Provision of Free Menstrual Products to Federal Workers in Canada

Updated: Jan 4

Introduction:


Adequate access to menstrual products is a means of achieving menstrual equity and is necessary for upholding Canadian’s sexual and reproductive rights. However, as of 2019, more than one third of all Canadians who menstruate struggled to afford pads, tampons and other menstrual products and 63% of women and girls missed activities due to their period or concerns of limited access to products or sanitation facilities. Although Parliamentary initiatives have been made to improve access to menstrual products, gaps in access still exist in many schools and workplaces. Therefore, the provision of free menstrual products to federal workers is one way to effectively eliminate the barriers people face when accessing menstrual products such that people who menstruate can experience healthy periods with dignity.


Background


Although health care is under general provincial jurisdiction in Canada, Parliament may provide money to provinces for specific purposes using federal spending power. Under this division of power, the provision of free menstrual products has already been introduced in provinces British Columbia and Nova Scotia, where free menstrual products are provided in schools. Prior to these initiatives, four private bills were introduced from 2004 - 2011 to amend the Excise Tax Act for the exemption of menstrual products from the goods and services tax (GST). However, these bills all subsequently died and it was not until 2015, when a motion was brought forth on the matter, that the removal of GST from feminine hygiene products was adopted by the House of Commons. As a result, Parliament passed legislation in June 2016 amending Schedule VI of the Excise Tax Act, including menstrual products in the list of GST/HST zero-rated products.


A Notice of Intent in the Canada Gazette was published in May 2019 by the government asking for the public opinion on the provision of free menstrual products in federally regulated workplaces. As a result, 57% of people responded with support for this possibility. Some examples of concerns expressed included the impact of disposable menstrual products on the environment and the quality of products...


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December, 2021

Hazell Kim

Univeristy of Toronto Policython