About the campaign
The history of the battle for tax fairness
From 1991 until 2015, the Canadian government considered all menstrual hygiene products a non-essential item or luxury. To add insult to injury, items like incontinence products, cocktail cherries, human sperm, and wedding cakes are not subject to GST. But we all know that buying tampons, pads, moon/diva cups, or panty liners is not optional. These products are an essential part of a normal, public life for people with periods.
Member of Parliament Judy Wasylicia-Leis first introduced a bill to add menstrual hygiene products to the list of zero-rated products in 2004, saying, “The GST on tampons and sanitary napkins amounts to gender-based taxation. The taxing of essential and necessary products used exclusively by women is unfair and discriminatory. It unfairly disadvantages women financially, solely because of our reproductive role. The bill would benefit all Canadian women at some point in their lives and would be of particular value to lower income women.” (Hansard – 12-13-04 – Introduction of PMB to exempt feminine hygiene products from GST).
After that bill failed, Member of Parliament Irene Mathyssen introduced Bill C-282, An Act to amend the Excise Tax Act (feminine hygiene products), on October 16, 2013. Our government ignored the bill until finally, in January 2015, Jill Piebiak and a group of volunteers introduced a petition in support of it.
You won’t even know it’s there.
It’s rare to check your grocery bill for how much GST you’ve paid on each individual purchase. So taxes on menstrual hygiene products often went unnoticed.
Though GST had decreased from 7% to 5% across the board, people with periods were still unfairly paying into the system. In 2014, it’s estimated that approximately 17,876,392 Canadian women between the ages of 12–49 spent about $519,976,963.00 on menstrual hygiene products.
That means the government collected approximately $36,398,387.00 in government sales taxes because our uteruses did what they do naturally. Our government made money off our bodies.
Don’t tax periods — period.
A small tax on tampons/pads/panty liners/menstrual cups adds up when combined with the systemic challenges many women, trans people, genderqueer people, and other menstruators face in terms of their income, housing, and economic stability.
This has been a longstanding argument of government critics.
The #NoTaxOnTampons campaign gathered nearly 75,000 online signatures and 10,082 signatures on paper. Menstruators and allies across Canada wrote to their MPs, held protests, wrote editorials, canvassed for signatures, and started a national conversation about tax fairness. The Canadian Menstruators partnered with Campaign Gears and Wildrun Productions to produce a video in support of the campaign, to great success.
We don’t need to go with the flow!
On May 7, 2015, the Canadian Menstruators joined Irene Mathyssen and Mylene Freeman in Ottawa to announce that they would be tabling 10,082 signatures on the petition to remove this discriminatory tax. The NDP opposition brought forward a motion calling to remove the tax on May 8, 2015, and it was debated in the House of Commons. On May 11, 2015 the motion was passed — 258 to 0. This unanimous vote showed support from all parties for the removal of the tax on menstruation products.
The Conservative government announced that on July 1, 2015, the federal tax on menstrual hygiene products would be lifted. The timing is significant: on Canada Day, our government brought its focus to women and trans people after ignoring their needs for twenty-four years. Several provinces followed suit, exempting period products from provincial sales taxes.
The fight for equality and justice for all Canadians is far from over, but this victory was an important step. We told our government that we are essential—and our government listened.
#NoTaxOnTampons in the media
For interviews or more information please email cdnmenstruators[a]gmail.com.
NDP want Tories to amend budget bill to remove federal tax on tampons -- Canadian Press (2015/05/012)
Tories support removal of federal tax on tampons -- Canadian Press
Provincial / Local
House of Commons Links:
NDP Motion to remove the GST from feminine hygiene products debate (2015/05/08) -- Open Parliament
Business of Supply, Opposition Motion - Feminine Hygiene Products (2015/05/08) -- Hansard
Tampon Tax to Be Abolished Thanks to NDP Efforts — NDP press release