Cambridge City Council rejects proposal to provide free menstrual products

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Photo by Darien Funk

The City of Cambridge has been in the critical eye as they decided not to pass a motion brought forth to provide free menstrual products in multiple centres in the city, following in the footsteps of London, Ontario which has already moved forward with this project. 

“I brought forth the motion after talking to constituents who requested this action,” said Donna Reid, ward 1 councillor in an email statement. “I was happy to support their cause. I proposed that Council approve the motion in principle and send it to staff for a future report on its implementation. My proposal was rejected in favour of a staff report with costs prior to any acceptance of the motion. This is backwards in my mind. I don’t believe costs will prohibit the implementation of the motion, so it made sense to know whether or not Council is in support of the motion before asking for staff involvement.”

The Period Purse, an organization where people can fill up purses with menstrual products to give to those experiencing homelessness, has many chapters throughout Ontario including one for the tri-cities. Cambridge resident Kevin Hiebert, co-leader of the KWC chapter, said that one pad would cost the city about 21 cents.

“I believe that free menstrual products in city washrooms is a service needed for personal hygiene and health of women,” Reid continued in her email statement. “It is a further evolution to the provision of toilet paper. It will not be an expensive program as it’s intended as a stop gap measure when women are caught without a product when it is needed. The motion with a staff report will come back to Council ASAP. I hope it receives approval.”

Some council members believed that people should not be “entitled” to these products and that they don’t feel comfortable having them given out for free in public places, despite menstruation happening naturally in many bodies.

I believe that free menstrual products in city washrooms is a service needed for personal hygiene and health of women. It is a further evolution to the provision of toilet paper.

Donna Reid, ward 1 councillor

Following the inclusion of all-gender bathrooms, the school board has also given out free menstrual products in these bathrooms to eradicate the shame felt by having a period, and also the high costs of period products, all of which are no longer taxed due to the tampon tax movement which lifted all taxes on these products as of Jul. 1. 

Despite other cities successfully rolling out a program like the one suggested by Reid, many other residents feel it should be out of their cities hands and should be the public health responsibility at a regional or provincial level.

Others argue that if menstrual products should be put in public facilities, so should diapers and that taxpayers will continually have to pay for more and more with no end in sight to what is provided.

Pam Wolf, ward 5 councillor, also added in an email statement, “I am very disappointed that Council did not pass this motion in principle and then direct staff to come up with steps for implementation. The cost of a pad is 21 cents. This is a low price to pay for dignity.”

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