Toronto public schools to offer free tampons and pads to students
Toronto District School Board joins growing movement across Canada
Toronto public schools will offer free menstrual hygiene products to students beginning this fall as part of a growing movement to end "period poverty" among young people and break down barriers to education.
Toronto District School Board (TDSB) trustees voted unanimously this week to provide menstrual products in all secondary and elementary schools across the city starting this academic year.
The board will partner with the Ontario wing of a national organization called Physical Health and Education Canada, which has a relationship with suppliers of pads and tampons. The collaboration means the initiative will come at no cost to the TDSB.
Stephanie Donaldson, one of the trustees who put the motion forward, says that equitable access to menstrual products is a key part of breaking down systemic barriers to healthy lifestyles and public education in the province.
Donaldson told CBC Radio's Metro Morning on Friday that the board considered studies that have shown that one-in-seven young women and non-binary people in Canada will miss some school because they don't have access to pads and tampons, largely because they cannot bear the financial burden of purchasing their own.
"That is something that we absolutely cannot accept," said Donaldson, who represents Ward 9 Davenport and Spadina-Fort York.
"And it's something that we have the power and the means to change."
You can listen to the entire interview in the player below:
'It affects many people'
The decision means the TDSB joins a growing number of public school boards in the province and throughout Canada that are providing free menstrual products to students. Last spring, British Columbia became the first province to adopt the policy in all of its public schools.
Meanwhile, in Ontario, schools boards in Waterloo region and London have also opted to offer free menstrual products to students.
Sarah Chun, a student trustee about to start Grade 12 in the Thames Valley District School Board in London, helped advocate for free products in public schools there.
She explained that students can often find themselves missing class if they get their periods unexpectedly and need to find a friend who has a pad or tampon, or if they don't have money on them to purchase one.
"It affects many people and I thought that this was a huge issue and that it would really change the lives of many others if we could have access to period products within the washrooms," Chun told Metro Morning.
Donaldson said she hopes the change in Toronto public schools will help young women and girls "feel like they are more welcome because someone is thinking about them and their needs.
"I hope they take heart in the fact that their voices matter and people are listening to their voices and they keep up the advocacy," she said.
NDP education critic Marit Stiles is currently petitioning for the Ontario government to consider implementing a policy of free menstrual products in public schools provincewide.