Are nudity, exposure, and indecent acts crimes?


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Are nudity, exposure, and indecent acts crimes?

In Canada, public nudity, sexual exposure, and indecent acts can be criminal offences. For example, it is a crime to be nude in a public place or while in public view, expose your genital organs to a person under the age of 16 for a sexual purpose, or willfully commit an indecent act in a public place in front of someone or in any place with intent to offend someone. 

While these crimes may seem simple, understanding them can be challenging because Canada’s courts have not yet settled the law around what the prosecution needs to prove. For example, the meaning of terms like “nude,” “willful,” and “public place” are not always obvious and can be hard to determine in different situations. This uncertainty can make these crimes difficult to grasp for judges and lawyers – let alone the people who charged with them.

Public nudity, sexual exposure, and indecent acts crimes can overlap, but it is important to realize that they are each different. The best way to try to understand these offences is to go through them individually and see what our courts have to say about them in different situations. I review the differences between the offences in separate FAQ posts:

  • Is public nudity a crime?
  • What is a sexual exposure crime?
  • What is an indecent act crime?

Is it a crime to breastfeed in public?

No, it is not a crime to breastfeed in public. Exposing your breast to breastfeed is not criminal nudity or indecent exposure, and breastfeeding is not an indecent act. There appear to be no Canadian criminal cases where a judge has determined otherwise.

Canadian human rights tribunals have recognized a positive right to breastfeed in different situations, like while at work.