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Toronto’s Most Bizarre Bylaws

Toronto’s most bizarre bylaws are head-scratching policies distanced from contemporary reason. Amongst the most confounding red tape out there, there are neighbourhood-specific zoning restrictions, rules that only apply on certain days of the week, and stipulations that strike at the innocence of children everywhere. You could be breaking the law and not even know it.

Here are some of Toronto’s most bizarre bylaws.


Outrageous, I know. But before you get up in arms, consider that we can’t have folks dragging dead equine down Yonge Street all days of the week, now. That would be anarchy.

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Built to insulate and manage a comfortable head temperature, a felt hat in a sauna can mean the difference between a proper sweat and overheating, but the municipality’s policies on bathhouses are decided “no chill” about the accessories, maintaining that if one insists on steam room headwear, a clean towel can be used in place.

In 2015, Mayor John Tory himself drew attention to the mystifying by law when making a rhetorical point about how we should warm to amending rules like the city’s 300-page licensing bylaw, and not a single city official could offer an explanation for it.

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You Need a license for EDIBLE UNDERWEAR

Imagine the hurdles you’d have to go through to maintain a small business in Toronto. There’s rent, finding reliable employees, keeping everything up to code… Now, imagine you’re an adult entertainment shop keen on hawking edible underwear: you’ll be needing a food license, too.

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Only Two Can Play Pinball in Parkdale

Do you dream of adult arcades lined with retro rec room amusements? Too bad for west-enders: an equally retro zoning bylaw dictates that no more than two mechanical electronic gaming devices or pinball machines occupy a “place of amusement” in the Parkdale neighbourhood.


NO SWEARING in city parks

Under the conduct section of the city’s official parks bylaw, park visitors are prohibited from the use of profane or abusive language.



According to the Toronto Port Authority, swimming in Lake Ontario waters that are not designated as swimming areas is forbidden. That isn’t an outwardly weird rule, but when you consider that this applies to the whole of the lake, and that if you’re out boating, you can’t just jump ship for a splash unless you’ve pulled into a swimming-safe beach (which isn’t all of them, we’ll remind you), it just doesn’t seem fair.

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TREE CLIMBING is a finable offence

Scaling the limbs of a towering maple tree is such a seemingly innocent rite of passage for kids that it’s practically a given, but according to the city’s official parks bylaw, it’s a finable offence. Presumably, this is a rule in place to prevent damage to the city’s flora, as it’s a stipulation lumped in with prohibitions from moving or removing the whole or any part of a tree (or rock, boulder, rock face, soil, sand, or wood) “unless authorized by a permit.”



Seeing fewer posters advertising upcoming gigs from your favourite bands? Blame a postering bylaw that held venue owners accountable for promotional advertisements they might not have even posted. At the haste of the Toronto Music Advisory, the Municipal Licensing & Standards only put an end to the practice in June 2015.


Nit picky or necessity?

Image via Lokesh Dhakar/Flickr

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