Canada’s weirdest laws: ‘Footloose’ plot is a real Toronto bylaw that forbids immoral conduct in dancehalls

If you you’re going dancing in Toronto, Ont. make sure your conduct is impeccable!
If you you’re going dancing in Toronto, Ont. make sure your conduct is impeccable! (Photo: REUTERS/Mark Blinch)

If you you’re going dancing in Toronto, Ont. make sure your conduct is impeccable, or you may find yourself in trouble with the chief of police. That means no Dirty Dancing for you!

See: Canada’s weirdest laws: it’s illegal to challenge someone to a duel

There is actually a Toronto bylaw that forbids anyone of “loose” character from being in a dance hall during certain hours. It reads:

No person shall be allowed to be in such hall during dancing hours who, in the opinion of the Chief of Police or of any police officer or other person whom he or she may designate for such purpose, is of immoral character or conducts himself, or herself, in a loose, disorderly or improper manner.”

So if you’re a Rebel Without a Cause à la James Dean’s 1955 teenage rabble-rousing movie character, or a lady of the night, you may want to stay away from dance halls.

This law is part of the Chapter 545 Licensing bylaw that spans 300 pages, and which Mayor John Tory has called “a complete mess,” in a May 2015 city hall speech.

Tory dubbed the licensing bylaw the “Franken-bylaw,” and said it needed a complete overhaul to get rid of archaic and ridiculous laws.

See: Canada’s weirdest laws: in P.E.I. you have to honk if you want to pass a car

Well, nearly two years later and this antiquated law is still on the books, even though Tory said in his speech that the city was reviewing the bylaw.

We’re not the only ones who think this law is comically outdated, as the dance hall bylaw was one of four he pointed to as being especially ridiculous.

What are dancing hours? What is a loose manner to behave oneself? Do we have better things to do with the time of our chief of police than deciding who is loose in dancing hours at dance halls?” Tory asked.

The punishment for breaking this law is a fine of up to $25,000, though it’s unlikely the chief of police is going to lurk around dance halls giving out fines.

Find a Lawyer