When you’re new to the world of diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism, there are lots of terms and phrases that you may start to hear in the literature or conversations. We’ve taken some of the concepts and words we hear the most questions about and included them below.

Are we missing a phrase you’ve read in your DEIA work that you’d like an explanation of? Are we missing something you think might help others on their journey? Send us your suggestions for additions and their sources to: communications@sd40.bc.ca


Ableism:  A belief system that sees persons with disabilities as being less worthy of respect and consideration, less able to contribute and participate, or of less inherent value than others. Ableism may be conscious or unconscious, and may be embedded in institutions, systems, or the broader culture of a society. It can limit the opportunities of persons with disabilities and reduce their inclusion in the life of their communities. (Source: )

Allyship: The commitment and effort to recognize privilege (based on gender, class, race, sexual identity, etc.) and work in solidarity with oppressed groups in the struggle for justice. Allies understand that it is in their own interest to end all forms of oppression, even those from which they may benefit in concrete ways. (Source: )

Anti-Black Racism: Policies and practices rooted in Canadian institutions such as, education, health care, and justice that mirror and reinforce beliefs, attitudes, prejudice, stereotyping and/or discrimination towards people of African descent. (Source: )

Antiracism: The practice of identifying, challenging, preventing, eliminating and changing the values, structures, policies, programs, practices and behaviors that perpetuate racism. (Source: )

Antiracist: An anti-racist is someone who is supporting an antiracist policy through their actions or expressing anti-racist ideas. This includes the expression of ideas that racial groups are equals and do not need developing, and supporting policies that reduce racial inequity. (Source: Ibram X Kendi- How to be an Antiracist)

Asexual: Generally characterized by not feeling sexual attraction or a desire for partnered sexuality. Asexuality is distinct from celibacy, which is the deliberate abstention from sexual activity. (Source: )


Bias: A way of thinking or operating based explicitly or implicitly on a stereotype or fixed image of a group of people. (Source: )

BIPOC: A term referring to 鈥淏lack and/or Indigenous People of Color.鈥 While 鈥淧OC鈥 or People of Color is often used as well, BIPOC explicitly leads with Black and Indigenous identities, which helps to counter anti-Black racism and invisibilization of Native communities. (Source: )
*Note that some people and communities will also use IBPOC, as a way to acknowledge Indigenous People’s place prior to occupation by non-Indigenous Peoples.  

Bisexual: A person whose primary sexual and affectional orientation is toward people of the same and other genders, or towards people regardless of their gender. (Source:

Black/African Canadians: People of African descent and those who define themselves as such, who are now residents/citizens of Canada. (Source: )


Cis-gender: The prefix cis- means “on this side of” or “not across.” A term used to call attention to the privilege of people who are not transgender. (Source:

Colorism: Using white skin color as the standard, colorism is the allocation of privilege and favor to lighter skin colors and disadvantage to darker skin colors. Colorism operates both within and across racial and ethnic groups. (Source: )

Consent:  Section 273.1 provides a definition of consent for the purposes of the sexual assault offences and for greater certainty, sets out specific situations that do not constitute consent at law.

Subsection 273.1(1) defines consent as the voluntary agreement of the complainant to engage in the sexual activity in question. Conduct short of a voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity does not constitute consent as a matter of law.

For greater certainty, subsection 273.1(2) sets out specific situations where there is no consent in law; no consent is obtained:

  • where the agreement is expressed by the words or conduct of a person other than the complainant
  • where the complainant is incapable of consenting to the activity
  • where the accused induces the complainant to engage in the activity by abusing a position of trust, power or authority
  • where the complainant expresses, by words or conduct, a lack of agreement to engage in the activity, or
  • where the complainant, having consented to engage in sexual activity, expresses, by words or conduct, a lack of agreement to continue to engage in the activity (Source: ).

Colonialism: Colonizers are groups of people or countries that come to a new place or country and steal the land and resources from Indigenous peoples, and develop a set of laws and public processes that are designed to violate the human rights of the Indigenous peoples, violently suppress the governance, legal, social, and cultural structures of Indigenous peoples, and force Indigenous peoples to conform with the structures of the colonial state. (Source: )

Cultural Appropriation: Theft of cultural elements 鈥 including symbols, art, language, customs, etc. 鈥 for one鈥檚 own use, commodification, or profit, often without understanding, acknowledgement, or respect for its value in the original culture. Results from the assumption of a dominant (i.e., white) culture鈥檚 right to take other cultural elements. (Source: ).

