Language is powerful, and continues to shape the way we see the world and each other. That is why awareness of key definitions in Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) are instrumental in actively participating in systemic change. The following definitions are curated by the H.E.A.R.T. Collective. 


Prejudiced thoughts and discriminatory actions based on differences in physical, mental and/or  emotional ability that contribute to a system of oppression; usually of ablebodied/minded  persons against people with illness, disabilities or less developed skills.



A person who supports and celebrates equity seeking groups, interrupts and challenges  oppressive remarks and actions of others, and willingly explores biases within themselves.  Being an ally requires action: telling colleagues that their jokes are inappropriate; advocating for  the health, wellness, and acceptance of people from underrepresented or marginalized groups.  An ally takes action to support people outside of their own group. 



Strategies, theories, actions, and practices that actively challenge systems of oppression on an  ongoing basis in one’s daily life and in social justice/change work. Anti-Oppression work seeks  to recognize the oppression that exists in our society and attempts to mitigate its effects and  eventually equalize the power imbalance in our communities. It challenges the systemic biases  that devalue and marginalize difference. Oppression operates at different levels from individual  to institutional and so does anti-oppression work. 

Systems of Oppression

Systems of oppression are discriminatory institutions, structures, norms, to name a few,  that are embedded in the fabric of our society. All the “-isms” are forms of oppression. In  the context of social justice, oppression is discrimination against a social group that is  backed by institutional power. That is to say, the various societal institutions such as  culture, government, education, etc. are all complicit in the oppression of marginalized  social groups while elevating dominant social groups.” (SFPRIG)



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.

According to Ibram X. Kendi – “The opposite of racist isn’t ‘not racist.’ It is ‘antiracist.’ What’s the  difference? One endorses either the idea of racial hierarchy as a racist, or racial equality as an  antiracist. One either believes problems are rooted in groups of people, as a racist, or locates  the roots of problems in power and policies, as an antiracist. One either allows racial inequities  to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an antiracist. There is no in-between  safe space of ‘not racist.'” (How To Be An Antiracist, p. 9)

Anti-Indigenous racism

Indigenous peoples in Canada’s experience of racism and its impacts on their daily lives are  unique due to the ongoing impacts of colonization. Anti-Indigenous racism is often the  underlying cause of many social determinants of health for Indigenous communities.  



Acronym for Black, Indigenous, and People Of Colour.


Identifying with the same gender that one was assigned at birth. A gender identity that society  considers to “match” the biological sex assigned at birth. The prefix cis- means “on this side of,”  in reference to the gender binary model. A term used to identify people who are not trans, and  the experiences of privilege granted based on being cisgender.


Colonialism is an intentional process by which a political power from one territory exerts control  over a different territory. It involves unequal power relations and includes policies and/or  practices of acquiring full or partial political control over other people or territory, occupying the  territory with settlers, and exploiting it economically.

Cultural Safety

A concept that originated and is primarily used in the healthcare domain. The concept  emphasizes the power imbalance inherent in the patient/client-practitioner relationship. A  culturally safe environment is spiritually, socially, and emotionally safe, as well as physically  safe for people; where there is no assault, challenge, or denial of their identity, of who they are,  and what they need.

The term was developed by Maori nurse Irihapeti Ramsden in the context of nursing care  provided to Indigenous peoples in New Zealand. The term has since been extended and applied  to Indigenous peoples in other countries where service inequalities persist. This concept shifts  power and authority to the Indigenous patient receiving care, who is given the ultimate say in  whether care provided was culturally safe or not. It centres upon sharing: shared respect,  shared meaning, and shared knowledge and experience, of learning together with dignity and  attention. 


The active resistance against colonial powers, and a shifting of power towards political, economic, educational, and cultural independence and power that originate from a colonized  nation own indigenous culture. This process occurs politically and applies to personal and  societal, cultural, political, agricultural, and educational deconstruction of colonial oppression.

Diverse Abilities or Disabilities

The disability rights movement have made many strides in emphasizing a people first approach  to framing disability (e.g. “persons with disabilities” vs. “disabled person”). An anti-oppressive  and empowerment model also considers systemic and physical barriers as the primary cause of  oppression and marginalization of people who live with disabilities rather than locating the  problem with the person.


Working toward fair outcomes for people or groups by treating them in ways that address their  unique advantages or barriers. 

Equity refers to achieving parity in policy, process and outcomes for historically and/or currently  underrepresented and/or marginalized people and groups while accounting for diversity. It  considers power, access, opportunities, treatment, impacts and outcomes, in three main areas: 

  1. Representational equity: the proportional participation at all levels of an institution; 2. Resource equity: the distribution of resources in order to close equity gaps; and 3. Equity-mindedness: the demonstration of an awareness of, and willingness to, address  equity issues.

Emotional Labour

The process of managing feelings and expressions to fulfill the emotional requirements of work.  More specifically, workers are expected to regulate their emotions during interactions with  superiors and clients. For many BIPOC individuals, this includes managing feelings and  expressions when encountering incidents of racism, white fragility, and microaggressions daily.

