Latest news

Classic list

Globally incubate standards compliant channels before scalable benefits. Quickly disseminate superior deliverables whereas web-enabled applications.

Look! I’ve never watched any Star Wars movies and never will. SciFi isn’t a genre of film I like. Sue me!!!

So when I hear continuously hear practitioners float around JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion), or some jumbled up letters to mean the same thing, I take issue with it. I already have an issue with the bastardization and cheapening of the industry through the forever use of acronyms.

There are four criteria for measuring equity: procedural fairness, access, quality, and outcomes. Justice is also the larger organizational value within which equity resides. They are equivalent in nature where equity is focused on the concern of the provision of services and justice is more values-oriented. So then why do we need to separate the two areas in the work we are trying to achieve?

For those on LinkedIn, I’m going to leave the debate between Lily Zheng (they/them) (with a clarification here, Dr. Sam Rae (she/her) (with another clarification) and Aaisha Joseph for your own reading. But here is my commentary on this debate.

I will concur with Lily in that justice informs the work we do with the eventual outcome of equity through policies, process and access to services. Just like I never understand why were are still chasing diversity like its a fad, I believe adding justice to the title means we are not going to take away the power of organizations to operate. Justice is the role of the public sector, an area I have been in for much of my career. If you want justice, run for public office and be part of that change. As Lily said in their post, there is no price tag for justice.

We are all activists in some way, shape or form. But to achieve equity and proper organizational change, there must be some form of level-headedness and maturity. Not shouting to the rooftops, or getting likes on Linked In. By no stretch of the imagination am I a gatekeeper to White privilege. My experience working in the public sector, it has been about making effective policy change through equitable facilitation and consultation. As Susan Gooden states in her book, Race and Social Equity: The Nervous Area of Government, “the implementation of justice is context-based which is dependent upon understanding a complex array of historical, political and social factors” and equity means that public administrators are attentive to differences in fairness and justice based on social characteristics (p.25).

To create equitable organizations, it is about engaging leadership , defining equitable outcomes and redesigning the system with employees and public at the forefront of that change – regardless of the sector. Have a read of Minal Bopaiah’s book Equity: How to Design Organizations where Everyone Thrives where she goes through her steps for organizational change.

I am never going to call myself a JEDI practitioner, as much as I won’t call myself a DEI/EDI practitioner. Justice and fairness definitely inform my work. My mantra though is to advance equity in organizations through strategic policy change using a systems thinking approach. My call to action is for practitioners to do away with this acronym in order to make effective change with the work we do.

I have a few things to get off my chest. Now this isn’t really a soapbox, but rather experiences of how we engage with professionals in the equity and inclusion space.

While on vacation in Montréal last week, my partner and I experienced a bit of an unconscious bias. After we were seated in a prime spot on a rooftop, the waiter mentioned that we had to move because someone else had that seat and we could sit anywhere else. Now the situation could have been translated a couple of ways. There could have been an unconscious bias (by class and race) from the server because the people who were seated were a White couple or it his tone could have been misconstrued because Québecers, like the French, a direct. So this could be a situation of cultural awareness. Either way, after threatening to leave, we ended up getting free drinks and apologies from the manager and the server in question.

I mentioned this situation to a group of colleagues to where I thought would have been a safe space, had a twist. I did mention that the situation was crippling because I didn’t know how to respond and remained silent. An individual downplayed the situation and immediately mentioned that how I should have used more inclusive language. I responded to say that was not the time and place to mention such a situation. This is the discomfort we are in as equity practitioners.

Words and phrases such as crippling, grandfathered, powwow, etc, have undertones that can be offensive and have overall implication for those communities of ability, class, races and gender. Also, someone wanted a confirmation of the use of “800-pound gorilla” to describe a large overarching organization, to which I corrected him because of how the phrase impacts Black communities.

In any other circumstance, I would have done the same thing. Just the week before I listened to a recent Diversity: Beyond the Checkbox episode on inclusive language in everyday business.

I thought the timing to be “called out” was inappropriate and believe there needed to be an awareness and some emotional intelligence in response to the situation.

Another situation I seem to be having some difficulty with is the nomenclature of equity and inclusion. I have had conversations about using Global Majority over visible minorities, BAME and BIPOC, and EDI over DEI.

