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Resources & Opportunities > Commitment to Equity, Diversity & Inclusion  > Equity, Diversity & Inclusion - Glossary Of Terms

EDIA GLOSSARY (text below) 

GLOSSAIRE des termes IDÉA (click to download)


EDIA Key Definitions

As the work of equity, inclusion, and diversity has become better researched and defined, several terms and concepts have become more common.

The OACUHO Board believes that to understand who we are as a Housing community and gain a better understanding of the diverse identities of our staff and students, we must be aware of the terminology associated with equality, diversity, inclusion and accessibility (EDIA).

The following is a list of key terms and definitions. It is by no means a comprehensive list as equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility terms are ever-expanding and changing, but it is a good place to start.

This glossary is curated using the following sources:

  • Appendix 1: Glossary of human rights terms - Ontario Human Rights Commission
  • Guide on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion terminology – Government of Canada
  • Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion – Glossary of terms, January 2022

This is not an exhaustive list. We are always looking for opportunities to add to this resource. Contact info@oacuho.com if you have suggestions for additions or changes.




Ableism refers to attitudes in society that devalue and limit the potential of persons with disabilities. People with disabilities are assumed to be less worthy of respect and consideration, less able to contribute and take part, and of less value than other people. Ableism can be conscious or unconscious and is embedded in institutions, systems, or the broader culture of a society.



An ally is a member of the dominant group who acts against oppression.

Allyship is a process in which a person becomes involved in efforts to end the discrimination and oppression experienced by a group of people to which the person does not belong. Allyship is often broken down into various stages that are all part of a continuum. These stages generally include becoming aware of the issues, becoming more informed and educated, educating others, and actively advocating against discrimination and oppression.



Anti-Oppression refers to strategies and actions that actively challenge existing intersectional inequities and injustices. Systems of oppression permeate our language, influence how we behave and carry out cultural practices, and are based on what are accepted as "norms" in our communities. What is "normal," acceptable, and desirable is referred to as the "norm," and it is something that a society values and supports. Additionally, it is granted a position of authority, privilege, and domination over things that are deemed to be marginal or valued because they are non-dominant and atypical.


Anti-Asian Racism

In Canada, anti-Asian racism refers to historical & ongoing discrimination, negative stereotyping, and injustice experienced by peoples of Asian heritage, based on others' assumptions about their ethnicity and nationality.


Anti-Black Racism

Anti-Black racism is the ongoing prejudice and discrimination directed at Black people or people of African descent. Anti-Black racism is embedded in our systems and institutions, impacting educational outcomes, career progression, health outcomes, and racial profiling in law enforcement.


Anti-Indigenous Racism

Anti-Indigenous racism is the ongoing prejudice and discrimination directed at Indigenous Peoples. In Canada this specifically refers to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples. Anti-Indigenous racism is systemic and institutional, existing in federal policies such as the Indian Act and the Residential School System.



The active process of identifying and eliminating racism by changing systems, organizational structures, policies and practices and attitudes, so that power is redistributed and shared equitably.




Bias is a predisposition, prejudice, or generalization about a group of persons based on personal characteristics or stereotypes.


Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC)

"BIPOC" is used to refer to people of colour and was designed to emphasize the experiences of Black people and Indigenous peoples with discrimination as contrasted with other non-white groups of people.

Although the abbreviation "BIPOC" is frequently used in verbal and written communication, its use is not accepted by all. Some people believe it highlights the fact that the distinct groups named in the abbreviation have different experiences with discrimination, whereas others believe it lumps together and blurs the distinct identities and experiences of these groups. Since the abbreviation "BIPOC" refers to a grouping of people, expressions such as "BIPOC person" and "BIPOC people" are redundant and should be avoided.

Some individuals prefer the term "people of colour" over "racialized people who are not Black or Indigenous," or vice versa, for various reasons. For example, the term "people of colour" implies that "white" is not a colour, while the term "non-white people" implies that being white is the norm.




Cisgender is the gender identity of someone who identifies with the same gender assigned to them at birth. The term is often shortened to ‘cis'.



Cisnormativity is the assumption by individuals or society that everyone is cisgender, that cisgender is the default, normal or superior and it privileges this over any other form of gender identity.



