University of the Fraser Valley union demands free menstrual products for staff, students

Petition calls it a human rights issue, asks for products at Chilliwack/Abbotsford campus washrooms

Menstrual products are just as much of a sanitary necessity as toilet paper and should be provided by large employers and in public facilities.

That’s according to the union representing faculty and staff at the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV), the Student Union Society and more than a thousand people who have signed their petition.

“It actually blows my mind that we have to beg with a petition to get menstrual products in washrooms,” Melissa Naman told The Progress Tuesday.

Naman is the human rights representative for the Faculty and Staff Association (FSA).

Given the perceived inaction so far on the part of UFV administration to get it done — despite a sentiment of “general support” — the FSA has initiated a campaign entitled “Go with the flow” and created a petition that as of Dec. 4 had 1,200 signatures.

“No person should have to miss work or school and become unfairly disadvantaged because they do not have access to (or cannot afford) menstrual products,” the petition states. “Just like toilet paper, menstrual products are essential for personal hygiene and sanitation.”

Naman said the FSA broached the possibility of UFV providing menstrual products for free at all UFV campus washrooms with administration at a labour and management meeting in 2018, and it came up again at a meeting in October. Naman said administration had a target implementation date of April 1, 2020, but there has been no formal announcement or written commitment.

So the FSA, along with members of the UFV Student Union Society, plans to deliver the petition to UFV president Joanne MacLean on Dec. 10, which is International Human Rights Day.

“If you are not providing proper sanitation products in the washroom, think of the consequences of that,” Naman said. “If you don’t have access to these products, then you have to miss work or school. It completely, unfairly disadvantages someone based on a need for products that are equivalent to toilet paper.”

The school says free sanitation products are coming, but the cost is an issue and they have had several speed bumps along the way. UFV director of student life and development Kyle Baillie said the school has been working on this project for at least two years.

“We’ve had some challenges along the way,” Baillie said Wednesday. “But I think there has definitely been a good groundswell of attention, and I think the province also mandating this in the high schools has been a good step forward.”

Baillie said they ran into challenges finding a machine that dispenses for free, and they ran into issues sourcing a vendor. UFV estimates the cost would be approximately $100,000 a year.

“When you look at the fact that we are a small city of 16,000 or 17,000 people, 60 per cent of whom would be using this service, that’s not an insignificant number.”

As for the target implementation date of April 1, 2020, that is unlikely. Baillie said that date was put forward because it represents the start of the school’s fiscal year, so any budget decision made now couldn’t be implemented before that date.

“We are looking at some time after April that it would come into play,” he said.

As for the FSA’s petition and costs, Naman points to a campaign by the United Way called The Period Promise that accepts donations, helps to organize campaigns to collect donations, and asks elected officials and business owners to step up.

B.C. public school should soon have free menstrual products in all their washrooms as Education Minister Rob Fleming issued a ministerial order in April ordering all school districts to install dispensary machines. The government provided $300,000 in startup funding to make it happen.

In May, the Chilliwack school district estimated it would cost $22,500 a year to supply all middle school and high school girls’ washrooms.

• READ MORE: Chilliwack school district estimates costs of tampons, pads at $22,500 annually

• READ MORE: B.C. schools must provide free tampons, pads to students by end of year

The United way says one in seven Canadian girls have missed school because of their menstrual cycle, often because of stigma or the lack of access to pads and tampons.

Asked why in 2019 this is still a question if it is a human rights issue and a matter of simple necessity, Naman said she thinks it’s a combination of the stigma about menstruation and the cost.

“A lot of people are pretty uncomfortable talking about it,” she said. “And the cost factor. Anything that costs money is going to take a long time for people to agree to.”

The UFV’s FSA open petition is here: https://form.simplesurvey.com/f/l/GoWithTheFlow


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Man from Mexico reported missing in Abbotsford

Antonio Fernandez, 29, was last seen on Monday, May 25

Crane truck topples over at Abbotsford courthouse construction site

Nobody injured in incident on Trethewey Street and George Ferguson Way

Chilliwack trustee removed from committees, district invites

Barry Neufeld’s censure involves four forms of reprimand due to recent Facebook post

FVRD activates its emergency operations centre to monitor Fraser River levels

FVRD activates its emergency operations centre to monitor Fraser River levels

Mission senior honours fallen Snowbird

Bruce Smith, 78, decorated his car with various pieces of military memorabilia to raise awareness

B.C. retirement home creates innovative ‘meet-up’ unit for elderly to see family face-to-face

Innovative ‘purpose-built’ unit keeps residents safe when seeing family for first time since COVID-19

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The importance of accurate, ethical reporting is critical – perhaps as never before

Fraser Valley libraries to offer contactless hold pick-ups

FVRL Express — Click, Pick, Go service to be offered at all 25 locations starting June 1

B.C.’s essential grocery, hardware store employees should get pandemic pay: retail group

Only B.C.’s social, health and corrections workers are eligible for top-ups

Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto vying to be NHL hubs, but there’s a catch

The NHL unveiled a return-to-play plan that would feature 24 teams

B.C. sees 9 new COVID-19 cases, one death as officials watch for new cases amid Phase Two

Number of confirmed active cases is at 244, with 37 people in hospital

Nanaimo senior clocked going 50 km/hr over limit says her SUV shouldn’t be impounded

RCMP say they can’t exercise discretion when it comes to excessive speeding tickets

United Way allocating $6.6M in federal funding to help with food security, youth mental health

Applications from Fraser Valley and Lower Mainland charities being accepted for the emergency funding

Illicit-drug deaths up in B.C. and remain highest in Canada: chief coroner

More than 4,700 people have died of overdoses since B.C. declared a public health emergency in early 2016

Most Read