Cultural Humility: Life-long process of self-reflection and self-critique. It does not begin with an examination of the client鈥檚 beliefs; instead, it starts with a thorough examination of the health care professional鈥檚 assumptions and beliefs embedded in his or her own understanding, and the goals of the provider-client relationship. (Source: )

Cultural Safety: A culturally safe environment is physically, socially, emotionally and spiritually safe. There is recognition of, and respect for, the cultural identities of others, without challenge or denial of an individual鈥檚 identity, who they are, or what they need. Culturally unsafe environments diminish, demean or disempower the cultural identity and well-being of an individual. (Source: )

Culture: Refers to a group鈥檚 shared set of beliefs, norms and values. It is the totality of what people develop to enable them to adapt to their world, which includes language, gestures, tools, customs and traditions that define their values and organize social interactions. Human beings are not born with culture 鈥 they learn and transmit it through language and observation. (Source: )


Decolonization: Decolonization may be defined as the active resistance against colonial powers, and a shifting of power towards political, economic, educational, cultural, psychic independence and power that originate from a colonized nation鈥檚 own Indigenous culture. This process occurs politically and also applies to personal and societal psychic, cultural, political, agricultural, and educational deconstruction of colonial oppression. (Source: )

Diaspora: “The voluntary or forcible movement of peoples from their homelands into new regions.鈥 There is 鈥渁 common element in all forms of diaspora; these are people who live outside their natal (or imagined natal) territories and recognize that their traditional homelands are reflected deeply in the languages they speak, religions they adopt, and the cultures they produce.鈥 (Source: )

Discrimination: Through action or inaction, denying members of a particular social group access to goods, resources and services. Discrimination can occur at the individual, organizational or societal level. In BC, discrimination is prohibited on the basis of 鈥渞ace, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, family status, marital status, physical disability, mental disability, sex, age, sexual orientation, political belief or conviction of a criminal or summary conviction offence unrelated to their employment.鈥 (Source: )

Diversity: A term used to encompass the acceptance and respect of various dimensions including race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, socio-economic status, religious beliefs, age, physical abilities, political beliefs, or other ideologies. (Source: )


Epistemic racism: Refers to the positioning of the knowledge of one racialized group as superior to another, including a judgment of not only which knowledge is considered valuable, but is considered to be knowledge. (Source: )

Ethnicity: Refers to groups of people who share cultural traits that they characterize as different from those of other groups. An ethnic group is often understood as sharing a common origin, language, ancestry, spirituality, history, values, traditions and culture. People of the same race can be of different ethnicities. (Source: )

Equity: A condition or state of fair, inclusive, and respectful treatment of all people. Equity does not mean treating people the same without regard for individual differences. (Source: )


Faith-based: Relating to organizations or government policies that are based on religious beliefs. (Source )


Gay: A sexual orientation toward people of the same gender. (Source: )

Gender: A social construct used to classify a person as a man, woman, or some other identity. Fundamentally different from the sex one is assigned at birth; a set of social, psychological and emotional traits, often influenced by societal expectations. (Source: )

Gender fluidity: Describes a person who does not consistently adhere to one fixed gender and who may move among genders. (Source: )


Heterosexual: A sexual orientation in which a person feels physically and emotionally attracted to people of a gender other than their own. (Source: )

Homophobia: The irrational hatred and fear of LGBTQIA+ people. Homophobia includes prejudice, discrimination, harassment, and acts of violence brought on by fear and hatred. It occurs on personal, institutional, and societal levels. (Source: )


IBPOC:  A term referring to 鈥淚ndigenous Black and/or Indigenous People of Color.鈥 Some people and communities will also use BIPOC as the acronym. Those who use this phrase with the “I” first do so as a way to acknowledge Indigenous People’s place prior to occupation by non-Indigenous Peoples.

Inclusion: Authentically bringing traditionally excluded individuals and/or groups into processes, activities, and decision/policy making in a way that shares power. (Source: )

Indigenous Peoples: The first inhabitants of a geographic area. In Canada, Indigenous peoples include those who may identify as First Nations (status and non-status), M茅tis and/or Inuit. (Source: )

Intersex: People who, without medical intervention, develop primary or secondary sex characteristics that do not fit 鈥渘eatly鈥 into society’s definitions of male or female. Many visibly intersex people are mutilated in infancy and early childhood by doctors to make the individual鈥檚 sex characteristics conform to society鈥檚 idea of what normal bodies should look like. Intersex people are relatively common, although society’s denial of their existence has allowed very little room for intersex issues to be discussed publicly. (Source: )

Intersectionality: The experience of the interconnected nature of ethnicity, race, creed, gender, socio-economic position etc., (cultural, institutional and social), and the way they are imbedded within existing systems and define how one is valued. (Source: )

Islamophobia:  Fear, hatred of, or prejudice against the Islamic religion or Muslims (Source: ).