Colonialism is the practice of domination where one nation occupies land for the purpose of subjugating, conquering, and exploiting the colonized territory and its people.

Settler Colonialism: The long-term forced physical occupation of lands by a non-Indigenous population. Settler colonialism involves the imposition of the colonizer’s identity including their language, culture, and religion while erasing the identity of the colonized people.


Cultural Appropriation

The adoption of elements of the culture of a historically marginalized or oppressed group of people done by people from another culture.

Cultural appropriation is usually done for personal gain or commercial profit by people belonging to a dominant group. It often reflects a power imbalance between cultural groups.

The use of a stereotypical image of an "Indian" in a logo or dressing in cultural clothing, using scared items such as headdress, are examples of cultural appropriation.


Cultural Competence

Cultural Competence is an ability to interact effectively with people of diverse cultures, particularly with persons from different cultural or ethnic backgrounds from oneself. Cultural competence has four components:

  1. Awareness of one's own cultural worldview.
  2. Attitude towards cultural differences.
  3. Knowledge of different cultural practices and worldviews.
  4. Cross-cultural skills (developing cultural competence results in an ability to understand, communicate with and effectively interact with people across cultures).




Decolonization is an ongoing process that aims to deconstruct settler colonial ideologies such as white supremacy, give value to Indigenous knowledge, and dismantle power imbalances. Decolonization is the active work to give back the colonized territory’s independence and undo the effects of colonialism on the social, political, and economic aspects of a people’s life.



Diversity is the presence of a wide range of human qualities and attributes within an individual, group, or organization. Diversity includes such factors as age, sex, race, ethnicity, physical and intellectual ability, religion, sexual orientation, educational background, and expertise.


Disabilities (visible and invisible)

There are two common ways of looking at what disability is. One way is to see a disability as a medical condition that a person has. From this perspective, disability covers a broad range and degree of conditions, some visible and some not visible. A disability may have been present from birth, caused by an accident, or developed over time. There are physical, mental, cognitive and learning disabilities, mental disorders, hearing or vision disabilities, epilepsy, drug and alcohol dependencies, environmental sensitivities and other conditions.

A newer way of looking at disability is that it is not something a person has. A person with a medical condition is not necessarily prevented (or disabled) from fully taking part in society. If society is designed to be accessible and include everyone, then people with medical conditions often do not have a problem taking part. From this point of view, disability is a problem that occurs when a person’s environment is not designed to suit their abilities.



Discrimination is the unjust or prejudicial treatment of a person or group of people that deprives them of or limits their access to opportunities and advantages that are available to other members of society.

The Canadian Human Rights Act sets out the following prohibited grounds of discrimination: race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, family status, genetic characteristics, disability, and conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered.




 Equity is the act of ensuring that processes and programs are impartial, fair and provide equal possible outcomes for every individual. A distinct process of recognizing differences within groups of individuals and using this understanding to achieve substantive equality in all aspects of a person’s life.



Defined as just or characterized by fairness. Equitable treatment uses the concept of equity to ensure individuals are treated with fairness but does not mean all individuals are treated as the same.


Emotional Labour

The effort taken to manage emotions to suit a particular context or to be considered socially acceptable. In the context of equity, diversity and inclusion, marginalized groups (particularly Black, Indigenous, and racialized people) are subject to a great deal of emotional labour in the wake of world events or in times of racial tension where discussions of race are more common at work.



Ethnicity is sharing a distinctive cultural and historical tradition often associated with race, place of origin, ancestry, or creed.


Equity-Denied Groups

A group of people who, because of systemic discrimination, face barriers that prevent them from having the same access to the resources and opportunities available to other members of society, and that are necessary for them to attain just outcomes.

In Canada, groups considered equity-denied groups include women, Indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, people who are part of LGBTQ2+ communities, religious minority groups, and racialized people. The types of equity-denied groups may vary based on factors such as geography, sociocultural context, or the presence of specific subpopulations.

Some people may prefer the term "equity-deserving group" because it highlights the fact that equity should be achieved from a systemic, cultural or societal change and the burden of seeking equity should not be placed on the group. Others argue this term could be seen to imply that not all people are deserving of equity.

Some people may prefer the term "equity-seeking group" because it highlights the actions of the communities that fight for equal access to resources and opportunities by actively seeking social justice and reparation.



