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What is Diversity?

Diversity refers to the differences that exist among individuals and groups within a population. These differences include, but are not limited to these dimensions: gender, race, age, physical or mental ability, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion/faith, family status, language ability, socio-economic status, immigration/refugee status and geography.

Diverse communities refer to individuals who identify with one or more than one of these dimensions.

Here are examples which may help to describe some of these communities:

Gender: Male / Female / Transgendered

Immigration Status: Newcomers, immigrants, refugees

Age: seniors, adults, youth, children and infants

Religion / Faith: Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, etc.

Ethnicity / Culture: refers to the ethnic roots or ancestral background of a population and may include a learned system of shared values, beliefs and norms –i.e. East Asian, Jewish, Italian, Arab, etc.

Visible Minority: In Canada, Persons (other than First Nations / Inuit / Metis) who are Non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour – i.e. Black, Chinese, South Asian, etc.

Physical Abilities: Persons having a physical disability or health problem including persons with impaired vision or hearing

Intellectual Disabilities: Persons who are mentally challenged or have a mental condition or health problem that present difficulties with daily living activities, including persons with Acquired Brain Injury

Mental Health: Persons with mental health disorders such as Depression, Anorexia, Schizophrenia, etc.

Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity: Members of the LGBTTTIQQ community – Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transsexual, Transgender, Two-Spirit, Inter-sex, Queer, Questioning

Language Ability: Persons who experience difficulty engaging in conversation, processing information or comprehending verbal or written instructions in official or dominant languages

Socioeconomic Status: Homeless persons, low income families, single mothers, public assistance recipients, etc.

Geography: Rural / Urban

The examples above are not comprehensive. For definitions of terms, see Glossary page .

Dimentions of Diversity

Why is Diversity Important?

A community is only healthy and harmonious when all its members take part
Some members of the population are often left out, overlooked or fully ignored when it comes to involvement, active engagement, planning and decision-making
Social, economic and environmental determinants of health predict whether we stay healthy or become ill
Institutional or structural inequalities in these areas have serious health implications
Disparities in the health of different groups greatly affects the health status of the whole
We cannot improve the health of the entire population without taking diversity into consideration

Why is Inclusion Important?

‘Exclusion’ denies some individuals access to basic human rights and opportunites to participate in society at large
Social exclusion is associated with increased rates of premature death, depression, higher levels of pregnancy complications and higher levels of disability from chronic illness
Evidence of growing social exclusion in Canadian society, particularly for marginalized groups leading to poorer health outcomes and experiences of differential treatment

What does a Diversity-Sensitive and Inclusive Organization look like?

Perceives diversity as enriching and to be celebrated rather than as a problem to be solved
Understands that ideas and practices based on the dominant culture result in experiences of exclusion and discrimination for many people
Establishes a strategic process to identity and eliminate barriers to participation
Includes the active and meaningful involvement of individuals who reflect the diversity of the community
Implements change and rewards innovation and creativity
Cultivates a climate where the insights of diverse groups are sought and welcomed; where people are not alienated or sidelined because they do not ‘fit’ into a set expectation

 

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