Common Terminology often used in conversation
about Truth & Reconciliation

This list of terms were borrowed from various sources to assist with your learning. There are many on-line glossaries that you may wish to explore that share vocabulary lists commonly used in decolonizing, anti-racism and anti-oppression work.



Colonization - involves one group taking control of the lands, resources, languages, cultures, and relationships of another group.

Colonialism - Colonialism is 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)

Contemporary trauma (colonial violence) includes the disparities in access to basic human rights, including clean water, safe housing and minimum standards of income as well as ongoing lack of access to equity in justice, health and child welfare services. Contemporary trauma also includes forced relocation away from ancestral territories and ongoing disputes about Indigenous governance, jurisdiction and decision-making related to resource and other development occurring within Indigenous territories.


Decolonization - to release from the status of a colony; to allow (a colony) to become self-governing or independent.

Dignity- Recognition of a person’s inherent worth and right to be valued and respected.


Ethnic groups - Refers to a person’s ethnic or cultural origins. Ethnic groups have a common identity, heritage, ancestry, or historical past, often with identifiable cultural, linguistic, and/or religious characteristics.


Genocide (United Nations definition):
Killing members of the group;
Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.


Hegemony -  preponderant influence or authority over others.


Implicit Bias - bias that results from the tendency to process information based on unconscious associations and feelings, even when these are contrary to one’s conscious or declared beliefs.

Indigenization - the personal and collective process of decolonizing indigenous life and restoring true self-determination based on pre-colonial indigenous values.

Indigenous - Indigenous peoples identify as being descended from the Original Peoples of what is currently known as Canada. In this context, Indigenous peoples include people who may identify as First Nations (status and non-status), Métis and/or Inuit and any related identities.

Indigenous Cultural safety - A culturally safe environment is physically, socially, emotionally, and spiritually safe. There is recognition of and respect for Indigenous peoples, 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 Indigenous peoples.

Inclusive - Inclusive processes, policies, services, programs and practices are accessible to and useable by as many people as possible, regardless of race, ethnic origin, gender, age, disability, language, etc. An inclusive environment is open, safe, equitable and respectful. Everyone can enjoy a sense of trust, belonging and involvement, and everyone is encouraged to contribute and participate fully.

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.

Institutional Racism / Systemic Racism - a policy, system of government, etc., that is associated with or originated in such a doctrine, and that favors members of the dominant racial or ethnic group, or has a neutral effect on their life experiences, while discriminating against or harming members of other groups, ultimately serving to preserve the social status, economic advantage, or political power of the dominant group. Intersectionality - The theory that the overlap of various social identities, such as race, gender, sexuality, and class, contributes to the specific type of systemic oppression and discrimination experienced by an individual (often used attributively).

Intersectionality is the way in which people’s lives are shaped by multiple and overlapping identities and social locations, which, together, can produce a unique and distinct experience for that individual or group, creating additional barriers, opportunities, and/or power imbalances.In the context of race and Indigenous identity, this means recognizing ways in which people’s experiences of racism or privilege, including within any one group, may vary depending on their relationship to additional overlapping or intersecting social identities, like religion, ethnic origin, gender, age, disabilities or citizenship and immigration status.


Marginalization - Marginalization is a long-term, structural process of systemic discrimination that creates a class of disadvantaged minorities. Marginalized groups become permanently confined to the fringes of society. Their status is perpetuated through various dimensions of exclusion, particularly in the labour market, from full and meaningful participation in society.

Meritocracy - an elite group of people whose progress is based on ability and talent rather than on class, privilege or wealth; a system in which such persons are rewarded and advanced. Meritocracy is argued to be a myth because, despite being promoted as an open and accessible method of achieving upward class mobility under neoliberal or capitalism, wealth disparity and limited class mobility remain widespread, regardless of individual work ethic.[2][3]Some scholars argue that the wealth disparity has even increased because the "myth" of meritocracy has been so effectively promoted and defended by the political and private elite through the media, education, corporate culture and elsewhere.

Microaggressions - a subtle but offensive comment or action directed at a member of a marginalized group, especially a racial minority, that is often unintentionally offensive or unconsciously reinforces a stereotype.


Privilege - a right, immunity, or benefit enjoyed by a particular person or a restricted group of people beyond the advantages of most; the unearned and mostly unacknowledged societal advantage that a restricted group of people has over another group.


Race - Race is a term used to classify people into groups based principally on physical traits (phenotypes) such as skin colour. Racial categories are not based on science or biology but on differences that society has created (i.e. “socially constructed”), with significant consequences for people’s lives. Racial categories may vary over time and place and can overlap with ethnic, cultural or religious groupings.

Racial bias - Racial bias is a predisposition, prejudice or generalization about a group or persons based principally on race (see definition of race).

Racial disparity - Racial disparity is unequal outcomes in a comparison of one racial group to another racial group.

Racial disproportionality - The over-representation or under-representation of a racial group in a particular program or system, compared with their representation in the general population.

Racial equity - Racial equity is the systemic fair treatment of all people. It results in equitable opportunities and outcomes for everyone. It contrasts with formal equality where people are treated the same without regard for racial differences. Racial equity is a process (such as meaningfully engaging with Indigenous, Black, and racialized clients regarding policies, directives, practices and procedures that affect them) and an outcome (such as equitable treatment of Indigenous, Black, and racialized clients in a program or service).

Racial inequality - A disparity in opportunity and treatment that occurs as a result of someone's race.

Racial profiling - Racial profiling is any action undertaken for reasons of safety, security or public protection, that relies on stereotypes about race, colour, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, or place of origin, or on a combination of those traits, rather than on a reasonable suspicion, to single out an individual for greater scrutiny or different treatment. 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.

Racism - Racism includes ideas or practices that establish, maintain or perpetuate the racial superiority or dominance of one group over another. A belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human racial groups determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to dominate others or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others.

Anti-Indigenous racism - Anti-Indigenous racism is 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.

Anti-racism approach - Anti-racism is 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.

Reconciliation – Reconciliation has been said to be “about establishing and maintaining a mutually respectful relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in this country.”


Settler - Being a settler means that you are non-Indigenous and that you or your ancestors came and settled in a land that had been inhabited by Indigenous peoples.

Settler colonialism - Settler colonialism can be understood as “a system defined by unequal relationships (like colonialism) where an exogenous collective aims to locally and permanently replace indigenous ones (unlike colonialism)” (Veracini 2016: 4). Settler colonialism is characterized by the forcible occupation of land, the displacement of Indigenous populations and the construction of a new society on terms defined entirely by the settler population.

Stereotypes - Qualities ascribed to individuals or groups that are based on misconceptions, false generalizations, and/or oversimplifications that potentially result in stigmatization. A race-based stereotype is a quality ascribed to individuals/groups related to race. Stereotypes can perpetuate racism and racial discrimination and give rise to racial inequalities.

Systemic racism - Systemic racism consists of organizational culture, policies, directives, practices or procedures that exclude, displace or marginalize some racialized groups or create unfair barriers for them to access valuable benefits and opportunities. This is often the result of institutional biases in organizational culture, policies, directives, practices, and procedures that may appear neutral but have the effect of privileging some groups and disadvantaging others.

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