Tax on tampon campaign on the bleeding edge


Despite a confusing schedule mishap, Activate T.O kicked off 2016 with an event from #NoTaxOnTampons: A Campaign on the Bleeding Edge.

Attendees gathered on the third floor waiting area at the Metro Hall in Toronto. Though the event had been planned, the room allotted had been overbooked leaving the group without a meeting space, or projector.

After a brief delay, guest speaker Jill Peibiak improvised by hosting her speech in the waiting area which had a decent amount of seating.

Despite Peibiak missing her prepared slides and video footage, she engagingly told the story of how over the course of a few months in 2015, the campaign began with an online petition lead to the removal of the GST tax on menstrual hygiene products.

“It began with a group of five friends including myself who had been talking about the tampon tax for two years while we were at grad school,” Peibiak said. “We always found the tax ridiculous, and we found it strange that not many people knew that it was there.”

In 1991 when the GST was first introduced it was implemented on all items that were not considered essential such as grocery and medical products.

Menstrual hygiene products never made it onto either of these essential lists and thus were taxable.

Peibiak then decided that something should finally be done, and decided to start a petition on after following two campaigns in the U.K and Australia.

“In the U.K it was getting quite a bit of attention,” Peibiak said. “Both campaigns had 50,000 signatures in 2014.”

Peibiak explained that using was free, and not having a lot of money to invest in bigger platforms gave them the starting point they needed, however certain elements of such a large third party site lead to drawbacks such as not being able to access data and not having control of design.

Peibiak explained how the battle against the tax on menstrual products is something that has been brought up in the past.

During a debate between former Canadian politian Sheila Copps and then Ontario finance minister Frank Miller, Miller was quoted to say “I would say a lot of people would call my automobile essential to get me to work but a vehicle tax has been applied for a long time.”

Copps responded calling the comparison absurd. This debate happened in

1982 and they only acknowledged the fact that women menstruated.

Peibiak fought with this issue as well, with press specifying that menstrual hygiene products were exclusively used by females.

“It’s not just women who menstruate,” Peibiak said. “Anyone who has a uterus is affected by these taxes.”

This concept was always lost on the media as well as politicians who continue to refer to them as feminine menstruation products.

They seem to block out the trans community who are also affected by this and who need menstrual products.

When working on a promotional video for the petition, #NoTaxOnTampons had difficulty sharing with platforms such as YouTube and Facebook. They were unable to purchase any ads because of trauma and blood purposes, and Facebook claimed that the video could not be shared as it contained a graphic image or physical trauma.

“The video features a very large period stain on a woman’s bottom,” Peibiak said. “At the end she touches it and shows her hands.”

Having to fight Facebook back and forth discussing whether or not menstruation is a medical issue was felt wrong and condescending to Peibiak.

“It was really frustrating to be watching ads for a bunch of video games that were being promoted at the time,” Peibiak said “They were incredibly graphic so I would send them screenshots.”

In the end the video was never successfully posted to Facebook.

Until this year campaigns could not submit online petitions to the House of Commons, at least 25 hard copy signatures were required.

“You have to physically count the signatures and they stopped at 10,000 with our campaign.” Peibiak said.

After a few months of the campaign continuing to be tabled, there was about a month lull of nothing happening.

“On May 28 a reporter call me to let me know that the means motion had been changed online to remove menstruation products from GST in the GTA.” Peibiak said.

There was no press release or official announcement however May 28. happened to be Menstruation Hygiene Awareness Day.

So with no real announcement, #NoTaxOnTampons had become a success.

On July 1, tax on any menstruation product including panty-liners, pads and Diva cups etc. was dropped.

For now, #NoTaxOnTampons is at rest in Canada with Peibiak taking a much needed vacation before moving on to new things.

Wednesday’s talk was sponsored by Luna Pads with representative Kim Sedgwick on hand to display and talk about some tampon alternatives.

She spoke about the chemicals used in tampons as well as the wastefulness. There are also many places in the world that do not have access to tampons or menstrual products.

“I don’t think a child should ever have to stay home from school for menstruating,” she said. “Lots of children are left out of education at times because of this.”

Sedgwick then demonstrated three alternative options to one use menstrual products including the Diva cup, washable cloth menstrual pads, and period panties.

A raffle was held at the end of the event and three winners took home sample packs of Luna Pads products.