This fall, the Ford government is partnering with Shoppers Drug Mart to provide access to free menstrual products.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce made the announcement Friday morning, saying that the announcement was part of a three-year deal with the pharmacy chain for then to pick up the cost of menstrual products and dispensers.
"Menstrual products are of course a necessity, not a luxury. For women and girls, ensuring that they have access to these products is key for their health and success in their education," Lecce said.
Starting with the current 2021-2022 school year, Shoppers Drug Mart will provide 18 million menstrual products and 1,200 dispensers to schools across the province.
School boards will be responsible in distributing the products to schools based on local needs.
"The government says it is committed to addressing period poverty and removing barriers surrounding menstruation," CP24 reports.
"No student should have to miss school because they do not have access to menstrual products. This creates a major barrier in providing an equal playing field," Associate Minister of Children and Women's Issues Jane McKenna said during the announcement this morning.
Over the last year, calls for the province to provide such a service have been growing.
In March, The Toronto Youth Cabinet, an organization that advocates for Toronto's youth, wrote a letter to Lecce urging the province to offer free menstrual products in all publicly funded schools.
"Menstrual products are a necessity and not a luxury," the letter reads. "The simple truth is that, for far too long, we have ignored the issue about menstrual periods, and that silence has hurt our young people. No young person should miss out on their education or feel stigmatized because of something that is a normal part of life for them."
That letter was also signed by People for Education, the Ontario Human Rights Commission and the province's four major teachers' unions' according to CP24.
The letter noted that other provinces, as well as several Ontario school boards like the Toronto District School Board, have made moves to provide access to free menstrual products.
The TDSB announced its program in 2019, but urged in a letter to Lecce back in May that the province provide funding for free menstrual products in all schools across Ontario.
TDSB Chair Alexander Brown noted in the letter that because the TDSB's program is funded by charitable organizations, products are "not guaranteed to all students who need them."
"Menstrual hygiene products are not a luxury. They are necessary and essential to menstrual health, comfort and participation in school, work and society," Brown wrote. "No student should have to worry about having access to menstrual products."