Gender Identity

A person’s internal and psychological sense of themself as man, woman, both, in between,  neither, or another understanding of gender. People who question their gender identity may feel  unsure of their gender or believe they are not of the same gender they were assigned at birth


Refers to social roles, structures, language etc. that reinforce the idea that heterosexuality is the  presumed norm and is superior to other sexual orientations.


Inclusion is an active, intentional, and continuous process to address inequities in power and  privilege, and build a respectful and diverse community that ensures welcoming spaces and  opportunities to flourish for all. Workplace Inclusion is an atmosphere where all employees  belong, contribute, and can thrive. Requires deliberate and intentional action.


The intertwining of social identities such as gender, race, ethnicity, social class, religion, sexual  orientation, and/or gender identity, which can result in unique experiences, opportunities, and barriers. A theory coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in the 1980s to draw attention to how different  systems of oppressive structures and types of discrimination interact and manifest in the lives of  marginalized people; for example, a queer black woman may experience oppression on the  basis of her sexuality, gender, and race – a unique experience of oppression based on how  those identities intersect in her life.


Acronym used to refer to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer and Two-Spirit (2S) people.  Additional letters, or a + sign, are sometimes added to this acronym (i.e. LGBTQ+, LGBTQI2S,  etc.). Making fun of the length of this acronym can have a trivializing or erasing effect on the  group that this longer acronyms seek to actively include.


Everyday insults, indignities and demeaning messages sent to historically marginalized groups  by well-intentioned members of the majority group who are unaware of the hidden messages  being sent.


A social process by which individuals or groups are (intentionally or unintentionally) distanced  from access to power and resources and constructed as insignificant, peripheral, or less  valuable/privileged to a community or “mainstream” society. This term describes a social  process, so as not to imply a lack of agency. Marginalized groups or people are those excluded  from mainstream social, economic, cultural, or political life. Examples of marginalized groups  include, but are by no means limited to, groups excluded due to race, religion, political or  cultural group, age, gender, or financial status. To what extent such populations are  marginalized, however, is context specific and reliant on the cultural organization of the social  site in question.


A continuum or spectrum of gender identities and expressions, often based on the rejection of  the gender binary’s assumption that gender is strictly an either/or option of male/men or  female/women, based on sex assigned at birth. Non-binary can be both a specific term of  identification, and/or an umbrella term.


Refers to the social, economic and political advantages or rights held by people from dominant  groups on the basis of gender, race, sexual orientation, social class, etc. Unearned social power  (set of advantages, entitlements, and benefits) accorded by the formal and informal institutions  of society to the members of a dominant group (e.g., white/Caucasian people with respect to  people of color, men with respect to women, heterosexuals with respect to homosexuals, adults  with respect to children, and rich people with respect to poor people). Privilege tends to be  invisible to those who possess it, because its absence (lack of privilege) is what calls attention  to it. In other words, men are less likely to notice/acknowledge a difference in advantage  because they do not live the life of a woman; white people are less likely to notice/acknowledge  racism because they do not live the life of a person of color; straight people are less likely to  notice/acknowledge heterosexism because they do not live the life of a gay/lesbian/bisexual person.


The term “racism” specifically refers to individual, cultural, institutional, and systemic ways by  which differential consequences are created for different racial groups. Racism is often  grounded in a presumed superiority of the white race over groups historically or currently  defined as non-white. Racism can also be defined as “prejudice plus power.” The combination  of prejudice and power enables the mechanisms by which racism leads to different  consequences for different groups.

Interpersonal Racism

Occurs between individuals. When private beliefs are put in interaction with others,  racism resides in the interpersonal realm. Examples: public expressions of racial  prejudice, hate, bias, and bigotry between individuals.

Institutional racism

The ways in which institutional policies and practices create different outcomes for  different racial groups. The institutional policies may never mention any racial group, but  their effect is to create advantages for whites and oppression and disadvantage for  people from groups classified as people of colour.


An acronym that stands for Sexual Orientations and Gender Identities; often used in institutional  settings (i.e. health care or education), SOGI, or SOGI Minorities, is used in place of  LGBTQ2S+ acronyms. SOGI may be preferred as it decreases the risk of erasure, since the  LGBTQ2S+ acronym omits identities or terms of self-identification. SOGI as an acronym fails to  capture the spectrum of romantic orientations, and intersex folk. Alternatives: SGM (Sexuality  and Gender Minorities).


The practice of making only a perfunctory or symbolic effort to do a particular thing, especially  by recruiting a small number of people from underrepresented groups to give the appearance of  equality within a workforce.

White Supremacy

Historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of  continents, nations, and peoples of colour by white peoples and nations of the European  continent; for the purpose of maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power and privilege.


  1. Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre 
  2. Black Health Alliance 
  3. How To Be An Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi 
  4. Me And White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad 
  5. National Collaborating Centre for Indigenous Health 
  7. Racial Equity Tools 
  8. SFU Public Interest Research Group (SFPIRG) 
  9. Simmons University Library
  10. UBC Equity & Inclusion Office 
  11. University of Washington 
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