Gender Expression

Gender Expression is how a person publicly expresses or presents their gender. This can include behaviour and outward appearance such as dress, hair, make-up, body language and voice. A person’s chosen name and pronoun are also common ways of expressing gender. Others perceive a person’s gender through these attributes.


Gender Non-Conforming

Gender non-conforming individuals do not follow gender stereotypes based on the sex they were assigned at birth and may or may not identify as trans.


Gender Identity

Gender Identity is a person’s individual and internal experience of gender. It is a person’s sense of being a woman, a man, both, neither, nor anywhere along the gender spectrum. A person’s gender identity may be the same as or different from their birth-assigned sex.


Gender Policing

Gender Policing is imposing cisnormative beliefs on someone who does not express themselves within the gender binary or who does not fit within prescribed gender norms. Gender policing occurs through harassment or violence, exclusionary laws, and social messaging.





Heterosexism is the assumption that heterosexuality is superior and preferable, and is the only right, normal, or moral expression of sexuality. This definition is often used when looking at discrimination against 2SLGBTQ+ people that is less overt, and which may be unintentional or unrecognized by the person or organization responsible.



Homophobia is the irrational aversion to, fear or hatred of 2SLGBTQ+ people and communities, or of behaviours stereotyped as “homosexual.”




Inclusion is appreciating and using our unique differences in a way that shows respect for the individual and creates a dynamic multi-dimensional organization. Inclusion is the practice of making people feel a sense of belonging.



The inclusion of Indigenous worldviews, knowledges, and perspectives into the structures of an institution. It allows for the recognition that Indigenous and non-Indigenous worldviews, knowledge and perspectives are of equal value. Indigenization should be led by Indigenous peoples, and particular attention should be paid to including communities in relationship with the territory the institution occupies. There is no single Indigenous worldview. Although there may be common points, the worldviews of different Indigenous nations or communities vary from one to another.


Indigenous Person

A person who belongs to one three recognized groups of Indigenous Peoples in Canada, namely, First Nations, Métis, and Inuit.

First Nations: Typically refers to those identified as Indians under The Indian Act. Most First Nations hold reserve lands, unlike Métis, and Inuit peoples, and members of a First Nation may live both on and off these reserves. First Nation may refer to both status and non-status Indians. While “First Nations” refers to the ethnicity of First Nations peoples, the singular “First Nation” can refer to a band, a reserve-based community, or a larger tribal grouping and the status Indians who live in them. There are more than 630 First Nation Communities in Canada which represent more than 50 Nations and 50 Indigenous languages.

Inuit: Indigenous Peoples of Arctic Canada who live primarily in Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and northern parts of Labrador and Québec. The word Inuit means “people” in the Inuit language – Inuktitut. The singular of Inuit is Inuk. Their traditional languages, customs and cultures are distinctly different from those of the First Nations and Métis.

Métis are people of mixed European and Indigenous ancestry, and one of the three recognized Indigenous Peoples in Canada. The use of the term Métis is complex and contentious and has different historical and contemporary meanings. The term is used to describe communities of mixed European and Indigenous descent across Canada, and a specific community of people — defined as the Métis Nation — which originated largely in Western Canada and emerged as a political force in the 19th century, radiating outwards from the Red River Settlement. While the Canadian government politically marginalized the Métis after 1885, they have since been recognized with rights enshrined in the Constitution of Canada and more clearly defined in a series of Supreme Course of Canada decisions.



Intersectionality is an analytical framework for understanding how aspects of a person's identity (for example, sex, gender, age, ethnicity, class, religion, sexual orientation, ability) combine to create distinct forms of discrimination and privilege.

This framework helps to better understand the cumulative effects of different forms of oppression (for example, racism, sexism, homophobia).

Members of marginalized groups are more likely to face discrimination and prejudice as a result of the interaction of distinct aspects of their identity.





LGBTQ2S+ is an acronym that also encompasses the diversity within the Trans and Queer community is LGBTTIQQ2A – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Intersex, Queer, Questioning, 2-spirited and Allies.

The symbol "+" represents the wide spectrum of gender identities, sexual orientations and romantic orientations not explicitly named

Other letters or symbols are sometimes added to reflect different realities of sexual and gender diversity, for example, "I" for "intersex" or "A" for "asexual." Certain words can be abbreviated differently; for example, "Two-Spirit" can be abbreviated as "2S." The choice of letters or symbols and the order in which they are presented could differ depending on the context and the audience.

