Easier access to hygiene products
BY TARA MACDONALD
Staff At last week’s council meeting, South Glengarry council members discussed the possibility of providing free menstrual products in municipal facilities.
The motion by Councillor Stephanie Jaworski was well received by councillors who called for a staff report outlining the costs of vending machines offering free menstrual products in select public parks and recreation centres.
“I believe that they should be installed in all our recreational facilities, parks, et cetera. I also believe that they should be in our schools. I was happy to see Councillor Jaworski bring this forward and it is something we will certainly look into,” said Mayor Frank Prevost who hopes to see vending machines installed by the end of the summer.
As a father of three girls, he understands the challenges young girls face. “I strongly feel that this is a great idea for them,” he said. “Girls can feel very uncomfortable at the beginning. This would make things a lot easier for them, knowing where they can go to be protected.”
A South Glengarry high school teacher who asked to remain anonymous agreed: “Many young girls are afraid or uncomfortable asking their teacher for menstrual products but I’ve personally had three students this year come to me asking because they didn’t have any and were in need.”
The teacher went on to say that while the school office keeps a few products on hand, it’s difficult for students to discretely ask for help in front of other staff members or students. “I can only imagine how many other girls were in the same situation and in need but uncomfortable asking.”
“Girls all have periods, so providing free sanitary products at public places is a good idea,” said Glen Nevis resident Sally Phypers who has an 11-year-old daughter. “In England, I have a friend who’s really involved in it. They have something called the Red Box Projects that provides free sanitary products to all schools and public buildings. They were the ones that kickstarted it and now the Government will be providing free sanitary products in all schools in England from January 2020.”
“We think it’s great because some girls are shy and maybe some only live with daddy and don’t want to ask dad to go buy some products for them,” said parents of three girls, Marie-Pierre Bernier and Shawn Fowler from Lancaster, who also pointed out that “there are single dads out there who might need a little help!”
“I think it is a great idea,” said another mother of three girls, Emma Jane Cockings of Williamstown. “Mine are not quite at that age, one is possibly very close but I feel that it would be great for them and many other girls that use those kind of places,” she went on to say. “These types of things should be available to all. For people who don’t have the means to purchase them on a regular basis, they shouldn’t have to feel embarrassed if it happens in public and they aren’t prepared.”
Canadian girls and women have occasionally had to miss out on an activity because of their period and concerns about lack of access to menstrual hygiene products.
Menstrual products are an essential part of a normal, public life for people with periods. Nevertheless, for almost 24 years, Canadian girls and women had to pay sales tax (HST/GST) on menstrual hygiene products as though they were a non-essential or “luxury” item. During this time, women’s groups and activists argued that the taxation of essential and necessary products used exclusively by women was unfair and discriminatory.
After years of petitioning the government, women groups and activists across the country celebrated the passing of Bill C-282, an Act to amend the Excise Tax Act (on feminine hygiene products). July 1, 2015, the sales tax was finally removed from menstrual hygiene products.
A significant move towards “period equity,” Bill C-282 helped safeguard the rights of girls and women in Canada and sent a clear message to the provinces.
Some provinces had already abolished provincial tax on menstrual hygiene products. For others, the federal government’s decision sparked momentum to follow suit by exempting menstruation products from provincial sales tax.
While British Columbia is set to become the first provincial government to offer free tampons and pads in women’s and universal washrooms in elementary, middle, and high schools by the end of this year, Ontario may not be far behind.
May 28, MPP Bhutila Karpoche recognized Menstrual Health Day by tabling a private member’s bill to the government of Ontario to pro
vide free menstrual products to all Ontarians, starting with publiclyfunded schools. “Many people don’t think of period poverty as an issue here in Canada, when in fact there are many who struggle to access menstrual products which can cost anywhere from $76 to $153 per year,” said MPP Karpoche. “This may not seem like a lot of money, but for many it’s the difference between eating or buying necessary supplies.”
In her motion, MPP Karpoche argued that period poverty was both a health and social equity issue. “When people are unable to afford a consistent supply of products, they may resort to unhygienic solutions such as reusing or overusing products that can lead to an increase in the risks for reproductive tract infections,” she explained.
SIGN OF SUPPORT: Champlain Councillor Sarah Bigelow and Judy Sauvé unveil the Ashley’s Way sign.
WINNERS: Gordon. Siblings Tristan and Kira Bombardier and Michelle