Ontario couple outraged after 8-year-old daughter told to cover up at wading pool

WATCH ABOVE: A Fergus, Ont. couple is calling for change to City of Guelph policy, which says girls over the age of four need to wear bathing suit tops at public pools. As Lama Nicolas reports, the couple feels there’s a double standard.

GUELPH, Ont. – A Fergus, Ont. couple is outraged with the city after a lifeguard told their eight-year-old daughter to cover up at a public park wading pool over the weekend.

Anika Warmington said she and her husband had taken their children to Exhibition Park in Guelph on Saturday, when they were approached by a lifeguard who asked how old their daughter Marlee was.

READ MORE: Guelph suspends bathing suit policy after 8-year-old girl told to cover up at wading pool

When she informed the lifeguard that Marlee was eight years old, she was told that her daughter needed to put a top on.

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“As soon as Marlee realized what happened she wanted to put a shirt on, she was embarrassed and felt singled out,” she said, adding that she felt it was a form of body shaming.

“I think it’s crazy, I don’t understand it at all. All the kids are the same at this point, they haven’t hit puberty, nobody has breasts. If she was wearing blue shorts and had short hair they probably would have never noticed that she was a girl.”

Marlee’s father, Cory McLean, said he was in disbelief and couldn’t really understand the rules when he was informed his daughter was dressed inappropriately.

“She felt scared and confused she knew she was in trouble for something but she didn’t understand what it was and when she heard it was because she had no shirt on she immediately felt embarrassed and wanted to put a shirt on in order to comply with the rules,” he said.

“We try to tell her that rules are just, and as her parents we decide whether she should have to put a shirt on or not, and she understood that but still felt ashamed enough to have to put a shirt on so the damage was done.”

The province of Ontario has no restrictions on women appearing topless in public places, but certain municipalities have their own rules with regard to proper bathing attire.

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Toronto and Mississauga follow the provincial guidelines and have no specific rules in place for bathing suit tops, but Hamilton and Guelph do.

“The policy says that for any City of Guelph recreational city program or enclosed area, you must wear the proper bathing attire. The proper bathing attire for females would include an appropriate bathing top,” said Kristene Scott, general manager of Parks and Recreation.

“It was never our intent to shame that little girl and if that is how she felt than we apologize for that, but again we’re going back to balancing the needs of all patrons.”

Scott said that the city takes into account people of all walks of life and that for safety and comfort within enclosed areas and stands by the policy.

“It’s the most natural thing in the world, you take your shirt off and you go in the water. I don’t really understand what’s wrong with that,” McLean said.

“Within the boundaries of the fence and the park is the only bubble where this can exist now, it’s this loophole and that’s what we’re trying to fight against.”

Warmington tweeted at Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie about the issue and hoped the city would reconsider its policy, but said she was shocked to learn the city would not be looking into changing the policy.

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“Whenever a situation like this occurs we always go back and review our policy to ensure its current, we look at industry standards we benchmark best practices,” said Scott.

“We have done that already and at this time we feel comfortable and stand by our policy.”

With files from Lama Nicolas

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