When there are two "Q"s in the abbreviation, the second "Q" stands for "questioning."

Some examples of abbreviations include LGBT, LGBTI, LGBTQ, LGBTQ2, LGBTQ2S, LGBTQ2IA, LGBTQ2IA+, 2SLGBTQIA+, 2SLGBTQQIA+.





Marginalization is the process where a person or group of people is excluded from full and meaningful participation in society, typically through discrimination or other means of oppression, resulting in reduced access to resources, opportunities, and services.

Marginalization can occur based on factors such as race, ethnicity, sex, gender, ability, age, religion, socioeconomic status, social class, and geographic location.



Microaggressions is a comment or action that is regarded as subtly expressing prejudice against a person or group of people. They are a statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group such as a racial or ethnic minority. Members of marginalized or minority groups are often the subjects of microaggressions.


Model Minority

A person belonging to a marginalized identity that is perceived to have successfully integrated into society, particularly in academic, economic, or cultural fields, especially in comparison to other minorities.

The concept of a model minority may seem positive, but it carries negative connotations. Because it stems from stereotypes based on ethnic or racial characteristics, it erases the individuality of those within the group as well as the discrimination faced by its members. The model minority myth builds the perception of a minority being assumed to be close to whiteness and to have assimilated "successfully" into the dominant culture. For example, certain Asian groups are stereotypically considered to excel at mathematics and science. This stereotype puts undue pressure on those belonging to these groups as the expectations of their successes in these fields are higher than for members of other groups. Such stereotypes can also lead to different minorities being pitted against each other because their successes are not measured in the same way.





Neurodivergence is a departure from what is considered typical in a person's neurological function or behavioural traits. Neurodivergence can be innate or acquired through alterations in brain functioning caused by trauma or other experiences.



Neurodivergent is referring to a person with neurological functioning or behavioural traits that differ from what is considered typical.

For example, people with autism, dyslexia or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder are considered neurodivergent.

The term "neurodiverse" is often mistakenly used to refer to a neurodivergent person. However, "neurodiverse" refers to the variety of neurological traits possessed by a group. Therefore, a person cannot be neurodiverse.




People of Colour

People of Colour is an inclusive term that encompasses a wide range of social identity groups, including Asians, Aboriginal Peoples, Latinas/Latinos and Blacks.

Although the words "of colour" refer to skin colour, a person may be viewed as a person of colour based on other physical characteristics such as hair texture or facial features.

Although the term "person of colour" is frequently used in verbal and written communication, its use is not universally accepted. Some people believe that its plural form, "people of colour," is an inclusive term used to forge solidarity, whereas others believe it lumps together and blurs the distinct identities of all non-white people.

Some people prefer the term "person of colour" over “racialized people who are not Black or Indigenous” or vice versa, for various reasons. For example, the term "person of colour" implies that "white" is not a colour, while the term "non-white person" implies that being a white person is the norm.

The term "person of colour" is generally used in a society composed predominantly of white people.

The noun "non-white" referring to a person is usually used in the plural form and typically in the context of population groups.



Prejudice is a negative prejudgment or preconceived feelings or notions about another person or group of persons based on perceived characteristics.



Privilege refers to unearned power, benefits, advantages, access and/or opportunities that exist for members of the dominant group(s) in society. It can also refer to the relative privilege of one group compared to another.





Race refers to a group of people who are arbitrarily categorized according to common physical characteristics, regardless of language, culture, or nationality

The concept of race has long since been used to establish differences between groups of people, often according to a hierarchy. It focuses on identifiable physical characteristics, such as skin colour, hair texture and facial features.

There is no scientific basis for the concept of race.

Refusing to talk about race could imply that racism and its consequences do not exist.

Not to be confused with the term "race" used to mean "ethnic group," which refers to a group of people with shared cultural, linguistic, or religious characteristics.



Racism is a belief that one group is superior or inferior to others. Racism can be openly displayed in racial jokes, slurs or hate crimes. It can also be more deeply rooted in attitudes, values, and stereotypical beliefs. In some cases, people do not even realize they have these beliefs. Instead, they are assumptions that have evolved over time and have become part of systems and institutions.

