Glossary Project | Equity Diversity and Inclusion | UNB

Glossary project

We know that in order to talk about Equity issues, and to talk to about equity deserving groups, we need to use language that is respectful and inclusive.

The Presidential Bi-Campus Standing Committee on Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Human Rights have been working to build a list of terms curated by members of the UNB community to assist you in building your knowledge and comfort.

The list is still in development. Watch this space for ongoing updates!

EDI Essential Terms

Acceptance is the affirmation and recognition of those whose identities and values are different from one’s own. Acceptance goes beyond mere tolerance–which involves a “coming to terms” with difference–and involves an embrace, approval, celebration, and inclusion of diversity.

Ally is a person who makes an ongoing commitment and effort to recognize their privilege (based on gender, class, race, sexual identity) and work in solidarity with marginalized groups toward transformative justice. Allies understand that it is in their own interest to end all forms of oppression, even those from which they benefit in material ways. Allyship can be understood and practiced in different ways, and at different levels of commitment and engagement. For example, the apathetic-aware-active model illustrates the spectrum from tolerance to advocacy. Allyship is action-oriented, so while some people may self-identify as allies, it should be demonstrated through ongoing relationship- building and action and not through identity or declaration.

Assimilation is when individuals or groups of minority ethnic heritage are absorbed into the dominant culture of a society and adopt the traits and practices of the dominant culture, typically through coercion, policies and practices, and policing. The goal of assimilation is that the minority group becomes culturally indistinguishable from the dominant group while still maintaining lower social and political status. Many dominant groups have undertaken assimilation projects on minority groups throughout history, however, it is rare for a minority group to willingly replace its cultural practices completely.

Bias can be understood as personal preference. Biases can be both neutral (such as your favourite season) and harmful (such as racial exclusion). A bias may be conscious (intentional) and unconscious (unintentional). While some biases are individual, many unconscious biases are embedded in society and are learned and reinforced through art and media, school, and upbringing. Through these means, many biases are widespread and reflect the stereotypes and prejudices that we see in everyday life.

Bigotry is a form of conscious or explicit bias wherein a person believes in the superiority of one’s own group over some or all others. Bigotry is unreasonable, confrontational and unyielding prejudice and discrimination against an individual or a group based on their membership to a marginalized group.

Bullying occurs when a person or group is being specifically targeted to be harmed, frightened or threatened on a recurring, systematic basis. Bullying involves a power imbalance, making defending yourself against bullying challenging and often a catalyst for more bullying. This makes bullying a community problem; everyone in a space is responsible for each others’ sense of safety. Bullying can be physical (any contact which is known to be or should be known to be unwanted including shoving, pushing, punching, kicking, rubbing), verbal (name calling, hate speech, spreading rumours or gossip, teasing, ignoring, misgendering, threatening, sexual comments), social (scapegoating, exclusion, humiliation, discriminatory gestures), or cyberbullying (spreading images, rumours, and other forms of social and verbal bullying online). A single act of verbal or physical violence is not bullying but may become bullying when expressed again and again over time.

Colonialism is the political and economic domination and subjugation of another land, peoples, or nation to profit from the exploitation of its human and natural resources. Colonization often involves occupying land and settling colonial communities through force and imposing religious, cultural, political and language practices on the Indigenous peoples of that land. 

Colonialism is deeply tied to imperialism. While colonialism is the physical encroachment of land and space, Imperialism involves the extension of power, policy, and ideology for political and economic domination, often through military force. In other words, colonialism is a tool of imperialism.

For example, the lands that UNB sits on are the unceded and unsurrendered lands of Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqiyik. The colonial project of settlers broke the relationships of trust and mutuality established in a series of Peace and Friendship Treaties and attempted to sever Wabanaki peoples’ connection to Wolastoq, a provider of food, medicine, transportation, identity and belonging.

Neo-colonialism is used today to refer to the more nuanced and indirect ways that previously colonized lands (some of whom have since gained sovereignty) may appear independent when in reality, their economic and political systems are still influenced and directed by foreign governments and corporations. The term neo-colonialism helps us to understand how modern systems like capitalism perpetuate colonial forms of influence and exploitation of post-colonial nations, particularly within the global South.  

These conditions reinforce and uphold Indigenous peoples’ disproportionate experiences of ongoing trauma, cultural imperialism, police violence, incarceration, and environmental mistreatment across the globe.

Discrimination involves action. It is unjust or unfair treatment toward an individual or a group based on the groups they belong to. Discrimination can be differential treatment, exclusion, harassment, and more. These characteristics or groups (such as gender, race, disability, age, and religion) are also called “protected grounds”, which are outlined in the Canadian Human Rights Act. For questions about discrimination, please contact the Human Rights and Positive Environment Office at 

Diversity is all the characteristics or dimensions of an individual that makes them different from and similar to others. Some people have many dimensions in common, such as birthplace and ethnicity, while others do not. A broad definition includes not only race, ethnicity, and gender (the dimensions that most often come to mind when the term “diversity” is used) but also age, national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, education, marital status, language, weight, physical appearance, occupation, and beliefs and values. Fostering diversity includes paying attention to many different components of diversity and how they overlap and intersect.

