A group of Montreal & Toronto women are calling for a removal of the GST charged on menstruation hygiene products in Canada.

The No Tax on Tampons petition argues that tampons, pads, and moon/diva cups are essential to maintaining a normal public life, and should therefore be included in the group of essential products exempt from taxation by the Canadian government. Some products currently considered “essential” by the Canadian government include cocktail cherries, human sperm, and wedding cakes.

In less than a month, the campaign reached its goal of obtaining 50,000 signatures its change.org petition. Now they’re calling for supporters to sign hard copies of the No Tax on Tampons petition, in order to have it tabled by the House of Commons.

In 2014, it is estimated that Canadian women between the ages of 12-49 spent approximately $519,976,963 on menstruation products, $36,398.387 of which was collected by the federal government through GST.

She Does the City chatted with petition founder Jill Piebiak last Friday.

SDTC: How did this idea for a petition become a thing?

JP: I personally always knew that tampons were taxed and that it was unfair and discriminatory and something that didn’t make sense. It was one of those things that was a conversation in our house growing up, kind of like a side remark people made: “Ugh and the government’s collecting tax on this?”

Over the last year or so, my friends and I were talking about this a lot and eventually we decided to see if anything had ever been done about it before. We did some research and found out that not only had there been petitions in the UK and Australia (to some level of success), there had also been private members bills that had been tabled in the House of Commons in Canada in the past. And with the timing of the federal election coming in 2015, and knowing that private members bills get dissolved with parliament, we thought it would be a good time to raise awareness about the tax itself—because I think a lot of people don’t realize it’s there in the first place—and to raise awareness about the fact that there have been members of parliament who have tried to change this on a federal level. It’s entirely possible to remove it.

What success have the UK and Australia had in regards to this issue?

They met their goals on change.org, basically. I believe they’re now in talks about it in the UK. But also in terms of getting conversations about women, other people who menstruate, and the affordability of being a woman who has her period in the news, that’s an important success.

Is this a cause only for women to take up? Or can it have other positive effects outside the financial benefit to women?

Well I definitely think it’s a cause everyone can take up. When you think about households in Canada and who is buying these products, it’s not necessarily the case that women are always buying these products for themselves. Like, young women who are living at home are not necessarily buying their own menstruation products. And then gender queer people and trans people who don’t necessarily identify as women but who are menstruators, there’s a whole conversation to have there because those communities are often struggling with larger financial burdens than the general population.

What’s the next step?

Our goal was to get 50,000 signatures on change.org. And the reason we chose that platform was because it has an auto-email feature that sends a letter of support to the decision makers we named on the petition. Not only did we want to raise awareness about this publicly, but we wanted to flood those inboxes and make sure that decision makers in Ottawa knew that this was a priority for us. Now that we’ve met our goal there, we’re going to continue to collect online signatures, but our next really big step is to work on a video with a production company here in Toronto to raise awareness about the tax and the fact that the government of Canada doesn’t table online petitions. We want to get people to sign those hard copies. Ultimately we’d like to table it in the House of Commons in the spring and hopefully then the government will see that it’s a priority and they’ll bring Bill C-282 into debate.

What can a regular person do to help the cause right now?

The hard copies of the petition are on the change.org site in French and English. So it’s really about printing it, signing it, and filling that sheet up with signatures, and then sending it into Irene Mathyssen’s office (the MP who originally tabled the bill in 2013). And it can be sent in free of postage. Also food banks and women’s shelters often collect menstruation products and tend to not have enough, so donating tampons to them is always an option.

For more info:
Email: cdnmenstruators@gmail.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CDNMenstruators #NoTaxOnTampons
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CDNMenstruators
Instagram: http://instagram.com/cdnmenstruators
Film Kickstarter: http://kck.st/1LAfGAN
To read the full petition: http://chn.ge/15xv6p