Institutional racism Policies, practices, and dynamics embedded in established institutions (government, religion, education, organizations, etc.) that result in disadvantage or advancement of specific groups of people. These systemic practices normalize racism and may not be obvious.

Structural racism/systemic racism Structural or systemic racism points to the bigger picture of history, society, culture, institutions, and the economy. Racialized people have been historically left out of the development of society and its systems, resulting in deeply entrenched disadvantages, barriers, and biases. Systemic racism is at the root of large-scale discrepancies between white and racialized people in many areas including income and wealth, health outcomes, homelessness, unemployment, and involvement with the justice system.




Sexual Orientation

Sexual orientation is an enduring pattern of romantic, emotional, sexual attraction to persons of the opposite sex or gender, the same sex or gender, or to both sexes or more than one gender.


Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI)

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. This term is most often used within the United Nations and international human rights context and is inclusive of all sexual orientations and gender identities.



Stereotype is an incorrect assumption based on things like race, colour, ethnic origin, place of origin, religion, etc. Stereotyping typically involves attributing the same characteristics to all members of a group regardless of their individual differences. It is often based on misconceptions, incomplete information, and/or false generalizations.





Tokenism is the practice of integrating people from minority or under-represented groups into a group or organization in order to appear inclusive or avoid accusations of discrimination.

People affected by tokenism may feel pressure to represent or speak on behalf of an entire group, as well as doubt their competence and the reason they were hired or included in the group.


Transgender / Trans

A transgender person is someone whose gender identity or gender expression does not correspond with their sex assigned at birth. Many transgender people experience dysphoria, which they seek to alleviate through transitioning, often adopting a different name and set of pronouns in the process.



Transphobia is the disdain for, or hatred of, transgender people or people perceived as transgender that leads to discrimination, hostility, and violence towards them.


Two- Spirit

While there are some who use the term Two-Spirit to refer broadly to all queer Indigenous people, the term is more commonly used for identities that originate in traditional understandings of gender and sexuality (rather than Western colonial binaries). Because these traditions and understandings are culturally and spiritually specific, it is important to recognize that Two-Spiritedness is not an identity universal to all Indigenous communities or something that is a part of all Indigenous worldviews. The term "Two-Spirit" was first introduced at the third annual intertribal Native American, First Nations, Gay and Lesbian Conference in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in 1990, and is a rough translation of the Anishinaabemowin (the Ojibwe language) word "niizh-manidoowag,”, meaning two spirits.Some Indigenous communities use other terms with specific meanings to refer to a person's role in their culture based on their gender identity or sexual orientation.

Not all Indigenous people who identify as LGBTQ2+ should be assumed to identify as Two-Spirit.

A person who is not of Indigenous descent should not self-identify as Two-Spirit.




Unconscious Bias

Unconscious biases are prejudices and stereotypes individuals have about certain groups of people that they are not consciously aware of having. These biases may exist toward people of various races, ethnic groups, gender identities, sexual orientations, physical abilities and more. Unconscious bias in the workplace can negatively impact the diversity and inclusivity of recruiting, hiring and promotion practices.




White Fragility

White fragility is a state of discomfort and defensiveness on the part of a white person when confronted by information about racial inequality and injustice. White fragility presents in defensiveness or “defensive moves” such as arguing, silence, or leaving the situation. White fragility functions through, and is supported by, white privilege.



White Passing is when a non-white person lacks certain physical characteristics tied to their racial or ethnic group in a way that makes them appear to be white. People who are white passing may experience privileges in society that someone with darker skin or other features would not experience. Being white passing may also cause someone to struggle with their identity.


White Privilege

White privilege is an unearned access, benefits, and opportunities white people are given in society due to the historical imbalance of power between white and racialized people.


White Supremacy

White supremacy is the ideology that white people, and their beliefs are superior to other races and should therefore dominate society, typically to the exclusion or detriment of other racial and ethnic groups. White supremacy can be defined as the institutionalization of Whiteness and White privilege and the historical, social, political, and economic systems and structures that contribute to its continued dominance and subordination (Giroux & McLaren, 1994). In contemporary usage, the term white supremacist has been used to describe some groups espousing ultranationalist, racist, or fascist doctrines. White supremacist groups often have relied on violence to achieve their goals.