EDI or Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (sometimes ED&I, DEI, D&I, etc.) is a set of principles that guide the actions, policies and practices of individuals, groups, workspaces, and institutions an effort to identify and address social, cultural, political, and economic inequalities faced by a particular community. While EDI policies and practices are becoming increasingly commonplace, it is important to note that they are not universal. EDI has been problematized as a model by some marginalized groups who reaffirm that it still operates within predominantly corporate and settler-colonial ways of knowing and problem-solving, and requires further decolonization.

Equality understands fairness as similar or identical treatment. It is both a principle and condition where all peoples in a society, regardless of their diversity dimensions, are given the same rights, liberties, status, autonomy, and access to resources and services.

Equity differs from equality in its understanding of fairness. Equity asserts that there is no “level playing field”–that equal treatment can still create unequal results when it does not acknowledge existing biases and barriers. Equity is concerned with understanding how individual differences and needs require individual and differential treatment in order to produce equal or similar outcomes for different peoples. 

For example, in order to address the under-representation of marginalized persons in staff and faculty positions, articles 4.30 and 4.31 of UNB’s employment equity policy explicitly promote the hiring of the most equity-deserving job candidate when all candidates in the final pool are matched in qualifications.

Equity-deserving group is a catch-all term that refers to any group that experiences systemic/structural discrimination and marginalization. Although you may see these groups referred to as “equity-seeking,” the term ‘equity-deserving’ is gradually replacing ‘equity-seeking’ in Canada to better situate disadvantaged groups as deserving and entitled to equitable treatment rather than as interlopers (someone who is begging or meddling), and places the responsibility of equity on those with power (i.e., the dominant group).

Hate speech is a form of violence. It is any kind of pejorative or discriminatory communication in speech, writing, or behaviour that is intended to demean, attack, exclude and brutalize an individual or a group on the basis of their religion, ethnicity, nationality, race, colour, gender or other protected grounds as outlined in the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Harassment is any behaviour that is known or should be expected to be known to be unwelcome that would demean, embarrass, humiliate, alarm or threaten an individual’s health and safety. In any space, including workspaces, conflicts can arise that may be unpleasant but do not escalate to the point of bullying or harassment. Differences of opinion or minor disagreements are not generally considered to be harassment. Harassment can be on a one-time or repeated basis and includes sexual harassment. For questions about harassment, please contact the Human Rights and Positive Environment Office at To report or seek support for an instance of sexual harassment, please contact Campus Sexual Assault Student Advocates (CSASA) at or connect with UNB’s Sexual Assault Support and Resources

Inclusion is the extent to which a person feels respected, safe, welcome and valued in a space. Inclusion is practiced through actively addressing peoples’ needs. Inclusion may look different to different people and requires ongoing dialogue and collaboration to be effective and permanent.

Intersectionality is a framework coined by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 that describes how systems like racism, sexism, classism, ableism, and other forms of discrimination “intersect” and overlap with one another to create complex and individualistic experiences of exclusion and harm.

Crenshaw uses the analogy of a traffic intersection to explain intersecting or compounding discrimination, wherein traffic (i.e. discrimination) may flow in one direction and it may flow in another. Listen to Crenshaw explain her analogy (6 mins).

Intolerance is an unwillingness or refusal to tolerate, respect, or accept a person’s or groups’ views, beliefs, practices, and behaviours that differ from one’s own, and is founded on the belief that there are clear and obvious in- or out-groups in the first place. Intolerance can be exhibited through ignorance, indifference, or more harmful behaviours such as hate speech, attacks, and other forms of violence and discrimination.

Marginalization or social exclusion refers to the idea of treating a person or group as insignificant or peripheral–in other words, relegating them to the margins. Marginalization can occur through the denial of resources or access, and/or exclusion from physical and social spaces. In a social context, marginalization occurs in relation to race, ethnicity, gender, disability status, age, and more. Marginalization creates systematic disadvantages in health and wellness, access to funding and resources, employment and education, safety and housing, and much more.

Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages toward marginalized persons and groups. These messages may invalidate the identity and reality of the person, demean them on a personal or group level, communicate they are lesser human beings, suggest they do not belong with the majority group, threaten and intimidate, or relegate them to inferior status and treatment. Some microaggressions may be intended as compliments or neutral statements, but communicate bias by reinforcing stereotypes and prejudices. 

For example, telling an autistic person that they are surprisingly well-spoken unconsciously conveys that autistic people are generally poorer communicators compared to non-autistic people, and that all autistic people act in similar ways.

