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McGill students push for free menstrual products in Quebec schools

The three McGill students behind the En Règle initiative at a press conference in Montreal. Carolanne Gagnon (left) Ariane Litalien (middle) and Alicia Lessard.
Tuesday May 28, 2019.
The three McGill students behind the En Règle initiative at a press conference in Montreal. Carolanne Gagnon (left) Ariane Litalien (middle) and Alicia Lessard. Tuesday May 28, 2019. Global News / David Sedell

A group of McGill medical students want to change the way young women experience their periods.

Carolanne Gagnon, Ariane Litalien and Alicia Lessard are lobbying the provincial government to make menstrual hygiene products free in all Quebec schools.

The students have filed a petition at Quebec’s National Assembly asking the government to offer free menstrual products in all Quebec schools.

In addition, they want the province to subsidize reusable feminine hygiene products.

WATCH: Free menstrual products to be available in B.C. schools

Free menstrual products to be available in B.C. Schools
Free menstrual products to be available in B.C. Schools

They say their En Règle initiative would improve the experience of young girls at school.

“Periods happen to half of the population who is of reproductive age, so why not adapt to this fact and really make sure that women and other who menstruate have to miss school because of that,” said Ariane Litalien.

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The group cited a study that found that one out of seven girls in Canada miss school because of their period.

“There’s really no reason why a bodily function or a biological fact would keep people from getting an education,” Litalien said.

READ MORE: One-third of young Canadian women can’t afford menstrual products, report finds

The students hope the initiative also addresses what’s known as period poverty: the lack of access to menstrual products for financial reasons.

A recent study by Plan International Canada showed that a third of Canadian women under the age of 25 can’t afford menstrual products.

WATCH: What is period poverty? Study finds women under 25 struggling to afford menstrual products

What is period poverty? Study finds women under 25 struggling to afford menstrual products
What is period poverty? Study finds women under 25 struggling to afford menstrual products

“It would alleviate a lot of the stress of being a teenage girl,” said Virginie Plasse, a high school teacher in Pincourt. “They wouldn’t necessarily have to think about how can I purchase a pad, how can I get a tampon at recess? Because they would know it would be available in school and they could get one.”

The students behind the project were inspired by a similar initiative passed recently in British Columbia.

Schools in that province will have to offer feminine hygiene products for free by the end of the year.

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READ MORE: Waterloo public schools will offer free menstrual products to battle period poverty

The Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) announced on Tuesday it would also offer free menstrual products to students at secondary and alternative schools this fall.

The city of Hamilton approved a motion to provide the products to women in need specifically.

READ MORE: Hamilton moves to provide menstrual products to low-income residents

In Montreal, the opposition plans to table a motion to make menstrual products available for free in all municipal buildings, including pools and libraries.

“Especially since in toilets, for example, we already have toilet paper and soap that is free so why not tampons and sanitary products for women?” said Karine Boivin-Roy, an opposition city councillor.

“It’s a question of necessity, simply. It shouldn’t be a question of luxury.”

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The women behind the initiative say the project would only cost taxpayers a few cents a year.