Free menstrual products won’t be available in public spaces in Hamilton, Ontario, anytime soon after city council voted against looking deeper into the issue, with one councillor stating she was too “uncomfortable” to even discuss periods publicly.
Hamilton Coun. Maureen Wilson wanted to join the movement of providing free menstrual products that’s spreading across some parts of Canada by having tampons and pads in buildings like libraries and recreational centres, the Hamilton Spectator reports.
At a health board meeting Monday, Wilson proposed the city look at a pilot project on the issue.
Another councillor seconded the motion, but a third, Coun. Esther Pauls, was quick to shut it down because of her issue with speaking about people who bleed, publicly. She said she was “uncomfortable” talking about the initiative that would see free menstrual products in municipal cities.
Pauls said she believes women are “always prepared” for their periods—which honestly isn’t even true for people who can afford tampons. Pauls also denied that people desperately search for alternatives if they can’t afford menstrual products, despite reports that those who are menstruating and homeless may resort to using items like socks, paper towels, and newspapers, which can lead to infection.
“No, we don't do that here. This is not a Third World country,” she reportedly said.
According to the Spec, some councillors also expressed concerns about the cost of a project such as this one. Supplying menstrual products could cost the city anywhere from $46,000 for people who use shelters to $11.2 million for all girls and women aged 12 to 49, according to a staff report. Ultimately, council vote down the pilot project proposal.
Canada is in the midst of taking steps to address the one-third of Canadians who struggle to afford period products.
However, Pauls’ comments highlight the fact that period stigma still persists—and not just in India as shown in the critically acclaimed Netflix documentary Period. End of Sentence.
British Columbia announced in April that all BC public schools will have free menstrual products available to their students by the end of 2019, with the help of $300,000 from the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction and the Ministry of Education. It is the first province to make menstrual products available and 100 percent accessible in all public school bathrooms. Smaller efforts have been taking place too. A New Brunswick high school has been conducting a study since March that will continue until the end of this school year, looking at whether or not access to free menstrual products improves student attendance. One poll by Plan International Canada found that 70 per cent of Canadians report missing school, work or a social event due to having their period.
Ironically, Hamilton is also gearing up to have its first “Menstrual Hygiene Day” on May 29, during which Coun. Wilson will be a keynote speaker.
Follow Sarah on Twitter.