By Kyra Bird
Calgary Nude Recreation, a naturist group in the city, recently caused controversy when they attempted to hold a naked waterslide swim event at the Southland Leisure Center. Although the event had already been cancelled by the City of Calgary, ex-mayoral candidate Larry Heather still wanted to confront his councillor Jeromy Farkas about his stance on the controversy, resulting in a healthy exchange between the two men.
The naked swim event, which was a private, after-hours function that Calgary Nude Recreation had booked the facility for, attracted city-wide attention. The event, which the public could pay a fee to attend, was intended to be all-ages. That prompted a woman named April Parker to start an online petition, which ended up gaining over 20,000 signatures, calling on the City of Calgary to cancel the swim over concerns of children attending.
The swim night was ultimately cancelled by the city due to safety concerns. Calgary Police confirmed that they received a threat against the leisure center in relation to the event.
Following the cancellation of the event, it seemed as though the public conversation around the event and group was over, but Heather decided to attend Farkas’ town hall event to bring up the issue once more.
Heather ran for mayor on a platform of “restoring the Lordship of Christ over the Mayor’s office.” He promised changes such as cutting city staff by one third, reducing the cycle track network on main roads and reversing what he called Calgary’s “current slide into SlumVille.”
Heather is also a ward 11 resident, meaning Farkas currently serves as his councillor. Heather, who said he didn’t vote for Farkas or any of the candidates who ran in the ward, felt it was important for his councillor to “commit to oppose” any future events held by naturist groups like Calgary Nude Recreation.
Farkas didn’t do that, instead re-iterating his view that city staff had made the wrong decision shutting down the nude swim event because of the threats that were made. He believes that the “warranted” concerns surrounding liability and children attending could have been sorted out.
“I think we could have addressed those concerns in a way that the event could proceed.”
In the process of answering the, at first, anonymous question, Farkas was interrupted by Heather shouting comments, saying the naturist group’s public invitation to the event was like “throwing jet fuel on a campfire.” The councillor continued to condemn the resident’s notion that threats against the group were to be expected given, in Heather’s words, their “extreme violations of societal norms.”
The crowd in attendance loudly applauded Farkas throughout the exchange. Ultimately, Heather “was not satisfied with Jeromy’s answer” but said he will continue to attend future town hall events, as well as carefully watch the city’s moves the next time an issue like this arises.
“The city has made it clear, and the mayor has made it clear [the naked swim] shouldn’t have been cancelled. Jeromy made it clear that it shouldn’t be cancelled and so, you know, I know it’s going to go ahead again when the fire dies down a bit but I hope to keep people vigilant.”
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