The province announced in Burnaby this morning that, under a ministerial order issued today (Friday), all B.C. public schools will be required to provide free menstrual products for students in school washrooms by the end of 2019.
The announcement comes just weeks after New Westminster made history when it became the first school district in the province to pay for menstrual products and dispensers in all of its schools. That change was prompted by a request from Douglas College professor and Vancouver parent Selina Tribe to New West school trustees.
The Burnaby School District had voted unanimously in January of this year to direct staff to look into the cost of installing the free dispensers.
"Students should never have to miss school, extracurricular, sports or social activities because they can't afford or don't have access to menstrual products," said Education Minister Rob Fleming, in a news release, adding that current research indicates one in seven students has missed school due to their periods. "This is a common-sense step forward that is, frankly, long overdue. We look forward to working with school districts and communities to make sure students get the access they need with no stigma and no barriers."
The ministerial order - which takes effect immediately but allows districts until the end of 2019 to comply - comes with $300,000 in provincial start-up funding.
“Over the coming months, the ministry will continue to work with school districts, community and education partners to look at the needs of each district, identify gaps and ensure they have the funding needed to meet this new requirement,” said a news release.
In addition, government is also providing a one-time grant of $95,000 to support the United Way Period Promise Research Project, to fund menstrual products for up to 10 non-profit agencies and research into how best to provide services and products for people who menstruate.
"The cost and availability of menstrual products is a real concern for those who are poor and often face the choice of purchasing those products or buying other essentials, like food," said Shane Simpson, minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, in a news release. "I encourage other organizations to join our government in supporting the Period Promise campaign, to help end the stigma that causes social isolation, and begin to address that larger issue around affordability."
- With additional reporting by Cornelia Naylor and Cayley Dobie