Scadding Court Community Centre
  • Phone :


  • Address :

    707 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M5T 2W6

  • Email :



Our Stories: Thalia


Systems are the ways that individuals are influenced and affected in society. Systems range from the obvious to the subconscious. The most obvious are things like transit systems, systems of government, educational systems and health care. Less obvious systems are things like media messaging, gentrification and diet culture. Understanding systems is important because everyone in society is affected by systems, though not everyone is affected in the same way. The lessons in this curriculum will give participants the opportunity to understand and identify how systems affect people in society in different ways. Due to the vastness of this topic, we will focus this Knowledge Builder on Systems of Oppression.


Systems of Oppression are discriminatory institutions, structures, or norms that are embedded in the fabric of our society. Oppression is discrimination against a social group that is supported by institutional power. Below is a list of common examples:

  • Ableism
  • Transphobia
  • Capitalism
  • Racism
  • Misogyny
  • Colonialism
  • Ageism
  • Islamophobia
  • Sexism
  • Classism and Elitism
  • White Supremacy

There are three main categories in systematic oppression: individual/interpersonal, cultural, and institutional.


Values, beliefs and feelings that influence the way individuals engage with others and typically results in internalized beliefs by those who are oppressed. Some examples are in the ways in which we are socialized to think about ourselves in comparison to others.


  • Transphobia: A parent asks to have her child moved out of a transgender teacher’s classroom.
  • Heterosexism: A high school teacher assumes all her students are interested in dating classmates of the “opposite” gender.
  • Racism: A student makes fun of another student and uses derogatory/racist terms to mock them about the colour of their skin.


Institutional oppression speaks to the ways in which legal systems, health care, educational systems, employment and housing are all connected in their ability to limit or allow access. Institutions have the capacity to exercise large-scale control over marginalized communities.


  • Racism: An employment agency steers Latina women toward low-paying or custodial positions.
  • Ableism: A principal refuses to invest in a microphone to use during assemblies. He instructs presenters to ‘project their voice’.
  • The City of Toronto has decided to put armrests in the middle of city benches so that people experiencing homelessness cannot rest on them.


Cultural Oppression goes hand-in- hand with institutional and interpersonal/individual oppression. These three types of oppression cannot exist without one another. Cultural oppression speaks to cultural norms, values, and needs of a society.


  • Beauty and attraction are based on white/eurocentric ideals of beauty such as: thin bodies, white bodies, blonde hair, blue eyes and able-bodied individuals.
  • The belief that if you work hard enough anyone can achieve economic success. Those that experience poverty are perceived as lazy or as a consequence of their personal choices.
  • English being the designated “official” language in Canada.


Systematic Oppression is specific to creating barriers for marginalized communities. Its sole purpose is to create challenges and permit those that experience oppression from meeting basic needs or “moving up” as easily or as quickly as those that are not marginalized.


  • Jorge speaks 3 languages, has 20+ years of experience in business management for a large textile company, and graduated with honours in his home country. He is worried about his interview because his English isn’t as fluent as his Spanish; he speaks with an accent and he stutters when he’s nervous.
  • Jessica is applying for the same position as Jorge. She is a recent community college graduate with little experience in management but her father is a friend of someone on the recruitment team. Jessica gets hired for the position over Jorge.


  • Understand the historical context of systematic oppression.
  • Refer back to power and privilege in order to understand how oppression functions. Diversity is getting included in mainstream white, Anglo Saxon culture.
  • Racial Equity is understanding, learning, and giving equal opportunity to people of marginalized races and communities.
  • Marginalized: A person or group of people who are treated as insignificant or are not included in mainstream white culture.

Important Note: Although everyone can be marginalized in different ways, systemically, white people will not experience marginalization in Canada. This is due to the fact that Canadian society still functions under the ideal standard of whiteness. “Reverse racism” is a fallacy; it is not possible due to the power structures that are in place to provide privilege to white people as opposed to Black and racialized people.

Here are some problematic ideas and behaviours that relate to this misconception:

“Straight Pride” – the belief that straight people should also be celebrated and honoured in society in the form of a parade even though they don’t experience violence for being straight.