Let me get something out of the way. In my practice, I do not use acronyms to describe the work that I do. I am an equity practitioner because I value my work. Mentioning acronyms like EDI, BAME and BIPOC not only cheapens the work and the outcomes we are trying to achieve, but dampens its practicality. Using these acronyms so loosely are excellent examples of inadequate performative correctness. Jill Stoner says that “by conflating groups to single set of initials, we ignore important distinctions and forestall constructive debates”. Further, Stoner states:

Acronyms invented in military contexts support cultures of secrecy, irreverence and tribalism. All of these are understandable survival mechanisms within groups under extreme stress and needing solidarity. The acronyms invented in government and corporate contexts, as shortened names for agencies and companies, save the “valuable” time and space that would be required to say the words and spell them out. In each case — a need to solidify the culture of a group under stress through coded language, and the desire for greater convenience in day-to-day operations of business and government — are the antithesis of what is needed in promoting social justice.


On top of this, I concur with Rosemary Campbell-Stephens on how annoying it is to continue to use BIPOC, BAME and visible minority. Instead as equity practitioners, we should be using Global Majority. The Global Majority refers to the collection of cultures – Black, South Asian, Asian, Indigenous and mixed race. As a group, we make up over 80% of the global population. Continuing to use those acronyms, “limits the capacity to have honest authentic non-coded conversations about race and racism” as Campbell-Stephens asserts.

Furthermore, in an attempt to decentre whiteness, moving away from those terms allows us to acknowledge the collection of lived experiences felt by various communities, notably Black and Indigenous folks who distinctly continue to be marginalized. It may also imply that white folks are devoid of race, which is part of the ideology we are trying to overcome. Importantly, in an increasingly globalized movement and world, many people may not identify as POC as it’s an American social and cultural construct that does not translate universally.

I am glad to see Global Majority being used more frequently within our practice.

The vernacular is changing, especially being in the globally interconnected world we live in. How we respond to situations is sometimes context dependent. Some will continue to use these older terms out of convenience. Some will call out others because it is the easy thing to do. In essence, as equity practitioners must be culturally aware of the environments we are in while not being a part of the oppression Olympics, we sometimes experience.

No mistake about it. Housing is unaffordable worldwide. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated housing inequities. Demand for affordable housing continues to increase, putting pressure on municipalities outside of major metropolitan centres to provide housing. Vacancy rates in existing purpose built rental units will eventually creep back up making construction of new units paramount. The housing market bubble is about to burst and there maybe evidence to support this.

The housing market downturn in Canada maybe happening as we speak. The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) announced last week that the national housing market sector moved from moderate to high vulnerability during the second quarter with major municipalities of Toronto, Ottawa and Montréal shouldering all the risk. In fact, recently a home in North York dropped nearly $500,000 from its original asking price from a year ago.

Here are also some startling projections from the demand side in Ontario taken from a recent report from the Smart Prosperity Institute:

  • Of the 910,000 net new households formed over the next ten years, primarily made up of couples planning on having children, we project that 195,000 will live in high-rise apartments (of five storeys or more), while 715,000 will live in all other forms of housing.
  • 1.475 million new households, with a head of household currently under the age of 55, will be formed over the next ten years. Of these, approximately 225,000 will live in high-rise apartments, with the rest living in other forms of housing.
  • Of the 225,000 new young households that will live in high-rise apartment units, only 30,000 units will be freed up by the generational turnover of those currently over the age of 55.
  • Generational turnover of other forms of housing will house roughly 45% of the new young families that will live in forms of housing other than high-rise apartments. The rest will come from new home construction.
  • Differences between levels of generational turnover are substantial. In some communities, generational turnover can provide an adequate supply of housing for the next generation. In other communities, it only scratches the surface. (Source: Smart Prosperity Institute, p. IV, October 2021)

While there has been “some” progress with Canada’s National Housing Strategy, clearly the housing bubble is about to burst. More changes are going to be necessary from policy and regulatory perspectives in order for this collision to be avoided. It will be telling if this a blip or a sign of things to come.


One such solution in addressing housing affordability is eliminating or modifying single family residential zoning to build missing middle housing. Single family residential zones only allow for, as you would guess, detached or semi-detached homes within neighbourhoods. While municipalities have become flexible to include granny flats or coach houses on the same property, this is a band-aid solution to address the supply issue.

Protection of single family residential neighbourhoods has racial and classist undertones to them. These are barriers to providing rental housing as well as home ownership. In the United States, single-family zones have been associated with redlining and covenants that exclude racialized and marginalized people, which then become barriers to providing rental housing as well as home ownership. While in Canada, NIMBYs that are behind protection of the neighbourhoods through ratepayers associations is evidence on why zoning changes are difficult to come by.

