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Council OK’s bathroom changes in Courtenay for free menstrual products

New pilot approved to install free menstraul product dispensers at Lewis and LINC centres

Courtenay council on Wednesday (April 10) approved a pilot project that will install menstrual product dispensers in several men’s washrooms.

In a unanimous vote, council gave the green light for 11 bathrooms at the Lewis Centre and the LINC Youth Centre to be modified. The group of men’s, women’s and gender-neutral bathrooms is slated to dispense free menstrual products.

For affected men’s washrooms, staff at the City of Courtenay explained that putting dispensers in the men’s washroom is not solely about people in the room using the product. There are other uses, such as someone in the men’s room having access to the menstrual product in order to help their family member.

“It’s a gender issue for everyone, because we’re talking about women, girls, we’re talking about non-binary, trans, we’re talking about their caregivers who may need to get those products for them including their family and their friends,” council heard.

The city’s pilot project comes as council committed to the “period promise campaign.” The campaign looks to make menstrual products free and accessible, to reduce the challenges that menstruation can cause “so that everyone who menstruates can go to work, get to school, access services, and stay connected to their community.”

Discussing the idea of providing menstrual products in all washrooms regardless of sex, Coun. David Frisch described it through a lens of public health.

“(I am) a little bit surprised that there’s anything even close to a debate on this subject. I mean, there’s toilet paper in every washroom, no one questions whether it should be there or not.”

The pilot project slated for the Lewis Centre and the LINC Youth Centre will gauge public feedback, to understand what changes the public is comfortable with or supports. Staff at the city intends to talk to the community before moving forward with significant changes, council heard.

Some possible details were also discussed in a separate vote. After approving menstrual product dispensers, council also gave the green light for the city to conduct a gender-equity review of publicly operated bathrooms across the city.

Describing the review, a presenter at council said, “There are general standards that we could look at to make (bathrooms) more inclusive, which is basically removing the icons that, you know, show gender identity: dressed women and the pants on the man. It could include language. But again, we would talk to people, we would talk to the community before we made any changes like that.”

Also in the review, the City of Courtenay plans to correct any signage issues. The city recently discovered through assessing bathrooms at the Lewis Centre and LINC Youth Centre that some signs incorrectly state that amenities are available when they are not, and vice versa. The city intends to make the fix.

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