Cover up, don’t cover up
It must be confusing, living in Quebec these days. The powers that be, from the provincial legislature to local municipal councils, seem intent on being the clothing police, ordaining what is appropriate at any given time and at any given location.
Yet, perhaps we can’t blame them, since their cousins in France appear to be similarly preoccupied with appropriate dress and, while they’re at it, out of step with their European neighbours. France not only banned the wearing of the so-called body-covering Burkini, even on public beaches, in some of that country’s swimming pools you’re not even allowed to wear baggy swim trunks.
Many of you will be aware that the Quebec government is seeking to ban the wearing of all types of face covering, ostensibly to ensure that the government is seen to be secular. The ban is supposed to prevent the overt display of all religious symbols when availing oneself of public services, but in reality is aimed squarely at Muslim women who wear the niqab, a head covering that conceals most of the face. The message being: don’t cover up!
Meanwhile, in Brossard, a community near Montreal, the city council has passed a law banning nudity in the changing rooms at municipal swimming pools or municipal sports facilities. Brossard council said in its latest monthly newsletter it wouldn’t allow men or women to walk around naked in their respective locker rooms and showers. The message being: cover up! The folks in France and Brossard would have been horrified if they had visited the World Scout Jamboree in Holland a number of years ago. There, all the washroom facilities were co-ed, even the shower stalls.
When I was a boy, I spent a lot of time with my friends at the local swimming pool. The pool itself was ringed with individual cubicles: there was no public change room. Perhaps the idea was to preserve modesty, but modesty was compromised as pool attendants regularly patrolled the cubicles, pushing the doors open to make sure there was nothing untoward going on inside. As for what was worn in the pool, males who didn’t have a swimming suit, or forgot to bring it, could rent, for a penny, a covering that consisted of two triangular pieces of cloth held together with string ties. It was truly a case of one size does not fit all. In subsequent years, I visited other swimming pools where there were no individual cubicles. Indeed, at my grammar school, we were required to take a mandatory shower after gym classes and that meant standing naked in a long, communal shower room. To my knowledge, none of those using such facilities suffered any life-long traumas as a result of seeing a naked body.
The last time I went swimming at Uxpool, I don’t recall any individual changing rooms. Men had their facility, women theirs, and there is also a family change room available.
The councillors in Brossard would surely look on Uxbridge with disgust: we allow “nakedness” in the change area. Through some twisted logic, they seem to believe a swimming pool is not an appropriate place to catch a glimpse of a naked body. They claim that when a father takes his young daughter or a mother takes her young son into a change room with them, the children should not see naked adults. When my sister was only about five years old, I took her with me to the local pool. She sat in the public gallery overlooking the pool while I enjoyed myself swimming and playing. But watching her sitting there all alone, I decided to let her join me. I took her into the change cubicle, stripped her down to her knickers and she had a wonderful time in the water. Neither of us thought anything about it.
Now, the likelihood that I will ever find myself in a swimming pool in Brossard is negligible and their idiotic law will never affect me personally. But it is this type of thinking, this type of council busybodyness, that we Canadians put up with all the time. Councils are there to make sure our roads are in good shape, our sewers and water mains are working properly and the services we require are made available. They are not put into office to chaperone us through our daily lives.
It seems to me the council that stays out of our personal lives the most is the council that is doing the best job.
Tell me, am I wrong?