local police, which we were, except the local police were referring us back to the Assistant Deputy Minister... who was referring us back to the local police.
One thing that the Lake Louise RCMP notably did not say is that skinny dipping is illegal. The RCMP also did not provide any guidance at all for us to follow per the instructions of the Assistant Deputy Minister of the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service (ACPS).
In a communication from Parks Canada on 18 May 2022, even Parks Canada couldn't officially state that skinny dipping is illegal, saying only:
While Parks Canada understands that some individuals and groups enjoy the practice of naturism, public nudity is an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada. Illegal activities are not allowed in national parks, national historic sites, and national marine conservation areas. Local police services and/or park wardens will respond to public complaints concerning illegal activities.
The above statement by Parks Canada is crafty and ingenious. Lets break down their statement line by line:
Fact: People do practice naturism
Fact: Public nudity (s. 174 of the Criminal Code) is a criminal offense, though more accurately, public nudity WITHOUT A LAWFUL EXCUSE is an offense.
Fact: Illegal activities are not allowed in national parks, or anywhere else for that matter.
Fact: The police do indeed respond to reports of illegal activities.
We really can appreciate the craftiness and perfection of their statement while completely not answering the topic at hand.
Communications from the Attorney General of Canada
On 31 Mar 2023 we received a communication from the Attorney General of Canada regarding our complaint for our interrupted activity on 23 July 2022. The Attorney general takes an almost identical position to the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service, saying (emphasis added):
“The Government of Canada recognizes that these offences, and their application, raise differing views. We remain open to examining them to ensure that they meet their objectives, including the protection of the public from harmful conduct.”
The Attorney General of Canada clearly states that the concern is harmful conduct, going so far to say:
“Accordingly, not all acts of public nudity are criminal”
The Attorney General of Canada did not say that skinny dipping is criminal or unlawful.
We spoke with the Crown Prosecution Service, Parks Canada, and the RCMP regarding this activity. Parks Canada communicated via telephone that this activity was illegal, however they flat refused to state as much in an email with a formal rejection of this activity. Had Parks Canada stated clearly that skinny dipping is an illegal activity, we would have been able to take Parks Canada to court on a judicial review. It is clear to us that Parks Canada is getting legal advice on the matter and is intentionally using vague language in order to remove the option for a judicial review. It's as if they know full well that their position is not supported by law.
It is our firm belief that our activity was perfectly legal, just undesirable for Parks Canada. We also believe that the RCMP is unfamiliar with what constitutes a violation of s. 174 of the Criminal Code for public nudity without a lawful excuse.
On 16 August 2022 we filed a robust complaint with supporting documentation with the RCMP and Parks Canada for interrupting our activity. On 18 August 2022 we filed a complaint with the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) regarding the lack of RCMP policies to properly guide officers in the field and for inconsistent application of the law.
In a phone call with the RCMP complaint investigator, the constable conceded that we are more familiar with the law than them, that it is possible that our activity was fully legal, and that officers responding in the field would have no way to know that.
Canadians deserve better than this.
We are using all of these issues to advocate for a national RCMP policy for skinny dipping, similar to existing policies that have been implemented in other jurisdictions. We believe Canadians should be able to enjoy our amazing national parks how they choose without fear of legal repercussion.
Our complaint with the CRCC is still ongoing, despite their goal to rectify all complaints within 90 days (its now been over one year as of September 2023). Due to the complex nature of our complaint, it is taking considerably longer than normal to be resolved. It is our understanding that the RCMP is currently seeking guidance from the Department of Justice on the matter, which is a fantastic development. Depending on what that legal advice says, the RCMP could use that to develop a new policy for police response to skinny dipping.
We continue to engage the relevant authorities through every channel available to us, which includes taking this to criminal court if that's the last option we have.