Terms & Vocabulary

Words matter, the following working definitions enable us to have a common understanding of a word or subject.

Anti-Black racism

Prejudice, attitudes, beliefs, stereotyping and discrimination that is directed at people of African descent and is rooted in their unique history and experience of enslavement. Anti-Black racism is deeply entrenched in Canadian institutions, policies and practices, such that anti-Black racism is either functionally normalized or rendered invisible to the larger white society. Anti-Black racism is manifested in the legacy of the current social, economic, and political marginalization of African Canadians in society such as the lack of opportunities, lower socio-economic status, higher unemployment, significant poverty rates and overrepresentation in the criminal justice system. (See Footnote 1)


Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.Footnote2


BIPOC is an acronym for ‘Black, Indigenous, People of Colour,’ it is meant to unite all people of colour in the work for liberation while intentionally acknowledging that not all people of colour face the same levels of injustice.


A practice of domination, which involves the subjugation of one people to another. Settler colonialism — such as in the case of Canada — is the unique process where the colonizing population does not leave the territory, asserts ongoing sovereignty to the land, actively seeks to assimilate the Indigenous populations and extinguish their cultures, traditions and ties to the land. Footnote3

Disaggregated data

In the context of race-based data, this means breaking down composite ("aggregate") categories such as "visible minority" into component parts, such as Black, Chinese, Arab etc. Footnote4


Treating someone unfairly by either imposing a burden on them, or denying them a privilege, benefit or opportunity enjoyed by others, because of their race, citizenship, family status, disability, sex or other personal characteristics. Footnote5


Fairness, impartiality, even-handedness. 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. Footnote6

Implicit or Unconscious Bias

This refers to the unconscious attribution of particular qualities to a member of a certain social group. Shaped by experience and based on learned associations between particular qualities and social categories, including race and/or gender. Individuals’ perceptions and behaviours can be influenced by the implicit stereotypes they hold, even if they are unaware/unintentionally hold such stereotypes. (Wikipedia)

Institutional Racism 

Institutional racism occurs within and between institutions (schools, mass media, etc.). Includes discriminatory treatment, unfair policies, and inequitable opportunities and impacts, based on race. Individuals within institutions take on the power of the institution when they act in ways that advantage and disadvantage people, based on race.

Source: Racial Equity Tools


Acknowledges the ways in which people's lives are shaped by their multiple and overlapping identities and social locations, which, together, can produce a unique and distinct experience for that individual or group, for example, creating additional barriers or opportunities. Footnote7


Includes racism, stereotypes, prejudice, fear or acts of hostility directed towards individual Muslims or followers of Islam in general. In addition to individual acts of intolerance and racial profiling, Islamophobia can lead to viewing and treating Muslims as a greater security threat on an institutional, systemic and societal level. Footnote8


Race is a "social construct." This means that society forms ideas of race based on geographic, historical, political, economic, social and cultural factors, as well as physical traits, even though none of these can legitimately be used to classify groups of people. Footnote9


The process through which groups come to be socially constructed as races, based on characteristics such as ethnicity, language, economics, religion, culture, politics. Footnote10


Racism is any individual action, or institutional practice which treats people differently because of their colour or ethnicity. This distinction is often used to justify discrimination. Footnote11

Social participation

Involvement in meaningful activities (social, cultural, physical, educational, recreational, etc.) that increase one's sense of belonging and well-being.

Structural Racism

This kind of racism lies underneath, all around and across society. It encompasses (1) history, providing the foundation for white supremacy; (2) culture, providing the normalization and replication of racism, and (3) interconnected institutions and policies providing the legitimacy and reinforcements to maintain and perpetuate racism.

Source: Racial Equity Tools

Systems of Oppression

This refers to discriminatory institutions, structures, norms, to name a few, that are embedded in the fabric of our society. Upheld by 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.

Source: Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group

System of White Supremacy or White Privilege

Refers to a political or socioeconomic system where white people enjoy structural advantages and rights that other racial and ethinic groups do not. White people are often unaware that this system exists, which is one of its successes.

Source Racial Equity Tools

Systemic or institutional racism

Consists of patterns of behaviour, policies or practices that are part of the social or administrative structures of an organization, and which create or perpetuate a position of relative disadvantage for racialized persons. These appear neutral on the surface but, nevertheless, have an exclusionary impact on racialized persons. Footnote12

White Fragility

Coined in 2011 by Robin DiAngelo, author of “White Fragility; Why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism,” white fragility is defined as “discomfort and defensiveness on the part of a white person when confronted by information about racial inequality and injustice.”

Source: Oxford Dictionary

White Privilege

White privilege refers to the unquestioned and unearned set of advantages, entitlements, benefits and choices bestowed on people solely because they are white. Generally, white people who experience such privilege do so without being conscious of it.

Source: Racial Equity Resource Guide


Footnote 1: Government of Ontario, "A Better Way Forward: Ontario's 3-year Anti-Racism Strategic Plan". Available from https://www.ontario.ca/page/better-way-forward-ontarios-3-year-anti-racism-strategic-plan.

Footnote 2: International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance "Working Definition of Antisemitism". For further information, visit: https://www.holocaustremembrance.com/working-definition-antisemitism.

Footnote 3: Supra note i.

Footnote 4: Supra note i.

Footnote 5: Ontario Human Rights Commission, "Teaching human rights in Ontario – A guide for Ontario schools". Available from http://www.ohrc.on.ca/es/node/10772.

Footnote 6: Ibid.

Footnote 7: Supra note i.

Footnote 8: Supra note i.

Footnote 9:Supra note v.

Footnote 10: Canadian Race Relations Foundation, "CRRF Glossary of Terms". Available from: https://www.crrf-fcrr.ca/en/resources/glossary-a-terms-en-gb-1?letter=r&cc=p.

Footnote 11: Ibid.

Footnote 12: Ontario Human Rights Commission, "Policy and guidelines on racism and discrimination". Available from: http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/policy-and-guidelines-racism-and-racial-discrimination/part-2-policy-framework.