A Montreal woman was threatened with a $1,000 fine when police cadets spotted her sunbathing topless in a park.

Last Wednesday Jessica Sallay-Carrington was relaxing in Jeanne Mance park when she doffed her top.

An hour later two police cadets approached her and told her to put her shirt back on or risk a hefty fine.

"They just said if a police officer had found me in the park topless then that officer could have given me a $1,000 ticket undet the indecency act," said Sallay-Carrington.

The cadets, however, were incorrect.

Andre Durocher said as far as the Montreal police force is concerned, being topless is not a crime.

"If you're walking publicly on the street it is not illegal per se, however there is an infraction in the Crimininal Code that you could be disturbing the peace if you're going around nude," said Inspector Durocher.

Several sections of the Criminal Code refer to indecent acts, being nude, or exposing genital organs for a sexual purpose -- but nothing specifically refers to a woman's breasts.

Section 174 of the Criminal Code bans being nude in public "without lawful excuse," but this crime is one of the few that can only proceed with the consent of the Justice Minister or Attorney General.

Section 175 forbids "indecent exhibition in a public place."

On the occasions that police see someone topless in public, police generally ask them to cover up.

"Most of the time officers will say 'will you please put on your top?' Most of the people agree or oblige with that," said Durocher.

In British Columbia and Ontario cases about nude sunbathing or walking around topless have been challenged in court.

In the BC case, the Supreme Court ruled that "nude sunbathing is not of sufficient moral turpitude to support a charge for doing an indecent act."

In Ontario, the Court of Appeal ruled that being topless was not harmful to anyone, and the judgment in that case has been cited several times in case of other women charged with indecent exposure, or accused of violating municipal bylaws regarding being topless.

Those who study gender issues say it's time for Canadians offended by breasts to calm down.

"There is no good reason why we should be freaked out by women's boobs," said Emer O'Toole.

The author of "Girls will be Girls" said being topless in public is not a big deal.

"There's lots of cultures where there's no social taboo on breasts and in fact the social taboo will be on other body parts such as the legs, or if you go back to Victorian times, the ankles," said O'Toole.

Meanwhile Sallay-Carrington hopes going public will stimulate debate and awareness of the law.

Because the next time she's sitting in the sun, she plans to take off her top again.