LGBTQ-themed swim at B.C. pool cancelled after online backlash

Event condemned for allowing topless swimming and excluding parents and guardians

Organizers of an “all-bodies” swim at a Langley City pool that was billed as “for LGBTQ2S+ youth and their allies” have called it off after it drew flak on social media for excluding parents and guardians.

Critics also blasted a circulated “swim dress” code for the event, open to “youth ages 12 – 24””that said “anything below the waist must be covered” saying it allowed topless swimming.

The following statement was posted online:

“Due to community response, we feel that we can no longer offer a safe and comfortable environment for the youth that wished to attend the Youth All-Bodies Swim; and therefore, we will be postponing the event.

This event was organized and supported by the City of Langley, the Langley Local Action Team and Encompass Support Services Society as a safe, non-judgmental and inclusive activity for youth.

We would like to extend our gratitude and appreciation for the overwhelming, positive support for the Youth All-Bodies Swim.

We are hopeful that we will be able to host this event in the near future.”

Langley City Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Francis Cheung said because the Supreme Court has declared laws against topless swimming to be unconstitutional, the City is not in a position to impose a ban.

Because it was organized by Encompass, a group the City has worked with before, it gave them a break by allowing the pool to be rented on per-swimmer fee basis rather than the usual flat rate, Cheung advised.

It was the decision of the organizers to call off the event, Cheung added.

“Our part was to book the event,” Cheung said.

Going topless has been legal in B.C. since 2000, when Linda Meyer won a court fight against a Maple Ridge bylaw that outlawed exposed female nipples.

“I do not find in the evidence support for 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,” B.C. Supreme Court Justice R.R. Holmes declared.

Heat was also apparently directed at the other Langley, the Township, which took to Twitter to advise that “no, this is not an @LangleyTownship event and not held at one of our municipal pools.”

Other B.C. communities have hosted similar events in the past.

According to one online account, the first official All Bodies Swim was organized in 2010 during a transgender forum in Vancouver.

RELATED: Surrey group for LGBTQ+ youth aims to ‘train the next generation of activists’

In Surrey, the first-ever “all-bodied” swim was held at Newton Wave Pool last October, organized by Youth for a Change and city staff. The private event’s tagline was “All Genders, All Sexualities, No Judgment.”

Surrey’s manager of parks, recreation and culture Laurie Cavan told Black Press Media the event was for youth ages 15 to 21 and featured accessible, gender-inclusive change rooms and washrooms. Two more “Youth All-Bodies Pool Party” events are planned in 2019, however the dates are not yet finalized.

Christine McCracken, executive director of programs at Encompass, stressed the Langley event has been postponed, not cancelled.

“We’re just following suit and modelling after the other, successful events,” McCracken stated.

McCracken observed that while there has been criticism, much of it “way off course” on social media, there has also been “a lot of support” expressed online.

“Our intent was never to have a clothing-optional event, our intent was to provide an inclusive and safe, non-judgmental space for youth,” McCracken said.

Kim Hilton, Langley City Director of Recreation, Culture & Community Services said the proposal by Encompass met the City goals of encouraging people to be healthy and active.

“We’re just trying to be accessible and inclusive to all,” Hilton observed, adding the municipality and Encompass have worked together on many joint initiatives over the years.

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