Nanaimo city councillors voted against recommending installation of free menstrual product dispensers in civic facilities.
The city already provides pads and tampons free upon request at reception desks at community centres, but examined ways to take that a step further by installing dispensers in washrooms following a motion from Coun. Don Bonner last fall.
City councillors, at a finance and audit committee meeting Wednesday, Feb. 17, voted against a staff recommendation to spend $71,500 on a pilot project to supply, install and stock menstrual product dispensers at 26 of the city’s 194 public washrooms.
“We’re trying to build equality by building equity here…” said Bonner. “I’m quite sure that over a period of time, this will become a normal thing to be in our public washrooms and that people will use it in a normal way, just like they’re using toilet paper now.”
However, other councillors including Coun. Erin Hemmens thought the motion might be “overkill.”
“If equity is what we’re aiming for here, providing free menstrual products is not the best use of $71,000, in my opinion,” she said, suggesting social agencies, for example, could find better uses for that kind of money.
Hemmens motioned for improved signage to communicate the availability of the free products at City of Nanaimo facilities, and her motion passed unanimously. Mayor Leonard Krog said posters would advertise to the public that the program is important to the city and its leadership, and Coun. Zeni Maartman said young women now aren’t as ashamed or embarrassed to talk about menstruation as past generations may have been.
Before Hemmens’s motion passed, Bonner’s motion for the finance committee to recommend the menstrual product dispensers pilot project failed 6-2 with Krog and councillors Hemmens, Maartman, Jim Turley, Ian Thorpe and Ben Geselbracht opposed and Sheryl Armstrong absent.