How Hanlan’s Point Beach Became Officially Clothing‑Optional


In 1998, Peter Simm conceived the idea of creating an official clothing-optional zone at Hanlan’s Point Beach on Toronto Island. As a lawyer, he realized that this would create a “lawful excuse” for nudity there, per s. 174 of the Criminal Code.

Achieving this objective would require Toronto City Council to pass a suitable by-law. Simm met with Councillor Kyle Rae, who agreed to advocate for the idea at Council. However, Rae said that Simm would first have to prepare a high-quality written study to substantiate the idea, and helpfully suggested that Simm be mindful of historical considerations.

Simm began intensive research. He discovered (and documented) a remarkable fact not mentioned in any published history of Toronto: from 1894 to 1930, Toronto had three official clothing-optional beaches under City by-laws. Simm finished writing his detailed brief in January 1999, incorporating that research into his proposal, which was adopted by a non-profit club called Totally Naked Toronto Men Enjoying Nudity (TNT!MEN). Simm's brief also had the moral support of the Federation of Canadian Naturists (FCN) and of the Hanlan's Beach Naturists. The latter group's founder, Dave Fleming, had independently conceived of the zone.

Municipal councils (and their committees) generally make their decisions in the form of resolutions adopting, modifying or rejecting recommendations contained in official staff reports. Accordingly, the contents of such reports are crucial. The April 19, 1999 staff report by Joe Halstead, the City’s Commissioner of Economic Development, Culture & Tourism, adopted Simm’s brief in its entirety and even reproduced it as an appendix. In an article on the front page of the Toronto Star (Apr. 23, 1999), the Commissioner was quoted praising Simm’s brief as “well researched and presented in a cogent and thoughtful manner”.

Simm’s proposal to create a clothing-optional zone had to survive scrutiny by City Council’s Economic Development Committee before it could be considered by Council as a whole. Although the Committee’s chair, Councillor Brian Ashton, had at first publicly declared his hostility towards the proposal (Toronto Sun, Apr., 9, 1999), Simm eventually succeeded in convincing him and the rest of the Committee to vote in favour of recommending that Council adopt the staff report (Apr. 23, 1999).

On May 12, 1999, Council voted 41-9 in favour of adopting the staff report embodying Simm’s proposal. This officially designated a clothing-optional zone at Hanlan’s Point Beach as a one-year pilot project.

The zone first opened on a chilly and damp Victoria Day weekend, where a fully-clothed Simm had organized an inaugural ceremony complete with a Queen Victoria impersonator (restaurateur Geoffrey Pimblett), a trumpeter (to play a royal fanfare, followed by “God Save the Queen” and “O Canada”), Toronto councillors Jack Layton and Olivia Chow, invited guests, and several reporters and press photographers in attendance.