This Magazine

Progressive politics, ideas & culture

March-April 2017

Why aren’t there more changing tables in men’s public washrooms across Canada?

Our country is even lagging behind the U.S.

Blair Mlotek@blairmlo

Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 10.38.58 AMSingle dad Kyle Bachmann was tired of having to change his son on a blanket next to a urinal on a dirty bathroom floor. It’s a situation all too common for dads stranded in public without access to a baby changing table.

Fed up, Bachmann started a local campaign in his home of Penticton, B.C., after garnering attention from a Facebook post lamenting the lack of spaces to change his son. The public response, says Bachmann, has been encouraging. He’s been invited to speak at a council meeting and says community members often stop him on the street to congratulate him for taking up the cause.

“I feel like I can make a difference,” says Bachmann.

Still, the oft-overlooked problem is proving slow to resolve. Meanwhile, south of the border, the issue is gaining traction, with the help of celebrity exposure from the likes of Ashton Kutcher. Shortly after becoming a father, Kutcher realized what many men and their families do and had the platform to draw mass attention to the issue.

And before leaving the White House, former president Barack Obama signed the Bathrooms Accessible in Every Situation Act, requiring all federal public buildings in the U.S. to install baby changing tables in both women’s and men’s washrooms within the next two years.

Canadians continue to push for their country to follow suit. This fight was recently taken up by six online petitions nationwide. Mississauga, Ont.’s Elizabeth Porto started a campaign for changes to be made to the building code in the province. She finds it discriminatory, especially when there is a change table in the women’s washroom and not the men’s in the same location. “Baby change tables in all Ontario restaurants or any other business required to have public washrooms should be a right, and not viewed as a courtesy,” Porto states in her call to action.

Indeed, there is no reason for spaces to assume the mother is always the one changing their child. The lack of changing spaces in male-designated bathrooms becomes even more problematic for same-sex dads, single dads, and transgender parents, who are constantly running into trouble finding a clean, safe place to change their children’s diapers. “Canada claims to be a world leader in the promotion of gender equality and human rights,” Porto notes. “If this is true, then let’s make the change.”

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