Pride – the recognition of the violence that cisgender and heterosexual people have enacted against the LGBTQ+ community.

“All Lives Matter” – although everyone’s life matters, this movement was created as a response to feeling left out of the Black Lives Matters movement.

Black Lives Matter – the recognition that Black people constantly face anti-Black racism that ends in deaths where other races do not face this type of violence.

“I’m white, but I’ve also experienced poverty. This makes me oppressed too!”

Although white people also experience poverty, they can still benefit from white privilege because the world still regards their whiteness as valuable and this can provide them access to future employment, housing, education, etc. Racialized people will not receive the same treatment or opportunity regardless of class.


Levels and Types of Oppression (Anti-Oppression Resource and Training Alliance)
Equity 101 (The University of Toronto Student’s Union Executive)


Approx. 60-75 minutes

Note for Facilitators: It is essential that this lesson is presented before any other lesson. This lesson establishes the foundational knowledge needed to support the learning that will happen in other lessons. It also focuses on creating an environment of respect among participants that is needed to create as safe of an environment as possible for learning from these vulnerable stories.

The primary goal of this lesson is to ensure that participants understand what Systems, Barriers and Access are and how to identify them in the stories that you will watch. Please make sure you have read all of the Knowledge Builders before presenting this lesson. Though each topic will not be explicitly touched upon in this lesson, you will need to have a solid understanding of what they all are to help your participants build their own knowledge.


Develop a “Contract of Respect” with participants, use Thalia’s story to practice identifying Systems, Barriers and Access.


Racism, Anti-Black Racism, Ageism, Child Protective Services, Depression, Mental Health.

PREPARATION- Load Thalia’s Our Stories Video;
- Make copies of the Viewing Aid;
- Gather chart paper, markers, writing utensils.
5 mins
REVIEW- Check-in with your participants;
- Emotionally prepare your participants.
5 mins
CONTRACT CREATION- Put up a blank piece of chart paper so that it’s visible to all participants;
- Write "Contract of Respect" at the top of the page and "We agree that…" on the line below it;
- Tell participants that they will be coming up with a "Contract of Respect" that they will sign and be expected to follow during the duration of the "Our Stories" lessons;
- Instruct participants to collaborate and come up with rules that they can all agree are important to be followed;
- Write each rule down on the chart paper;
- Tell participants that they will review the contract again at the end of the lesson before signing.
10 mins
INTRO TO LANGUAGE & CONCEPTS- We advise against using a chalkboard to complete this activity. Using chart paper allows for the knowledge to be visible during future lessons;
- Write "Barriers" "Systems" and "Access" on three different pieces of chart paper;
- Using the knowledge you gained from the Knowledge Builders to explain the concepts to your participants. Use language you see fit for their age and ability. You can refer to the Viewing Aid for guidance on appropriate phrasing and prompting questions;
- Once you’ve explained all three concepts, help your participants come up with examples for each. Don’t be afraid to ask a participant to elaborate on a suggestion or tell them that a suggestion doesn’t quite fit. If an important concept is not suggested, ask a guiding question to illicit its response or add it in yourself.
10-15 mins
VIEWING- Watch Thalia’s video as a group;
- Tell participants to think about the Systems, Barriers and Access while watching;
- Remember your "During Each Lesson" tips.
7-10 mins
ACTIVITY- After watching Thalia’s story, provide each participant with a "Viewing Aid";
- As a group, ask participants to fill in the Viewing Aid as it relates to Thalia’s story;
- If you feel as if an important concept is not being addressed, bring it up yourself;
- Tell participants that they will have access to the use of a Viewing Aid in future lessons.
10-15 mins
EDITING THE CONTRACT- Revisit your contract with your participants;
- Ask them if they want to add anything else to it after watching Thalia’s story and learning about the concepts you presented;
- Once the contract is to everyone’s liking, have each participant sign and date it;
- Keep this contract displayed and visible in the room during future lessons. You can use it to refer to when addressing disrespectful or concerning behaviour;
- Let participants know that they can edit or add to the contract at any point as they engage with more stories;
5-10 mins
DEBRIEF- Refer to "After Each Lesson" for specifics.5 mins