Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Glossary

Print page icon

CPSO has made a commitment to examine how we, as an organization, can better fulfill our mandate through bringing equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) to our processes and policies. We are committed to addressing all forms of discrimination, including anti-racism, gender bias, rights of 2SLGBTQIA+ communities and discrimination faced by other equity-seeking groups. As we continue to listen, learn and be reflexive in this work, we are inviting you to do the same. We have provided some resources that can help in this life-long journey of learning and unlearning on our EDI webpage. This glossary sets out the key terms/concepts to help establish a base for this learning and unlearning.

Glossary of Key Terms/Concepts

Allyship: an active, consistent and arduous practice of unlearning and re‑evaluating, in which an individual in a position of privilege and/or power seeks to operate in solidarity with a marginalized group. An ally supports people outside of their own group.

Anti-Oppression: a process of actively challenging systems of oppression on an ongoing basis. 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. Oppression operates at different levels (from individual to institutional to cultural) and anti-oppression work does as well.

Anti-Racism: a process of actively identifying and eliminating racism by changing the systems, structures, policies, behaviours and beliefs that perpetuate racist ideas and actions.

Bias: an inclination to think something or someone is better or preferred, usually in a way considered to be unfair. Bias inhibits impartial judgment, thought or analysis.

Cultural Humility: the acknowledgement of oneself as a learner when it comes to understanding a patient’s experience.

Cultural Safety: an approach that considers how social and historical contexts, as well as structural and interpersonal power imbalances, shape health and health care experiences. The outcome of this approach is where the environment in which health care is delivered is free of discrimination and racism, and patients feel safe. Safety is defined by patients and may be described as what is felt or experienced by patients when their physician communicates with them in a respectful and inclusive way, when their physician empowers them in decision-making, and when they work together as a team to ensure maximum effectiveness of care.

Discrimination: an act, communication or decision that results in the unfair treatment of an individual or group by either imposing a burden on them, or denying them a right, privilege, benefit or opportunity enjoyed by others. Discrimination may be direct and intentional or may be indirect and unintentional, where rules, practices or procedures appear neutral, but have the effect of disadvantaging certain groups of people. Discrimination is best identified by those who experience it given that there is a difference between intent and impact.

Discrimination results from a tendency to build society as though everyone is the same as the individuals or groups with privilege/power (e.g., all young, one gender, one race, one religion or one level of ability). Failing to consider many perspectives, or not planning to include all people, may disadvantage individuals or groups with less privilege/power.

Implicit Bias: attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions and decisions in an unconscious manner, which may even conflict with our declared beliefs and how we see ourselves. Bias works outside our awareness, without our knowledge and in spite of our best intentions. For more information, see the College’s eDialogue article on Implicit Bias in Health Care.

Intersectionality: the intertwining of social identities such as gender, race, ethnicity, social class, religion, gender identity and/or sexual orientation, which can result in unique experiences, opportunities and barriers. This theory draws 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.

“Isms”: any attitude, action or structure that oppresses an individual or group because of their race (racism), gender (sexism), age (ageism), sexual orientation (heterosexism), etc. “Isms” often lead to harassment and discrimination.

Marginalization: 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.

Microaggressions: everyday actions or comments that subtly express a stereotype of, or prejudice towards, a marginalized group. A microaggression is discrimination.

Microaggressions enact and reinforce systems of oppression (such as racism, transphobia, homophobia or sexism) at an interpersonal level. Cumulatively, microaggressions contribute to larger systemic inequities that create, foster and enforce marginalization. They reflect and reinforce harmful dominant imaginaries about which individuals or groups are superior/inferior, normal/abnormal and desirable/undesirable.

Microaggressions are categorized as follows:

  • Microassaults: are conscious biases or discriminatory verbal abuse or behaviours. For example, a person telling a racist joke, then saying, “I was just joking.”
  • Microinsults: are typically unconscious messages that are insensitive and disparaging to a person's racial identity or background. For example, a person saying to an Indigenous physician, “You don’t look Indigenous.”
  • Microinvalidations: are behaviours and statements that are meant to exclude, negate and dismiss one's personal feelings, thoughts and experiences. For example, a non-Black person telling a Black person that “racism does not exist in today’s society.”

Prejudice: negative opinions, feelings or beliefs held by someone about another individual or group, often based on negative stereotypes about race, age, sex, etc.

Privilege: unearned benefits/entitlements or lack of barriers associated with identities that society considers "normal." For example, the most dominant racial identity in North America is white European. People from dominant groups often enjoy privileges that others do not, even if they did not ask for those privileges. Privilege is often invisible to those that have it.

Racism: individual, cultural, institutional and systemic ways by which differential consequences are created for different racial groups, even if not overtly intentional. 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.

Stereotypes: conventional, intuitive and oversimplified conceptions, opinions or images of a group of people. When people are stereotyped, most or all people in the group are given the same characteristics, regardless of their individual differences.

Trauma: results from an event, series of events or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or threatening, and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and physical, psychological, social, emotional or spiritual well-being. Trauma may be cultural, intergenerational and/or historical.

Trauma-Informed Care: an approach to health care that considers the possibility that patients may have experienced trauma (e.g., abuse, neglect, discrimination, violence, etc.) so their safety, choice, control and empowerment is prioritized. Trauma-informed care is not trauma-specific care; it does not propose to heal the trauma nor even to address it directly. Instead, the outcome of this approach is minimizing the risk of re-traumatizing patients and contributing to their support and healing.