Big Ideas in IDEA

CCDI Consulting's Monthly Newsletter for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility.

June is Indigenous History Month, Pride Month, and on June 27th, it is National Multicultural Day. These days of awareness are both causes for celebration, and reminders of the work that lies ahead that will bring us closer to an inclusive, diverse, equitable, and accessible world. 

The articles featured this month discuss gender, Indigenous inclusion, and allyship. We hope that you will find them beneficial not just this month, but throughout the rest of the year as well. 

We are also excited to announce that we have been awarded the 2022 HR Reporter Reader's Choice award for Diversity/Employment Equity. Thank you to everyone who voted for us - it is because of you that we continue to be recognized in the industry as one of the best IDEA consulting firms in Canada. 

Indigenous Terminology In Canada – A Quick Guide

According to Statistics Canada’s 2016 Census, 1,673,780 people or 4.9% of the population identify as Aboriginal. Of those, the majority claim a single Aboriginal identity: 58.4% as First Nations people, 35.1% as Métis and 3.9% as Inuit.

Language is constantly developing to reflect Canadians’ changing attitudes about our history and the First Peoples of the land. Many terms used to identify Indigenous Canadians are prime examples of language that is now considered offensive, yet these terms persist. Here is a review of current terminology that does not risk offence.

  • “First Nations”

In the 1970s “First Nations” was adopted to replace “Indian” to identify Indigenous peoples who are not Inuit or Métis. Christopher Columbus’ erroneous identification of the people of the Americas as “Indians” persists in the updated 1985 version of the “Indian Act” of 1876, despite the fact that “Indian” is now considered a slur when used by people who are not Indigenous.  “Indian” should avoided unless it relates to the Indian Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. I-5) and other related regulations.

  • “Inuit”

The First Peoples of Northern Canada residing in Nunavut, Northwest Territories, Yukon, Northern Labrador, and Northern Quebec, are known as the Inuit.  The word derives from the Inuktitut language and directly translates to “the people”. The word “Eskimo” was previously used to refer to the Indigenous People of the North, however, that word is now considered derogatory because it was a colonial term that did not come from the Inuit People. “Inuit” was adopted at the first International Circumpolar Conference in 1970.

  • “Métis”

The Métis were known as “the forgotten people” as they were not fully recognized until the repatriation of the Canadian Constitution in 1982. According to the Metis Nation, the Métis People were formed from the “mixed offspring” of European fur traders from The Hudson’s Bay Company and the Northwest Company and First Nations women. The Métis formed the backbone of the fur trade economy and evolved into a distinct people and nation on the plains of what is today western Canada.

In 2002, The Métis National Council General Assembly adopted the following “National Definition”: “Métis” means a person who self-identifies as Métis, is distinct from other Aboriginal peoples, is of historic Métis Nation Ancestry and who is accepted by the Métis Nation.” 

  • Aboriginal Peoples/First Peoples/Indigenous Peoples

These are “umbrella” terms used to collectively recognize the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples of Canada. The use of “Aboriginal” is opposed by more than 40 First Nations as it is an English word and should be avoided. As noted above, Statistics Canada continues to use “Aboriginal”, however “Indigenous” and “First Nations” are increasingly preferred as general terms. Indigenous is capitalized to indicate respect in the way that English and French are capitalized. “Native Canadians” has colonial origins and is no longer an accepted term. It is considered offensive if used by those who do not self-identify as Native.

Choosing the most appropriate and accurate language to describe Indigenous Canadians may seem somewhat overwhelming at first, but the use of inclusive terminology is an important step toward healing and reconciliation. The Federal Government may be slow to drop outdated and offensive usage, but this is an area within which organizations and the public can show the way forward.

