Ontario students to get free menstrual products as part of deal with Shoppers Drug Mart

Ontario students to get free menstrual products as part of deal with Shoppers Drug Mart-Milenio Stadium-Ontario
Inequitable access to menstrual products, sometimes called period poverty, has been a significant barrier to education and extracurricular activies for many women and girls in Ontario. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

The Ontario government says it has partnered with Shoppers Drug Mart to provide free menstrual products for the students across the province beginning this fall. 

“The partnership will benefit students who need menstrual products and are unable to afford or access them, resulting in an inability to participate in school and other activities,” the provincial government said in a news release.

The agreement will see Shoppers Drug Mart provide six million essential hygiene items for free, annually, to school boards in Ontario for at least the next three years. For now, only period pads will be available, though the plan is to eventually include tampons as well.

Boards will have discretion about where the products are distributed based on local needs, the province said.

“Through the strong advocacy of young leaders in our schools, it has become extremely clear that menstrual products are a necessity, not a luxury,” said Education Minister Stephen Lecce in the release.

“This agreement will help remove barriers for women and girls by allowing them to access products at school, free of charge.”

In 2019, B.C. mandated free menstrual products in all public school bathrooms, at the time saying it was the first province to do so. Since then,  Nova Scotia and P.E.I. have also made them available to students.

A number of organizations had been calling on Ontario to do the same, including groups like Bleed the North and the Toronto Youth Cabinet.

The latter had sent a letter to Lecce on March 8 of this year pointing out that many women struggle to afford period products.

Citing a Plan International Canada report, the group said 83 per cent of women under 25 who were surveyed say that not having access to menstrual products prevented them from fully participating in school activities. Some 70 per cent said they missed school or work because of their period.

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