Glossary of Terms

This glossary contains definitions and reference materials that serve as a foundation to understanding anti-Black racism.

Term Definition

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 Black-African descent. 


The term ‘Anti-Black Racism’ was first expressed by Dr. Akua Benjamin, a Ryerson Social Work Professor. It seeks to highlight the unique nature of systemic racism on Black-Canadians and the history as well as experiences of slavery and colonization of people of Black-African descent in Canada.  (Black Health Alliance Canada, 2017)  

Anti-Indigenous racism


the ongoing race-based discrimination, negative stereotyping, and injustice experienced by Indigenous Peoples within Canada. It includes ideas and practices that establish, maintain and perpetuate power imbalances, systemic barriers, and inequitable outcomes that stem from the legacy of colonial policies and practices in Canada. Systemic anti-Indigenous racism is evident in discriminatory federal policies such as the Indian Act and the residential school system. It is also manifest in the overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples in provincial criminal justice and child welfare systems, as well as inequitable outcomes in education, well-being, and health. Individual lived-experiences of anti-Indigenous racism can be seen in the rise in acts of hostility and violence directed at Indigenous people. (Government of Ontario, 2022). 

Anti-racism approach 


A process, a systematic method of analysis, and a proactive course of action rooted in the recognition of the existence of racism, including systemic racism. Anti-racism actively seeks to identify, remove, prevent, and mitigate racially inequitable outcomes and power imbalances between groups and change the structures that sustain inequities. (Government of Ontario, 2022). 

Anti-Racist Education

Based in the notion of race and racial discrimination as being embedded within the policies and practices of institutional structures. Its goal is to aid students to understand the nature and characteristics of these discriminatory barriers, and to develop work to dismantle them. (CRRF, 2019)


The historical practice of European expansion into territories already inhabited by Indigenous peoples for the purposes of acquiring new lands and resources. This expansion is rooted in the violent suppression of Indigenous peoples’ governance, legal, social and cultural structures. Colonialism attempts to force Indigenous peoples to accept and integrate into institutions that are designed to force them to conform with the structures of the colonial state. “Colonialism remains an ongoing process, shaping both the structure and the quality of the relationship between settlers and Indigenous peoples.” (TRC Final Report, 2016 What We Have Learned: Principles of Truth and Reconciliation)


A prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group; a form of oppression that is expressed through the differential treatment of individuals and groups based on skin color. Typically, favoritism is demonstrated toward those of lighter complexions while those of darker complexions experience rejection and mistreatment. (CRRF, 2019)

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’s identity, who they are, or what they need. Culturally unsafe environments diminish, demean, or disempower the cultural identity and well-being of an individual. (Government of Ontario, 2022). 


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. (CRRF, 2019)

Intergenerational trauma


Historic and contemporary trauma that has compounded over time and been passed from one generation to the next. The negative effects can impact individuals, families, communities and entire populations, resulting in a legacy of physical, psychological, and economic disparities that persist across generations.

For Indigenous peoples, the historical trauma includes trauma created as a result of the imposition of assimilative policies and laws aimed at attempted cultural genocide, including the annihilation of Indigenous Nations, the imposition of the Indian Act system, and the forcible removal of Indigenous children to Indian Residential Schools. (Government of Ontario, 2022). 





Intersectionality is the way 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, opportunities, and/or power imbalances.


In the context of race and Indigenous identity, this means recognizing the ways in which people’s experiences of racism or privilege, including within any one group, may vary depending on the individual’s or group’s relationship to additional overlapping or intersecting social identities, like religion, ethnic origin, gender, age, disabilities or citizenship and immigration status.

An intersectional analysis enables better understanding of the impacts of any one particular systemic barrier by considering how that barrier may be interacting with other related factors. (Government of Ontario, 2022). 

Lateral Violence

Displaced violence directed against one’s 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. (CRRF, 2019)



Modern scholarship views racial categories as socially constructed, that is, race is not intrinsic to human beings but rather an identity created, often by socially dominant groups, to establish meaning in a social context. This often involves the subjugation of groups defined as racially inferior, as in the one-drop rule used in the 19th-century United States to exclude those with any amount of African ancestry from the dominant racial grouping, defined as “white”. Such racial identities reflect the cultural attitudes of imperial powers dominant during the age of European colonial expansion. This view rejects the notion that race is biologically defined. (CRRF, 2019)

Racial Discrimination

According to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (to which Canada is a signatory), racial discrimination is “any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin, which nullifies or impairs the recognition, enjoyment or exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.” (CRRF, 2019)

Racial disparity


Racial disparity is unequal outcomes in a comparison of one racial group to another racial group. (Government of Ontario, 2022). 

Racial Profiling

Any action undertaken for reasons of safety, security or public protection that relies on assumptions about race, colour, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, or place of origin rather than on reasonable suspicion, to single out an individual for greater scrutiny or differential treatment. Profiling can occur because of a combination of the above factors, and age and/or gender can influence the experience of profiling. In contrast to criminal profiling, racial profiling is based on stereotypical assumptions because of one’s race, colour, ethnicity, etc rather than relying on actual behaviour or on information about suspected activity by someone who meets the description of a specific individual. (CRRF, 2019)


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. (CRRF, 2019)

Racialized (person or group)


Racialized persons and/or groups can have racial meanings attributed to them in ways that negatively impact their social, political, and economic life. This includes but is not necessarily limited to people classified as “visible minorities” under the Canadian census and may include people impacted by antisemitism and Islamophobia. (Government of Ontario, 2022). 