Screen Shot 2023-05-16 at 10.51.04 AM Indigenous Peoples: A Guide to Terminology │ Usage Tips & Definitions

Link to this resource: Indigenous Peoples: A Guide to Terminology (

Gender Pronouns And How To Use Them In The Workplace

By: MacKenzie Pudwell

The initialism LGBTQ2+ is ever-evolving, growing, and changing. Often during Pride, we get caught up in the first few letters that refer to sexuality and sexual orientation. Let’s discuss gender though, gender inclusivity in the workplace.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, here's a quick refresher on gender:

“Gender can refer to the individual and/or social experience of being a man, a woman, or neither. Social norms, expectations, and roles related to gender vary across time, space, culture, and individuals.”[1]

It is impossible to dive deeply into the topic in just one short article, so instead we'll go through a few key points to start your journey off right.

First of all: Gender is not binary. As our world continues to challenge social norms, we are seeing space being created for beautiful people who challenge and exist outside gender roles that were prescribed to them based on their assigned sex.[2] This space has brought light to the many gender identities outside of man and woman.

As we look at the expanding identities along and outside of the gender spectrum, as an ally, we need to remember that labels are not prescriptive. It is not up to any person to assume the identity or pronouns of another person. The use of labels can only be given to oneself, and it is a person’s choice whether to disclose that information to others.

To ensure we don’t misidentify or presume identities, pronouns are an important starting point. Whether they are in your email signature, you are obtaining the information during onboarding or introducing yourself with your pronouns during a meeting, utilizing pronouns is one of the simplest steps to creating a gender-inclusive space.

Here are a few points to keep in mind about pronouns:

  • Disclose your pronouns before asking others their pronouns

  • Ask everyone in the room for their pronouns, not just someone that doesn’t fit your perceived boxes

  • If you use the wrong pronouns, apologize and move on. Making a big deal about your error can often draw more attention to the situation and person.[3]

  • Remember that a person’s pronouns are not a puzzle for you to figure out. Recognizing a person and how they exist in this world by using their pronouns is a fundamental form of respect.

Gender is a big and important topic in IDEA work. This is just the tip of the iceberg, and I hope you take some time during Pride Month to learn more about the construct of gender, gender identity, and the role pronouns play in a person's gender identity.

To practice how to utilize a variety of pronouns check out this resource: Pronouns: A How-To - The Diversity Center ( 

We also offer a number of virtual instructor-led trainings that discuss gender, LGBTQ2+ inclusion, and more. 

[1] The 519 Glossary of Terms - The519
[2] Gender Unicorn - ( 
[3] Pronouns: A How-To - The Diversity Center (

Allyship: An Action Word

by Guest Contributor Devika Pandey, MA
(This article was previously published in the Winter 2021 edition of CPHR Alberta Magazine, the official publication of CPHR Alberta, and is reprinted with permission.)

"I AM AN ALLY." In social justice conversations we hear this phrase often. It’s a mechanism or a term we use to make us feel as though we are truly supporting and standing in solidarity with equity-deserving groups. But do we really know what an ally is and what steps we can take to be an ally? Most people know the word allyship, and that it’s a good thing to be an ally, but the question that follows in most conversations is, "What can I do to be an ally? I don’t want to overstep or offend any group." There is no one right answer. But hopefully this short read will guide you in how to be an effective ally.

Let’s start with the terminology. As defined by the Anti-Oppression Network, allyship is an active, consistent and arduous practice of unlearning and re-evaluating, in which a person in a position of privilege and power seeks to operate in solidarity with a marginalized group.Display footnote number:1 There are many words in that definition that need to be unpacked, but the two key terms are power and privilege. Adding privilege to the famous Spider-Man quote, it would sound something like, "With privilege comes great power and with great power comes great responsibility." There are three things you should know about privilege:

1. Depending on your social/geographic location and who is in the room in each context, your privilege and power might change.

