The "Bare With Us" rally at Waterloo Town Square aimed to educate people — and police — about women's right to be topless in public.
"It was very, very amazing. It was really well-attended and the people who came where very supportive," Alysha Mohamed, a Juno-nominated singer who goes by the stage name Alysha Brilla, told CBC News. At least 300 people showed up, she said.
Women and men turned up to the event, many baring their torsos and waving signs. Waterloo Regional Police were on hand for the rally, which they called a "respectful, peaceful and safe demonstration."
Brilla and her sisters, Tameera and Nadia Mohamed, said they were not wearing shirts while cycling in neighbouring Kitchener, Ont., on July 24 when a male officer drove up beside them and told them to cover up because it is the law.
Brilla said she told the officer he was wrong. She said when she started filming the interaction on her cellphone, the officer said he had only wanted to check if the women had proper bells and lights on their bicycles.
Women in Ontario have had the right to go topless in public since 1996, when the Ontario Court of Appeal overturned the conviction of Gwen Jacobs, a university student who went topless on a hot summer day in Guelph in 1991. The court found there was "nothing degrading or dehumanizing" about her decision to take off her shirt in public.
Jacobs also made an appearance at Saturday's rally, which the sisters hope to turn ito an annual event.
Brilla said she was amazed by all the attention the issue has received since she and her sisters first spoke out.
"I had no idea how polarizing the issue would be. I thought people wouldn't be so disturbed by the female breast," she said. "We just want to advocate and let people know that they do have this right."
Cover up, B.C. woman told
A similar incident happened in Kelowna, B.C., last week.
Susan Rowbottom says she was at a local beach, sunbathing without a top on, when an RCMP officer approached her and told her to cover up.
Rowbottom said she did as she was told at the time, though she was fairly certain it was legal for both men and women to be bare-chested in public.
In 2000, the B.C. Supreme Court also stood behind the right of women to bare their breasts in the case of Linda Meyer of Maple Ridge.
Meyer was charged with violating a clothing bylaw after showing up topless at a city-run pool near her home, but the judge in the case wrote that there was no evidence to support "the view that the parks could not operate in orderly fashion if a female were to bare her breasts in a circumstance that did not offend criminal laws of nudity."