Employee Equity Census FAQs and the importance of language

Language is constantly evolving. EDI language is a point-in-time, intended with respect.

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“Why is it that…we have such difficulty even imagining a different sort of society from the one whose dysfunctions and inequalities trouble us so? We appear to have lost the capacity to question the present, much less offer alternatives to it. Why is it so beyond us to conceive of a different set of arrangements to our common advantage?  Our shortcoming—forgive the academic jargon—is discursive. We simply do not know how to talk about these things.”

Dr. Tony Judt, PhD, Oct. 19, 2009


Language evolves, and language around equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) evolves at a more rapid pace than many other social phenomena.

While there are different ways under different perspectives to identify and qualify language, the intent of UCalgary’s Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (OEDI) is to use language – first and foremost – based on respect and doing no harm.




Aboriginal/Indigenous peoples

“Aboriginal” is defined by the Government of Canada as First Nations (S\status, non-status), Métis, or Inuit, and was established by the federal government as an umbrella term for diverse Indigenous peoples in Canada. However, this may not be how individuals identify. Instead, individuals may identify as Cree, Blackfoot, Dene, Inuit, Métis, Mi’kmaq, Mohawk, or Nakota Sioux, etc. All of these identities are part of the umbrella term of Aboriginal Peoples and Indigenous nations. Aboriginal/Indigenous peoples and nations may also include Canada. Statistics Canada. Source

Equity-Deserving Groups

The language, “Equity-Deserving Groups” has come to replace that of “Equity-Seeking Groups.” During his installation address as vice-president and principal at the University of Toronto Scarborough, Dr. Wisdom Tettey , PhD, challenged the academic community to, “start by thinking of, and relating to, those who are marginalized or are constrained by existing structures and practices as ‘equity-deserving groups’ and not ‘equity-seeking groups’ – a concept which, while well-intentioned, perpetuates a perception of these groups as interlopers.” Dr. Wisdom Tettey, “Inspiring Inclusive Excellence” (Feb. 25, 2019). Source

Employment Equity Act

The Employment Equity Act, 1986 (amended in 1995), emerged out of the Royal Commission on Equality in Employment chaired by Judge Rosalie Silberman Abella, who coined the concept and approach as a contrast to affirmative action in the United States. “The purpose of this Act is to achieve equality in the workplace so that no person shall be denied employment opportunities or benefits for reasons unrelated to ability and, in the fulfillment of that goal, to correct the conditions of disadvantage in employment experienced by women, aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities, persons with disabilities and members of visible minorities by giving effect to the principle that employment equity means more than treating persons in the same way but also requires special measures and the accommodation of differences.”  (Employment Equity Act (1995, c.44). Source

Federally Designated Groups

The language of “designated groups” emerged out of the Royal Commission on Equality and Employment (chaired by Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella) in 1984, the Employment Equity Act, 1986, and the Federal Contractor’s Program, 1986. The Canadian Race Relations Foundations defines “designated groups” as follows: “Social groups whose individual members have been historically denied equal access to employment, education, social services, housing, etc. because of membership in the group.” The four “federally designated groups” include: women, Aboriginal peoples (First Nations, Métis, and Inuit), persons with disabilities (visible and invisible), and members of visible/racialized minorities (Arab, Black, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Latin American, Korean, South Asian, Southeast Asian, West Asian). Source.

Gender (Gender Identity, Gender Expression)

Gender is defined as how a person feels internally (gender identity) and/or how a person expresses their self-identity publicly (gender expression) in their daily life, including at work, while shopping or accessing other services, in their housing environment or in the broader community. A person’s gender may change over time. A person’s current gender may differ from the sex a person was assigned at birth and may differ from what is indicated on current legal documents. Statistics Canada defines gender as inclusive of gender identity and gender expression. Source


The acronym refers to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Two-Spirit (Indigenous) and “plus” to signify that these letters in the “Queer Alphabet” are inclusive of, but not limited to, the possibilities encompassed by these letters. For example, the letters in the acronym may be differently ordered, for example as 2SLGBTQ+, LGBT, LGBTI and 2SLGBTQIA. See Government of Canada LGBTQ2S Secretariat and Action Plan. 

