Free menstrual products set for all Victoria public facilities

Free menstrual products will soon be available in all public, city-owned washrooms in Victoria including at City Hall, Crystal Pool and downtown public washrooms.

Tampons and pads in a variety of sizes were installed in the gender-neutral washroom in City Hall’s council chambers Monday. Over the next several weeks, free menstrual products will appear in the rest of the city’s public washrooms.

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The change comes thanks to Coun. Laurel Collins, who has been a supporter of the United Way’s Period Promise campaign for several years. The campaign aims to remove the financial barriers that some people face in accessing menstrual products, which are a basic necessity to anyone who menstruates.

At a Victoria drug store, a box of 36 tampons sells for about $10.

Collins initially thought she would need to bring a motion forward for city council to vote on to make the change, but it wasn’t necessary.

“Talking to our city staff, they said it was just operational,” Collins said. “You wouldn’t pass a motion to put toilet paper in the washrooms.”

She believes stigma around periods prevented the city from implementing this change earlier.

City facilities staff will be putting the promise into action by deciding what products to buy. Collins said the goal is the provide tampons and pads in a variety of sizes to meet everyone’s needs. The city has not yet considered providing free menstrual cups, but Collins said that could be something to think about in future.

Collins couldn’t confirm if menstrual products will be provided in both men’s and women’s washrooms, but said the goal is to provide products to anyone who needs them.

The city is unsure how much it will cost to provide menstrual products, but expects a small increase to its facilities budget.

Mayor Lisa Helps said the city is proud to be the first in B.C. to commit to the United Way’s campaign.

“We know that not having access to menstrual products when you need them can be a risk to people’s health and socially isolating. Providing free menstrual products in city facilities is a small, practical thing we can do that will make a big difference in the lives of many people in our community,” Helps said.

The United Way’s Period Promise campaign has increased the awareness around the need for universal access to menstrual products, and led to a number of organizations committing to provide the products for free. In February, the New Westminster school board voted to provide free menstrual products in all washrooms in the school district. Two months later, B.C. became the first province to commit to providing free tampons and pads in school washrooms. Menstrual products are expected in washrooms by the end of this year.

“Monthly menstruation products are a necessity, but if you’re living in poverty — or vulnerable in other ways — access to menstrual products can be challenging,” said Mark Breslauer, CEO of United Way Greater Victoria. “We thank the City of Victoria for joining the Period Promise movement and breaking down barriers by providing access to free products in their facilities.”

regan-elliott@timescolonist.com

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