… a core concept in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100

IntersectionalityConcept description

The Ontario Human Rights Commission (reference below, p. 3) describes intersectionality as oppression that arises out of the combination of various oppressions which, together, produce something unique and distinct from any one form of discrimination standing alone.

The Commission paper provides several examples “to illustrate the unique experience of discrimination based on historical, political and social contexts and the intersection of grounds” (p. 3-5):

“In many cases, racial minority women experience discrimination in a completely different way than racial minority men or even women as a gender. Similarly, racial minority men may experience discrimination that would not be faced by non-minority males or even women of the same background. This is because groups often experience distinctive forms of stereotyping or barriers based on a combination of race and gender. An intersectional approach recognizes this.

“A person who belongs to a particular religion may face religious discrimination only if they identify by another ground such as race, colour or ethnic origin or may experience discrimination differently from coreligionists based on the relationship with another ground. Gender can also be a factor that has an impact on religious discrimination.

“Women may be more likely to experience sexual harassment if they are more vulnerable by virtue of another aspect of their experience such as recent arrival in Canada.

“Persons with disabilities may experience particular barriers when they identify by other grounds. For example, during the Commission’s consultations on age discrimination, the Commission was told that for persons with disabilities, aging can result in a disproportionate impact or unique experiences of discrimination. Indeed, statistical evidence confirms the particular disadvantages faced by older persons with disabilities. Similarly, research indicates that persons with disabilities and persons who are members of racialized groups are more likely to be unemployed or under-employed.Therefore, members of racialized groups who have disabilities may be doubly disadvantaged. Aboriginal persons with disabilities face the same problems as other persons with disabilities but these are worsened by jurisdictional issues, namely the lack of disability-related services on reserves and the jurisdictional barriers to accessing services for those who live off reserves. Evidence also indicates that women with disabilities experience additional disadvantage as a result of the intersection of disability with gender.”

“Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation may be experienced differently by gay men and lesbians as a result of stereotypes around sexuality and relationships. Furthermore, the Commission’s Policy on HIV/AIDS-related Discrimination recognizes that the erroneous perception of AIDS as a “gay disease” may have a disproportionate effect on gay men and may result in discrimination the basis of both sexual orientation and perceived disability.”

After analyzing recent Court decisions, the paper concludes (p. 28) with:

“An intersectional analysis can be informed by developments in gender equality analysis, critical race analysis, disability rights analysis and equality rights jurisprudence. These strategies have developed to address the stereotypes, as well as the unique and intersecting experiences of individuals, because of race or gender or disability and would form a necessary part of the contextual and analytical framework. An intersectional analysis can become one of the lenses through which the social context of the individual can be examined. In some measure, it can address social conditions relating to poverty, low income and homelessness.

“In some cases, grounds such as sex, race, or disability, to name just a few, may intersect and together produce unique effects creating “discreet and insular minorities” who are socially handicapped because of these characteristics. At other times, any one of these characteristics may intersect with other grounds such as social assistance, family status and further link to economic and social and class status to create unique experiences for the individuals that are ignored in the current human rights framework. Even when combined with other grounds such as social assistance and family status, the extent of the discrimination may not be revealed by a traditional, non-intersectional approach.”


Ontario Human Rights Commission (2001), An Intersectional Approach to Discrimination – Addressing Multiple Grounds in Human Rights Claims, at, accessed 22 August 2016.

Atlas topic, subject, and course

Diversity, Identity, and Rights (core topic) in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100 Governance and Institutions.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 29 December 2016.

Image: at, accessed 22 August 2016.