Persons with Disabilities and Deaf Persons

A person with a disability is someone who has a “long-term or recurring physical, mental, sensory, psychiatric or learning impairment(s)” (for the purposes of this questionnaire “long-term” is defined as lasting more than six months). A person considers themselves to be disadvantaged in employment by reason of that disability or believes that an employer or potential employer is likely to consider them to be disadvantaged in employment by reason of that disability. This also includes persons with disabilities who have been accommodated in their current job or workplace (e.g., by the use of technical aids, changes to equipment or other working arrangements).


Queer has been reclaimed to refer to identities and a community. It is an umbrella term that encompasses persons across a spectrum of gender and sexual identities and orientations. Some use queer primarily to refer to pangender and pansexual identities, genderqueer, and others to also include persons who are non-monogamous and non-binary. Queer is an expansive term that captures the heterogeneity, complexity, fluidity, and changing dimensions of gender and sexual identities over time and space.

Religion, Spirituality or Belief System

Persons at the UCalgary may variously self-identity by religion, religious affiliation, spirituality, or belief system. Religion may include a person's self-identification as belonging to a community of faith, as having a connection or affiliation with any organized religion, denomination or other religiously defined community or system of belief; that person may or may not hold membership in a specific religious body or organization. Persons can also self-identify by belief systems that include, among others, atheist, agnostic, spiritual or humanist. The 2021 Canadian Census identifies various religions, religious groups, and denominations. Source.

Sex (Sex Assigned at Birth)

The sex of a person typically refers to sex assigned at birth (e.g. male, female, intersex) by a medical practitioner based on physiological or biological attributes, and that may appear on current legal documents. Since the incorporation of gender identity into the Canadian Human Rights Act, there has been a shift from “sex” to “gender”, or to “gender identity” and “gender expression.” 


Sexual Orientation or Sexual Identity

Refers to a person’s self-identity as a member of community that shares an enduring emotional, romantic or sexual attraction to other persons who may be of the opposite sex or gender (heterosexuality), the same sex or gender (homosexuality), to two sexes or genders (bisexuality), to more than one sex or gender (pansexuality or polysexual), or to no particular sex or gender (asexuality). A person`s sexual orientation is not synonymous with their gender identity.


Transgender is an umbrella term that refers to the self-identification of a person whose gender identity and/or gender expression is different from social and cultural expectations based on the sex assigned at birth by a medical practitioner. Being transgender is not synonymous with a specific sexual orientation. Persons who are transgender may identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, straight, polysexual, and so on.

Visible/Racialized Minority

Visible minority is defined by the Employment Equity Act as a racialized minority who is non-white in colour, and who is not an Aboriginal/Indigenous person, regardless of birthplace or citizenship. The visible minority communities include Arab, Black, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Latin American, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and West Asian. Members of these communities may also self-identify as a “person of colour”, "racialized person” or by an ethnocultural group.


Further Self Identification Information

Data collected through the Employment Equity Census will assist the university in understanding workforce demographics, and to identify and ameliorate any inequities that may impede access to, and success within, UCaglary.

The Census covers several dimensions of self-identification, including sex, gender identity and gender expression, sexual orientation, Indigenous peoples, visible/racialized minority, disability (visible and invisible), religious affiliation and belief systems, and language.

The terminology is primarily based on the current standards used by Statistics Canada and wording is from federal legislation, including the Employment Equity Act and the Federal Contractors Program, as well as consultation with stakeholders, experts, and best practices.

Individuals can and should self-identify with all groups that apply to them.

UCalgary aims to have a workforce population that is diverse and inclusive and reflects the wider communities we serve. The data collected informs progress/measurement in this regard.

All UCalgary employees are asked to complete the voluntary online Census.

This is a voluntary Census. Respondents may choose to answer all, some, or none of the questions. If an individual is not comfortable self-identifying, we ask individuals to select the option “I choose not to answer the questions in this Census at this time."

The data gained from this Census will support evidence-based decision-making. It will also allow us to identify employment trends and address any barriers to participation that may impede an individual’s success at UCalgary.

This Census is newly revised. All employees are asked to review and complete it annually as the information has been updated to reflect evolving equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) language and employment practices.

