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Updated: 6th September 2018 00:00

Review underway of naked swimming event planned for Calgary rec centre

City officials in Calgary are reviewing a planned naked swim at a recreation centre after an online petition began circulating calling for it to be cancelled.

After-hours event scheduled for Jan. 14 at Southland Leisure Centre

City officials are expected to decide Tuesday whether a nude swimming event can be held at the Southland Leisure Centre. (@cityofcalgary/Twitter)

City officials are expected to decide this week whether an after-hours nude swimming event will be allowed at a Calgary recreation centre.

"Given the attention this event has received, we are undertaking a review with the event organizer to ensure the privacy and security of participants can be maintained," the city said in a statement.

A final decision by the city is expected on Wednesday.

The Calgary Nude Recreation club has sold out tickets for a swim night on Sunday at the Southland Leisure Centre. The club describes the private, after-hours event on its Facebook page as a way of snubbing winter — in the nude and on a waterslide.

Naturist groups across Canada say they have been renting public pools for private swimming events for years, despite the recent controversy in Calgary.

"We are everyday people … who just prefer and are more comfortable living as much as possible in the nude lifestyle — and using a city pool nude," said Ray Jorritsma with the Edmonton Naturists Swim Group.

The group is one of two in Edmonton that regularly holds nude swims at public pools and has been doing so for about 30 years. Jorritsma is at a loss to explain why the issue is causing controversy in the southern Alberta city.

Online petition signed by 10,000

An online petition calling for the Calgary club to cancel the swim or ban children from attending because of potential pedophiles has attracted  more than 10,000 signatures.

"Sexual predators will be on the prowl," says the petition posted by April Parker in early January. "Having an event like that is just like Christmas to them."

The Calgary club did not respond to a request for comment, but has posted replies on its Facebook page.

"The suggestion that our events should be marketed as 'adult only' entertainment illustrates the disconnect between what people THINK social nudity is about versus what social nudity is ACTUALLY about," it said.

Skinnydippers take B.C. city to court

In 2013, the Surrey Skinnydippers in British Columbia were told they could no longer rent out the Newton Wave pool after a community newspaper published a story about their swims and people phoned in with complaints. The group took the city to court and four years later won the right to keep on swimming.

Perry Fulop with the City of Surrey said the group continues to rent the pool once a month, covering windows with paper for privacy, and there have been no issues or complaints.

Nude swimming parties in public pools are more popular than people know, he said.

Ron Schout, president of the Federation of Canadian Naturists, said groups in Ottawa, Montreal and Vancouver have long held swim events at public facilities. In Toronto, he's been organizing such swims for 30 years.

Most swimmers are club members, he said, and include parents who bring their children. Some also invite friends, but all have to register with photo identification. Other clubs also do interviews.

'Actually a really fun time'

Ward King with the Sunny Chinooks group in Sundre, Alta., said its swim events are not publicized. The group doesn't have a Facebook page.

They've been swimming naked in a Calgary public pool for at least 10 years.

"We're low key and we do that for a reason," he said. "People don't know — they think the worst — and it's all taboo. And it's really not that at all.

"It's actually a really fun time."

With files from CBC Calgary

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