"Period poverty" is slated for relief in Nunavut with increased distribution of free menstrual products such as pads and tampons.
Indigenous Services Canada First Nations and Inuit Health Branch has provided $821,489 to Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI) to purchase, maintain, store and distribute the needed equipment and supplies to schools and organizations that run youth programming in Nunavut communities.
Speaking after a briefing Thursday at an NTI board of directors meeting, NTI president Aluki Kotierk praised the roll-out of additional money from the federal government for free menstrual products.
NTI's department of Inuit programs and services is awaiting approval from the Government of Nunavut's Department of Education to distribute the menstrual products to schools in all Nunavut communities, said Lucy Maynard, director of Inuit programs and services with NTI in her funding update to the board.
Her department is also working to identify organizations in Nunavut that offer youth programming to provide them menstrual products and dispensers, she said.
NTI is also working with an Inuit-owned business to facilitate the purchase and shipping of the menstrual products, Maynard said.
While menstrual products are available in many Nunavut schools and health centres, these don't reach everyone, and the cost in the territory — where boxes of 40 tampons can run near $20 — can be a barrier.
One in five girls, women, and people who menstruate in Canada said they struggled to afford menstrual products for themselves or their dependents, according to survey results released in May by Plan International Canada.
Nearly half of the survey's Indigenous respondents said they rationed or used products longer than they should because they couldn't afford more.
Various initiatives have taken place to help Nunavut women and girls have access to adequate menstrual products.
These efforts include visitors bringing hockey bags full of menstrual products to Nunavut.
In 2018 a Kitikmeot woman, Hovak Johnson, organized a drive to have packages of menstrual pads, tampons and underwear shipped to girls in the Arctic who couldn't afford to buy them.
An Ottawa-based business also donated 3,000 menstrual cups to Nunavut in 2019.
During the 2021 election, the re-elected Liberal government pledged to provide free tampons and pads in federally regulated workplaces.
Then, last November, Indigenous Affairs Minister Patty Hajdu announced menstrual products would be made freely available to all students at First Nations-operated schools on reserves and in federal schools, and that Canada would work with partners across the territories and Inuit Nunangat to ensure access.
"Menstrual products are a basic need and are essential to ensure a person's full participation in school, work, and society," Hajdu said at the time.
"I am fully committed to making these vital products readily available and to supporting Indigenous girls across the country."
Overall, the government has so far committed $2.5 million to increase access to menstrual products for First Nations and Inuit students across the territories and in Inuit Nunangat.
Funding to Indigenous partners and territorial governments in Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Inuit Nunangat started in March 2022, with indigenous Services Canada providing $525,000 in 2022-23 to the Council of Yukon First Nations to implement this project in Yukon.
Scheduled to take place in Pond Inlet Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, the NTI board meeting saw all but one of its participants joining in remotely by Zoom.