Racism is a belief that one group is superior to others performed through any individual action, or institutional practice which treats people differently because of their colour or ethnicity. This distinction is often used to justify discrimination. There are three types of racism: Institutional, Systemic, and Individual. (CRRF, 2019)


Refers to an individual, institution, or organization whose beliefs and/or actions imply (intentionally or unintentionally) that certain races have distinctive negative or inferior characteristics. Also refers to racial discrimination inherent in the policies, practices and procedures of institutions, corporations, and organizations which, though applied to everyone equally and may seem fair, result in exclusion or act as barriers to the advancement of marginalized groups. (CRRF, 2019)


The social, physical, political and economic separation of diverse groups of people, based on racial or ethnic groups. This particularly refers to ideological and structural barriers to civil liberties, equal opportunity and participation by minorities within the larger society. (CRRF, 2019)

Settler/Settler Colonialism

Within the context of race relations, the term refers to the non-indigenous population of a country. Settler colonialism functions through the replacement of indigenous populations with an invasive settler society that, over time, develops a distinctive identity and sovereignty. In Canada and in other countries, the ascendancy of settler culture has resulted in the demotion and displacement of indigenous communities, resulting in benefits that are unearned. (CRRF, 2019)


Prejudice or discrimination based on sex, usually though not necessarily against women; behaviours, conditions or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex. Sexism 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. (CRRF, 2019)

Social Justice

A concept premised upon the belief that each individual and group within society is to be given equal opportunity, fairness, civil liberties, and participation in the social, educational, economic, institutional and moral freedoms and responsibilities valued by the society. (CRRF, 2019)

Social Oppression

Social oppression refers to oppression that is achieved through social means and that is social in scope—it affects whole categories of people. This kind of oppression includes the systematic mistreatment, exploitation, and abuse of a group (or groups) of people by another group (or groups). It occurs whenever one group holds power over another in society through the control of social institutions, along with society's laws, customs, and norms. The outcome of social oppression is that groups in society are sorted into different positions within the social hierarchies of race, class, gender, sexuality, and ability. Those in the controlling, or dominant group, benefit from the oppression of other groups through heightened privileges relative to others, greater access to rights and resources, a better quality of life, and overall greater life chances. Those who experience the brunt of oppression have fewer rights, less access to resources, less political power, lower economic potential, worse health and higher mortality rates, and lower overall life chances. (CRRF, 2019)


A preconceived generalization of a group of people. This generalization ascribes the same characteristic(s) to all members of the group, regardless of their individual differences. (CRRF, 2019)

Structural/Societal Racism

Structural or Societal Racism pertains to the ideologies upon which society is structured. These ideologies are inscribed through rules, policies and laws; and represents the ways in which the deep rooted inequities of society produce differentiation, categorization, and stratification of society's members based on race. Participation in economic, political, social, cultural, judicial and educational institutions also structure this stratification (Carl James, 2010).

This is one of the three levels that make up Systemic Racism. (CRRF, 2019)

Systemic Discrimination

The institutionalization of discrimination through policies and practices which may appear neutral on the surface but which have an exclusionary impact on particular groups. This occurs in institutions and organizations, including government, where the policies, practices and procedures (e.g. employment systems – job requirements, hiring practices, promotion procedures, etc.) exclude and/or act as barriers to racialized groups. (CRRF, 2019)

Systemic Racism

This is an interlocking and reciprocal relationship between the individual, institutional and structural levels which function as a system of racism. These various levels of racism operate together in a lockstep model and function together as whole system. These levels are:

·       Individual (within interactions between people)

·       Institutional (within institutions and systems of power)

·       Structural or societal (among institutional and across society)

(CRRF, 2019)

Vertical Violence

A term used to describe abusive behaviours towards those in less powerful positions. Vertical violence is a broad term which may include bullying, harassment, intimidation or acts of physical violence. It may occur in the workplace, in schools or in social settings. (CRRF, 2019)

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 ‘visible minorities’. (CRRF, 2019)


A social colour. The term is used to refer to people belonging to the majority group in Canada. It is recognized that there are many different people who are “White” but who face discrimination because of their class, gender, ethnicity, religion, age, language, or geographical origin. Grouping these people as “White” is not to deny the very real forms of discrimination that people of certain ancestry, such as Italian, Portuguese, Jewish, Armenian, Greek, etc., face because of these factors. (CRRF, 2019)

White Privilege

The inherent advantages possessed by a white person on the basis of their race in a society characterized by racial inequality and injustice. This concept does not imply that a white person has not worked for their accomplishments but rather, that they have not faced barriers encountered by others. (CRRF, 2019)


Fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign. (CRRF, 2019)


Black Health Alliance. (2017). Anti-Black Racism. Black Health Alliance Canada.

Canadian Race Relations Foundation. (2019). CRRF Glossary of Terms. Canadian Race Relations Foundation | Fondation Canadienne Des Relations Raciales.

Government of Ontario. (2022). Data Standards for the Identification and Monitoring of Systemic Racism: Glossary.