For Saanich council, putting period products in all of its almost 300 public washrooms is a no-brainer.
“If anyone who has the experience of not having toilet paper in a stall, that’s not an experience you want to have,” said Teale Phelps Bondaroff, a Saanich councillor and former chair of Access BC, a group that campaigned to remove barriers to accessing prescription contraception in B.C.
Free menstrual products are available now at Saanich district hall, then rolling out in all Saanich parks and recreation facilities by the end of June.
The addition of menstruation products into all Saanich washrooms was an effort to make men’s washrooms more inclusive to transgender or transitioning men, reduce what can be a costly barrier for some, but also to destigmatize the products used by roughly half the population.
“There’s so much stigma and taboo around menstruation in our society. And there shouldn’t be,” said Phelps Bondaroff. “The fact that men see them, it normalizes it. There was one person commenting what if kids in hockey rinks play with them? I’d rather kids play with them than not know what a period is.”
“I went oh that’s cool, tweeted it, thought nothing of it,” said Colin Plant, Saanich councillor.
Proud Councillor in #Saanich!
I noticed the following complimentary items in the men’s restroom in @Saanich Hall tonight.
— Colin Plant (@ColinPlant2022) June 6, 2023
Plant posted what he thought was a benign update on the period products in Saanich bathrooms Monday night on Twitter. The reception there was surprising.
“In my nine years being an elected official I have never seen such hateful disrespectful language directed to myself,” said Plant. “I was being told things like you need therapy, you should not be around children, you should kill yourself.”
Plant said the most hateful responses were through Twitter, not necessarily from Saanich residents who he’s been elected to represent. The lack of acceptance is disturbing to both Plant and Phelps Bondaroff, and not welcome.
“They’re just people who are afraid and spreading hate and fear,” said Phelps Bondaroof. “There’s no place in Saanich for that bigotry and transphobia.”
Phelps Bondaroff says Saanich has allocated $23,000 for toilet paper in this year’s budget. Installing and stocking the menstrual products will cost $20,000, with restocking fees to be much less than toilet paper by a far margin.
The increased access to menstrual products in all Saanich washrooms will be available by July.