“It’s just the right thing to do”: Peterborough Public Library now offers free menstrual products

It’s part of a growing movement across the country to tackle “period poverty.”
The Peterborough Public Library now has dispensers offering free tampons and menstrual pads in its women’s washrooms, and the library’s universal washroom will soon have one, too. (Photo: Brett Throop)

Below are some of the stories featured in the May 18, 2023 edition of the Peterborough Currents email newsletter. To receive our email newsletters straight to your inbox, sign up here.

The Peterborough Public Library has begun offering free menstrual products in its washrooms.

“[Period products] are incredibly expensive and we do have a large number of marginalized and vulnerable people using the library,” said library CEO Jennifer Jones. “It’s just the right thing to do.”

Previously, people could buy tampons and pads from dispensers in the women’s washrooms for a fee of 25 cents, Jones said. But even that was a barrier for some: the machines were frequently broken by people trying to get their hands on the products, as well as the change inside, she said.

Library staff decided to scrap the fee to stop the machines from being repeatedly damaged and so that anyone can access the products they need, Jones said.

The change comes amid a growing movement to tackle “period poverty” – a term describing the struggle many face to afford menstrual products – which has led some jurisdictions to improve access to the products.

Calgary and Mississauga both offer free tampons and pads in public washrooms. And as of December, employees in federally-regulated workplaces will have access to free period products as well.

In March, Peterborough Public Health marked International Women’s Day by urging the Ontario government to take action on the issue as well.

“Inability to afford basic necessities such as tampons, pads and liners fuel stigma and shame while creating health risks for people who struggle to afford them,” said Dr. Thomas Piggott, Peterborough’s medical officer of health, in a press release. Piggott wrote to the provincial government calling for expanded access to menstrual products as a “key public health action” that would “improve gender equity for women.”

Ontario currently provides free menstrual pads to school boards, through a three-year partnership with Shoppers Drug Mart that began in 2021.

A new cycling bridge across the Otonabee? The city wants to study the idea.

The former CP rail bridge upstream from Lansdowne Street was decomissioned long ago. Now, the city wants to study turning it into a cycling and pedestrian crossing. (Photo: Will Pearson)

The city is on the hunt for a consultant to study whether the decommissioned CP rail bridge just upstream from Lansdowne Street can be converted into a new multi-use trail. It’s the first step toward creating a new pedestrian and cyclist river crossing at the location, as proposed by Peterborough’s cycling master plan.

The city posted a request for proposals on its website earlier this month seeking a consultant to carry out an environmental assessment for the proposed project, which will include studying whether the steel swing bridge can be reused, or whether an entirely new structure is needed. Right now the only way for cyclists to cross the Otonabee River in the south end is over the Lansdowne Street bridge, which lacks cycling lanes and has narrow sidewalks, the RFP states.

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Other stories we’re watching:

HOMELESSNESS — Last week, city councillors approved a proposal to build temporary, modular housing for people experiencing homelessness outside the city’s Wolfe Street overflow homeless shelter, which we wrote about in our last newsletter. Mayor Jeff Leal said the proposal would bring an end to a large tent encampment that sprang up outside the shelter during the pandemic. “The era of tenting is over,” he said. Many details, such as what the temporary housing units will look like and how many there would be, still need to be worked out. But first, city council will need to take a final vote on whether to move ahead with the concept at a meeting next Tuesday (May 23).

TRANSIT – City councillors have temporarily deferred a decision on proposed cuts to Peterborough Transit. At last week’s general committee meeting, councillors said they wanted to hear from the city’s newly-struck transit liaison committee before deciding how to make up for an almost $1 million budget shortfall that city council imposed on Peterborough Transit by freezing its funding earlier this year. City staff had recommended eliminating community bus routes and holiday service as well as cutting back weekend service to make up for the budget shortfall.

ANTISEMITIC PAMPHLETS – On Monday, Peterborough Police said they were investigating reports of antisemitic pamphlets being distributed to some homes in the city over the weekend. Officers knocked on doors in the area of Downie and Hunter streets on Monday to ask residents if they had received the pamphlets, according to Peterborough This Week.

These stories were featured in our most recent newsletter. Want independent local news delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up here.


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