The Census is confidential. Data is stored in a separate section of your PeopleSoft HR record, accessible only to a restricted number of staff responsible for the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and Human Resources analysis.  Aggregate data will be shared through the institutional EDI Dashboard and with faculty/department leaders. Additionally, Census results will be reported externally to meet legislative and regulatory reporting requirements.


Yes, this data will support the Tri-Agency Dimensions’ pilot at UCalgary. Dimensions recognize that equity, diversity and inclusion increase research excellence, innovation and creativity within the post-secondary sector. This program takes a multidimensional approach to EDI to achieve a research community where all can thrive.

Aggregated results will be shared on the EDI Dashboard and with campus leaders to inform employment strategy and practice to ensure an equitable, diverse, inclusive, and accessible campus community.

Yes. Employees can access the Census at any time through the Employee Self-Service option on the My UCalgary portal to update self-identification information. In addition, employees are asked to review and complete the Census annually.


Your participation is important. Data collected provides information on the demographic composition of our workforce. The Census may unveil gaps in employment which will inform evidence-based, equitable employment practices. This is critical information to understand as only by identifying these barriers and trends can we begin to address them. Ultimately, the purpose of this Census is to enable the university to have an inclusive workforce that better reflects the diversity of the wider community.

Census data will inform UCalgary’s recruitment, selection, hiring, retention, and advancement processes, policies, and practices. The Census is a chance for the university to hold itself accountable and to measure progress against its stated intent to demonstrate an equitable, diverse, inclusive and accessible campus. Baseline data on the socio-demographics of our workforce is necessary to make this vision a reality.

UCalgary can lose external funding sources that are contingent on meeting equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility targets if it cannot demonstrate measurement, action and progress.

Census Use and Privacy

Data are aggregated and provided as a summary; individual identifying information (name; UCID, etc.) is removed. Data are collected, used and disclosed in compliance with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Data is stored in a separate section of your PeopleSoft HR record, accessible only to a restricted to a small number of staff responsible for analysis.

Data will be shared with senior leaders to ensure recruitment, selection, hiring, retention, and advancement processes, policies, and practices demonstrate equity, diversity, and inclusion principles. Aggregated data is also available for all to see on the EDI Dashboard.

Several organizations find this information valuable, including and not limited to:

  • Government (federal, provincial, municipal)
  • Statistics Canada
  • Granting agencies
  • Federal Contractors Program
  • Peer universities
  • External business/research partners
  • Donors

UCalgary demonstrates transparency in its equity, diversity, and inclusion practices by aggregating this information and presenting it on the EDI Dashboard. From a pan-Canadian perspective, UCalgary is a leader in equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives and is a member of the U15 Group of Canadian Research Universities. Other universities with similar levels of transparency also provide access to aggregate information in similar ways, but this is a management decision made at each individual university’s senior leadership level.

Data is stored in a separate section of your PeopleSoft HR record, accessible only to a restricted to a small number of staff responsible for analysis. Data collected are protected by privacy legislation, including the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Long-term, the aggregated data are archived and stored as historical information with appropriate data management and storage measures in place.

Raw data is collected and aggregated in order to provide a summary of results. Once aggregated, responses cannot be linked to any individual.

Applicant Data

The University of Calgary is committed to equitable, diverse, inclusive, and accessible recruitment, hiring, retention, and advancement. While completing the Census is voluntary, we encourage you to complete it to ensure we fulfill our commitment to equitable and inclusive employment. 


UCalgary strives to hire the best. It is important that there are no barriers to attracting and retaining the best available talent. The purpose of having equitable hiring practices is that all people have a fair chance at employment and the best person for the role is hired based on their knowledge, experience, capability, training, aptitude, as well as attitude. In accordance with section 10.1 of the Alberta Human Right Act to ameliorate historical under-representation of equity-deserving groups, some positions will have preferential consideration or targeted recruitment of persons from the equity-deserving groups.

No individually identifiable responses will be made available to the department or faculty to which you are applying. The Human Resources office, or hiring committee will not be provided with any individual response data disclosed in the census. Only an aggregate summary of the applicant pool with be shared with the hiring committee.  Summaries of the responses to this census will be used for identifying recruitment trends and the development of programming to support recruitment.