Vancouver candidate pushes for diaper change tables in all washrooms

One Vancouver city council candidate is pushing for changes at city hall.

Specifically, diaper changes – and change tables that are accessible to both women and men in all public facilities, so there’s nothing stopping a dad from doing it.

“Dads change, grandparents change, everybody changes diapers,” Independent Vancouver city council candidate Erin Shum told CTV News. “We need to make it available to everyone.”

Shum is a new mom to four-month-old Abigail, and says facilities vary. There are diaper change tables in almost all women’s washrooms in publically accessible buildings. But as for men’s washrooms? It depends.

“My husband and I always struggle when we’re out. Who’s going to change her diaper?” she said.

Shum, who is currently a park board commissioner, introduced a motion to add change tables to all gender and accessible washrooms in Park Board buildings, such as community centres. It passed unanimously last week.

Now she says that’s something she wants to see in all public buildings in Vancouver.

The motion was inspired by Barack Obama’s BABIES Act, which put change tables in the bathrooms of every publically accessible U.S. federal building.

As roles shift and dads do more parenting across North America, a variety of buildings have been under more pressure to provide tools for them too.

In Florida last week, a man’s photo of himself squatting on the bathroom floor and changing a diaper with his baby in his lap was shared widely on Instagram with the hashtag #squatforchange.

“We do exist, and we are willing to do more than provide and protect,” said Donte Palmer.

In Quebec earlier this year, another man pressured Tim Hortons to equip its bathrooms too – and the chain agreed.

The motion seems to have support from a wide spectrum of city parties. Vision Vancouver’s Catherine Evans, also a park board commissioner looking to be on city council, said things had changed a lot since she was changing diapers in the 1980s.

“It has a lot to do with women’s equality,” she said. Then, facilities were hard to find even for women, because of the assumption they would be more often at home, caring for children. Putting change tables in women’s washrooms was a big step – but now more facilities should have men’s tables too, she said.

“There’s an assumption there. It’s time we caught up. It was the reality but it’s not the reality anymore,” she said.

CTV News found that some park board buildings, like Trout Lake Community Centre, had a change table in the men’s washroom. But at Renfrew Community Centre, it wasn’t there.

NPA park board commissioner turned council candidate Sarah Kirby Yung said the park board had found 96 change tables in park board buildings. She said there is a place to change a child in every building, but it may not be accessible to everyone.

“Some of the gaps are in the older facilities,” she said. “As we’re moving towards universal washrooms, we’re putting those in.”

Some city bathrooms have already been upgraded, and the city’s downtown library has a parenting room.

OneCity candidate Christine Boyle said she supported the idea – and said parents had also raised the issue of accessible bathrooms in transit hubs as well.

“It matters a lot to be looking at how we make Vancouver more family friendly at all levels,” she said.

Each change table is about $400, Shum said.

“Everything we can do to help includes something as simple and practical and affordable like change tables,” she said.

Shum hopes the next time Abigail needs a change, it could be just as easy for her dad to do it. 

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