Minority group refers to a group that is marginalized/oppressed by/relative to a dominant group (a group that is considered more powerful and privileged in a particular society or context and has power and influence over others). While the word minority may be related to population size, being marginalized, even when the minority group is greater than or equal to the size of the dominant group, is what makes a group a minority. For example, despite being much higher in population, Black South Africans were treated as a minority group relative to White South Africans under apartheid.

Oppression is the withholding of freedoms, rights, access, or opportunities to a minority group because of their membership to that group. Most people are born into oppression. Historically and currently, social systems oppress and marginalized specific groups of people while privileging others.

For example, since the founding of the settler state of Canada, transgender and gender non-conforming peoples have been targets of state oppression for their non-conformity to prescriptive gender roles and expressions. Many laws and practices have resulted in the policing and active removal of transgender peoples from public and private spaces like washrooms, prisons, gyms, sexual assault crisis centers, transition homes, hospitals, and more.

Power is unequally distributed in society, meaning some individuals or groups have more social, economic, and political power than others, allowing them greater access and control over resources. Power can also be understood as the ability to influence others and impose one’s beliefs. All power is relational, meaning that it can take different shapes depending on context and is tied to things like social status and law. Power, like privilege, can be used intentionally and unintentionally, and individuals and groups may benefit from power of which they are unaware. Power, or lack thereof, is the main driver behind how privilege and oppression function. 

It is important to note that although power is typically defined as having privilege, power can also be reclaimed by marginalized groups and understood as resistance to oppression.

Prejudice is a negative belief, assumption, or attitude that you hold about others. Although prejudice may be directed at a single person, they are tied to systems like racism or sexism because prejudices are based on group generalizations and stereotypes. When you have a prejudice, the person in front of you is not an individual – they become defined by the assumptions that you make about them based on the groups that they belong to.

Privilege can be understood as the unearned advantages, benefits, or rights that come along with being a member of a dominant social group. Privilege is historically based, meaning a person’s advantages often come from their social or identity group having had more power than others over time. While people may develop privilege within their lifetime, most people are born into privilege by way of their race, sex, country of origin, or other dimensions.

Social justice is a broad term that can be defined in many ways. The image of a “just society” is different for everyone, and so no one universal definition is appropriate. Broadly speaking, many global social justice movements have followed a few core principles: (1) the acknowledgement that injustices (social, cultural, structural, economic) exist and persist (2) that different groups have been made unequal, and inequality is maintained by the powerful, (3) that injustice is sanctioned and passed on through social systems and institutions that communities use (law, education, media, family, culture, etc.), and (4) that social justice can be developed through intervention and community action, whether it be education, abolition, reparation, reclamation, etc. Social justice is linked to social action because social justice is a political (i.e. communal) issue.

Stereotype(s) are oversimplified, preconceived generalizations about a group of people based on real or assumed traits and qualities. Stereotypes ascribe the same assumptions to all members regardless of their individual differences. Stereotypes already exist in the world, so although you may not create them, you likely know about them.

Sustainability is meeting the world’s current needs without hindering future generations from meeting their needs. Sustainability is not just about the environment but also encompasses economic and social needs. While sustainability policies and practices tend to be shaped by settler voices, like the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals, concepts of sustainability pre-date colonization and are a core component of many Indigenous ways of knowing, such as the seventh generation principle of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.

Systemic/structural discrimination or marginalization occurs when biases and discrimination are embedded in our social, economic, political, and educational structures and institutions. Systemic discrimination occurs when our policies and practices, which may appear neutral to persons with privilege, actually explicitly and implicitly exclude particular groups.

Tokenism is the difference between inclusion that is transformational and inclusion that is transactional. Transformational inclusion involves inviting someone of a minority group to join a diverse group of peoples to fulfill a communal, collaborative, agreed-upon goal. Transformational inclusion feels welcoming, respectful, permanent, safe, and meaningful. Tokenism feels transactional, where someone of a minority group is invited into a dominant group with little diversity, typically to fulfill a diversity-related role or task, which often places the burden of representation and diversity on their shoulders. Tokenism feels extractive, performative, temporary, uncomfortable and can often be harmful, especially when minorities are asked to teach about their experiences of exclusion or trauma for the benefit of a dominant group.

To learn more about tokenism, we recommend Nikki Lerner’s video from the series Multicultural Essentials (6 mins).

Xenophobia is fear or hatred of foreigners and immigrants based on unreasonable objectification and generalization of an entire group. Xenophobia is made possible by ideology and policy that marks ‘one’s own’ group(s) as different from ‘the others’ based on race, religion, nationality, ethnicity, culture, etc. In xenophobia, this also means the belief that one’s own group is better, stronger, more moral/ethical, more civilized, more advanced, kinder, or more objective than another. Xenophobia at the individual level is often representative of a greater societal/national effort to resist or refuse the incorporation of immigrants and newcomers and is expressed as opposition to multiculturalism, hate speech and violence, war, and as state-sanctioned “bans” on people of specific ethnicities and nationalities.