In risk-averse compliant Canada, there finally seems to be a general consensus among housing advocates that this should happen sooner rather than later. For instance, the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) recently posted an statement about fixing the affordability crisis through upzoning.

OREA is encouraging the Province to use the Planning Act to implement as-of-right zoning in Ontario’s highest-demand urban neighbourhoods. This change would allow the seamless and legal development of gentle density, including duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes, next door to existing density and close to subway and transit stations without unnecessary and lengthy case-by-case approvals.

Source: OREA, September 29, 2021

Oregon was the first state to ban single family zoning. Minneapolis was the first city to eliminate single-family zoning in 2020. Portland followed their lead too. California recently passed several bills to address the housing crisis including State Bill 9 (SB 9), which gives homeowners the ability to build multifamily residential on their own properties.

There will be detractors to this policy proposal. For example, in response to the passing of SB9, The Terner Center for Housing Innovation indicated that the legislation could be relevant for 1 in 20 single family home parcels. The law was watered down slightly to instill protections for existing renters and those in heritage districts. Parcels of land in major urban centres are already expensive in California. This is no different in the Greater Toronto Area and Metro Vancouver for example. So developers may not have the incentive to build in the end.

The province must take swift action to modify land use policies within the Planning Act. While there is evidence that building housing of all types by eliminating single family zones- especially in major transit station areas (MTSAs)- is necessary. The ultimate purpose is to build affordable housing equitably and without prejudice. Of course there must be financial levers in place, a matter of federal monetary policy, as a starting point to help make this happen. Collaboration with municipal planning agencies, land developers, and other stakeholders/rights holders will be critical in making eliminating single family zoning a success, and potentially making housing affordable.

September 30th was the first National Truth and Reconciliation Day, deemed as a national holiday, which was one of the 94 Calls to Action proposed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It was meant to honour Indigenous children who were forced against their will to attend residential schools.

The day is also known as Orange Shirt Day in memory of Phyllis Webstad who wore an orange shirt to school, which was taken away from her, and was forced to wear the school uniform instead.

The “Every Child Matters” slogan is of even more significance since approximately 1300 unmarked graves were found on the sites of four former residential schools across Canada.

On this day, people were asked to reflect by reading books written by Indigenous authors, attending a ceremony, wear an orange shirt in solidarity, and taking a moment at your workplace to reflect through workshops. I chose to read Indigenous Relations: Insights, Tips and Suggestions to Make Reconciliation and Reality by Bob and Cynthia Joseph.

I also chose to watch two short films: First Stories: Two Spirited and Urban.Indigenous.Proud: Full Circle.

I will admit that my knowledge of Indigenous culture is very limited, especially not having learned about residential schools until I attended in Edmonton back in 2012. While there has been anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, the lived experiences are different. The common thread here is colonialism and economics, land had been taken from Indigenous people while Black people were brought to North America and the Caribbean as indentured slaves. So there was more to learn here.

My takeaways from this material is plentiful. The RESPECT model (p.65) outlined in Joseph’s book was very helpful.

Image from p 67

This model is meant as a “principled approach to relationship building, which (is seen) as the key to working effectively with Indigenous communities” (p.65). It is seen as a circle rather than a triangle, which is typical of Western culture with respect to hierarchy.

One example was about timelines. Me being the sometimes impatient person that I am, I want to get the job done as quickly as possible. NOPE!!! The best way to approach Indigenous communities is by having the willingness to listen and understand that issues are more complex than anticipated (p 82). This is a perfect example of where an adaptive leadership framework can be used.

Another example was the word “stakeholder”. During community engagement, the word is used as a blanket term to indicate a person, group or organization that stands to be impacted by a process. The difference though is that Indigenous groups should be called Rights Holders because they are protected by the Constitution (pp 109-110).

Indigenous Peoples have been subjected to trauma and marginalized within and outside their communities. Whether it is acceptance of Two-Spirited people or through the residential school system, a lot must change. This is a learning process for myself, even as a Black person. I certainly hope that many of my friends and colleagues took something away from their day of reflection. We must continue to give Indigenous peoples the dignity and respect they deserve.

Share with my what you did on Truth and Reconciliation Day.

Follow us on social media

Stay on top of the latest news and events by joining our platforms.

Join our Patreon

Your support helps us create timely and relevant equity webcast content!

Subscribe to our newsletter

Sign up for the Urban Strategist newsletter for detailed roundups of what we’re working on.

Error: Contact form not found.