Lateral Violence: Displaced violence directed against one鈥檚 peers rather than adversaries. This construct is one way of explaining minority-on-minority violence in developed nations. It is a cycle of abuse, and its roots lie in factors such as: colonisation, oppression, intergenerational trauma and the ongoing experiences of racism and discrimination. (Source: )

LGBTQIA+: An umbrella term used to refer to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex and Asexual (+) community as a whole. (Source: )

Lesbian: A woman whose primary sexual orientation is toward people of the same gender. (Source: )


Marginalized: With reference to race and culture, the experience of persons outside the dominant group who face barriers to full and equal participating members of society. Refers also to the process of being 鈥渓eft out鈥 of or silenced in a social group. (Source: )

Mental Health: Mental health is the state of your psychological and emotional well-being. It is a necessary resource for living a healthy life and a main factor in overall health. (Source: )

Metis: The M茅tis people originated in the 1700鈥檚 when French and Scottish fur traders married Aboriginal women, such as the Cree, and Anishinaabe (Ojibway). Their descendants formed a distinct culture, collective consciousness and nationhood in the Northwest. Distinct M茅tis communities developed along the fur trade routes. Today, it is sometimes used as a generic term to describe people of mixed European and Aboriginal ancestry, but in a legal context, it only refers to descendants of specific historic communities (e.g., the inhabitants of the Red River Colony in today鈥檚 Manitoba) or specific groups (e.g., the Paddle Prairie M茅tis Settlement, a contemporary community in today鈥檚 Alberta) or the people who received land grants or scrip from Canadian government. (Source: )

Microaggressions: The everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership. (Source: )

Misogyny:  Hatred or  against women, typically exhibited by men. It is generally accepted that  is a consequence of patriarchy (male-dominated society), and the term may be applied to certain individuals as well as larger systems, societies, or . (Source: )

Multiculturalism: Federal policy announced in 1971 and enshrined in law in the Multiculturalism Act of 1988. It promotes the acknowledgment and respect of diverse ethnicities, cultures, races, religious, and supports the freedom of these groups to preserve their heritage 鈥渨hile working to achieve the equality of all Canadians.鈥 (Source: )


Neurodiversity: Neurodiversity refers to the idea that neurological differences, such as those seen in autism or ADHD, reflect normal variations in brain development. Neurodiversity is often contrasted with the 鈥渕edical model,鈥 which views conditions like autism or ADHD as disorders to prevent, treat, or cure. There has been a push to move away from this idea of pathology and more toward a more nuanced perspective with variations of what is 鈥渘ormal. (Source: ).

Nonbinary: A gender identity that embraces full universe of expressions and ways of being that resonate with an individual. It may be an active resistance to binary gender expectations and/or an intentional creation of new unbounded ideas of self within the world. (Source: )


Oppression: Refers to discrimination that occurs and is supported through the power of public systems or services, such as health care systems, educational systems, legal systems and/or other public systems or services; discrimination backed up by systemic power. Denying people access to culturally safe care is a form of oppression. (Source: )


Pansexual: Refers to a person whose emotional, romantic and/or physical attraction is to people inclusive of all genders. People who are pansexual need not have had any sexual experience: It is the attraction and self-identification that determine the orientation. Pansexuality and bisexuality are different; pansexuality includes all genders equally, whereas bisexuality can favor some genders over others. (Source: )

Patriarchy: An historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression in which those assigned male, or those exhibiting characteristics that have been assigned male, hold ultimate authority and privilege central to social organization, occupying roles of political leadership, moral authority, and control of property. It implies and entails female subordination. Can result in gendered outcomes even without specific gendered animus articulated between individuals. (Source: )

Privilege: Unearned social power accorded by the formal and informal institutions of society to ALL members of a dominant group (e.g., white privilege, male privilege, etc.). Privilege is usually invisible to those who have it because we鈥檙e taught not to see it, but nevertheless it puts them at an advantage over those who do not have it. (Source: )

Pride: A celebration that usually includes a parade (= a large number of people walking or in vehicles, all going in the same direction) and other events to show support and acceptance of people who are LGBTQ+. (Source: )

Prejudice: Refers to a negative way of thinking and attitude toward a socially defined group and toward any person perceived to be a member of the group. Like bias, prejudice is a belief and based on a stereotype. (Source: )

Pronouns: Someone’s pronouns are the way they choose to be referred to according to their gender identity. (Source: )


Queer: Historically a derogatory term used as a slur against 2SLGBTQI+ people, this term has been reclaimed by many 2SLGBTQI+ people as a positive way to describe themselves, and as a way to include the many diverse identities not covered by common 2SLGBTQI+ acronym. (Source: )