2. Privilege changes with dimensions of diversity. Let’s look at this using a simple example about race and socioeconomic status. A white male may have more privilege than a Black male in navigating many of the systems in Canadian institutions. Now using the same example, the white male might have grown up in poverty and couldn’t afford an education. So, the white man might lack privilege in that socio-economic dimension compared to the Black man who did get an education and grew up rich. With this understanding, we know we all come with privileges but also lack privileges. It is easier to think about where we lack privilege or where we are oppressed, but it’s encouraged to learn to get comfortable with where we do hold privilege. Having privilege and power can be a good thing if you are leveraging it to make a positive change.

3. People who hold privilege are not bad people. It is not their fault that they were born with that privilege. The key question is what can people do to make use of their privilege for the betterment of society?

Check your privilege often. Keep in mind this is not a right-or-wrong, us-versus-them or who’s-at-fault game. Understanding and knowing that you have power and privilege is a start toward using this very power and privilege to make systemic change and break down systemic barriers.

Coming back to allyship, you recognize you have privilege and power. What’s next? Be an ally. Keep in mind that being an ally is a lifelong unlearning and re-learning process.

Here is what you can do to be an ally:

  1. Check your biases: We all have biases, and we all need to check them. You’re probably thinking, "How many things do I have to check? First my privileges and now my biases?" The answer is yes. Building equitable, inclusive cultures takes time and a ton of effort.
  2. Listen: This is an art, and this will take time to develop too. In a world where we are all competing to be heard and have our opinions acknowledged and trusted, it is hard to stay quiet and listen. You’ll notice when you do start to listen that you start hearing the points you missed, and that may help you understand the root cause of the issue. So, next time you are deep in an argument or discussion, try to stay quiet, listen and ask questions.
  3. Don’t be a saviour: Equity deserving groups don’t need help. They need space created where their voices are amplified, and where their experiences can be shared and validated.
  4. Marginalized communities are not a monolith: There are 7.6 billion people on this planet, with each person bringing their own experiences and lens of the world. If you know one person of colour from a particular culture, this doesn’t mean you know everything about the experiences of that culture or community.
  5. Educate yourself: There are tons of resources online — articles, blogs, webinars, podcasts, etc. Keep in mind, it is not the responsibility of marginalized communities to educate you.
  6. In the workplace:
    1. When someone has a good idea, repeat it, and acknowledge the author of the idea.
    2. In a meeting, dinner conversation or golf session with senior leadership, look around. Are people from marginalized groups included or missing? Who isn’t at the table or in the room? Whose expertise is being de-valued?
    3. Believe others’ experiences. Just because you may not have had that experience doesn’t mean others haven’t.
    4. Did your colleague just say something inappropriate or racist to another colleague? Say something in the moment. Don’t offer sympathy to the victim after. You can say, "That was inappropriate, here is why…" If you get a response like, "Can’t you take a joke?" say, "I can. But this is not a joke, here is why…" If your organization has a diversity, equity and inclusion framework, you can also say, "XYZ is not tolerated within the DEI framework of this organization."
    5. Sponsor someone. Is there someone on your team you think has potential? Introduce them to someone with power in your network or to your leadership team. Ask them, "How can I help you get to where you want to be?"

These strategies might not work in every situation. Even when you try your best, or have the best intentions, you will make mistakes. Harmful impact should be prioritized over your good intention of not to do harm. We don’t have to be perfect. Striving for perfection is exhausting. So next time you make a mistake, ask yourself what you can do better next time, and then keep trying. The key to being an ally is to not stop.

Devika Pandey is the manager, learning and knowledge solutions, at the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion. Devika has over nine years of professional experience in recruitment, learning and development, and research. With a background in psychology, human resources management and leadership studies, Devika brings a wealth of knowledge on legislation and leading practices in diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility in the workplace.

The Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion, supports employers, diversity and inclusion/human rights/equity and human resources practitioners effectively address the full picture of diversity, equity and inclusion within the workplace.

NOTE: In an effort to shed light on a variety of topics and from various perspectives within the IDEA space, we have collaborated with external contributors. As such, the views expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those held by CCDI Consulting Inc. 


2. LGBTQ2S Toolkit:
3. Tennessee Occupational Therapy association.

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