Questioning: A person who is uncertain about their sexual orientation and/or gender identity; this can be a transitory or a lasting identity. (Source: )


Race: Refers to a group of people who share the same physical characteristics such as skin tone, hair texture and facial features. Race is a socially constructed way to categorize people and is used as the basis for discrimination by situating human beings within a hierarchy of social value. (Source: )

Racialized: The process through which groups come to be socially constructed as races, based on characteristics such as race, ethnicity, language, economics, religion, culture, politics, etc. (Source: )

Racism: A set of mistaken assumptions, opinions and actions resulting from the belief that one group of people categorized by colour or ancestry is inherently superior to another. Racism may be present in organizational and institutional policies, programs and practices, as well as in the attitudes and behaviour of individuals. It results in the inequitable distribution of opportunity, benefit or resources across ethnic/racial groups. (Source: )

Religious Oppression: The systematic subordination of minority religious groups, such as Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Native American spiritualities, and those who are atheists, agnostics, or freethinkers. The subordination of non-Christian religions occurs at all levels of society through the actions of individuals (religious prejudice), institutional policies and practices (religious discrimination), and cultural and societal norms and values associated with Christianity. (Source: )


Sex assigned at birth: The sex assigned to a baby at birth, typically based on a person’s visible reproductive system and other physical characteristics. Sex at birth is a different concept than gender, but can be interrelated. (Source )

Sexual orientation: Sexual orientation is about who you鈥檙e attracted to and want to have relationships with. Sexual orientations include (but are not limited to) gay, lesbian, straight, bisexual, and asexual. (Source: )

Sexuality: The components of a person that include their biological sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, sexual practices, etc. (Source: )

SOGI: SOGI is an acronym for one鈥檚 Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. (Source: )

Stereotype: A fixed image. Refers to an exaggerated belief, image or distorted truth about a person or group; a generalization that allows for little or no individual differences or social variation. (Source: )

Systemic racism: Also known as structural or institutional racism, systemic racism is enacted through routine and societal systems, structures and institutions such as requirements, policies, legislation and practices that perpetuate and maintain avoidable and unfair inequalities across ethnic or racial groups. (Source: )


Tokenism: Tokenism is, simply, covert racism. Racism requires those in power to maintain their privilege by exercising social, economic, and/or political muscle against people of color (POC). Tokenism achieves the same while giving those in power the appearance of being non-racist and even champions of diversity because they recruit and use POC as racialized props. (Source: )

Tolerance: A liberal attitude toward those whose race, religion, nationality, etc. is different from one鈥檚 own. Since it has the connotation of 鈥榯o put up with鈥, the term 鈥渁cceptance鈥 is now preferred. (Source:

Trans / Transgender: Used most often as an umbrella term, some commonly held definitions:
1. Someone whose gender identity or expression does not fit (dominant-group social constructs of) assigned birth sex and gender.
2. A gender outside of the man/woman binary.
3. Having no gender or multiple genders. (Source: )

Two-Spirit: An English term used to broadly capture concepts traditional to many Indigenous cultures. It is a culturally specific identity used by some Indigenous people to indicate a person whose gender identity, spiritual identity and/or sexual orientation comprises both male and female spirits. (Source: )



Visible Minority: Term used to describe people who are not white. Although it is a legal term widely used in human rights legislation and various policies, currently the terms racialized minority or people of colour are preferred by people labelled as 鈥榲isible minorities.鈥 (Source: )


White Supremacy Culture: This refers to the dominant, unquestioned standards of behavior and ways of functioning embodied by the vast majority of institutions in the United States. These standards may be seen as mainstream, dominant cultural practices; they have evolved from the United States鈥 history of white supremacy. Because it is so normalized it can be hard to see, which only adds to its powerful hold. In many ways, it is indistinguishable from what we might call U.S. culture or norms 鈥 a focus on individuals over groups, for example, or an emphasis on the written word as a form of professional communication. But it operates in even more subtle ways, by actually defining what 鈥渘ormal鈥 is 鈥 and likewise, what 鈥減rofessional,鈥 鈥渆ffective,鈥 or even 鈥済ood鈥 is. In turn, white culture also defines what is not good, 鈥渁t risk,鈥 or 鈥渦nsustainable.鈥 White culture values some ways of thinking, behaving, deciding, and knowing 鈥 ways that are more familiar and come more naturally to those from a white, western tradition 鈥 while devaluing or rendering invisible other ways. And it does this without ever having to explicitly say so. (Source: )


Xenophobia:  Any attitude, behavior, practice, or policy that explicitly or implicitly reflects the belief that immigrants are inferior to the dominant group of people. Xenophobia is reflected in interpersonal, institutional, and systemic levels oppression and is a function of White supremacy Culture. (Source: )



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