Grassroot organizations leading the charge for equity, inclusion and racial justice

Closeup of diverse people joining their hands

On the next #HCLDR tweetchat, we welcome guest host Angela J. Carter, MA – @ajwcarter. Angela is the Executive Director at Roots Community Services, Inc, in Brampton, Ontario, Canada. She is leading a team of community leaders focused on dismantling anti-Black racism and systemic discrimination.

Angela will be leading us in a discussion about how grassroots organizations can lead the change for equity. Join the discussion on Tuesday November 22nd at 8:30pm ET (for your local time click here).

Below is the wonderful blog that Angela wrote to lay the groundwork for the tweetchat.

Special thank you to the Canadian College of Health Leaders @CCHL_CCLS for organizing this week’s chat.

Blog by Angela J. Carter

It is amusing to see the many titles given to inclusion, equity, diversity, racial equity and social justice positions and policies. There are Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) managers and departments. Or is it EDI or IDE? An article was published not long ago in which the author was actually arguing the point that it must be DIE because you have to have diversity first, then foster inclusivity to achieve equity. Recently, Truth and Reconciliation have been added to the list.

Each of these concepts is very important but there is concern that these are just titles to many people who don’t comprehend the deeper meaning and impact associated with them. During the past two and a half years when the COVID-19 pandemic unearthed the grave inequities, discrimination and racism within society, many government officials, business leaders and individuals felt compelled to make pledges to tackle these issues by implementing diversity, equity and inclusion managers and teams.

But how meaningful are these pledges? Will these teams address the issues or will they settle for superficial training workshops? Will the systems changes that are needed to truly realize equity and justice be dismantled?

The fight for equal rights, inclusion, racial equity and social justice is not new. For centuries downtrodden groups have been seeking fair and equal treatment, protesting abuse and oppression at the hands of a powerful few. There was the suffrage movement of the early 20th century in which women demanded the right to vote and the feminist movement which had it beginnings in the 1800s.The most notable in recent history is the Civil Rights movement in the United States which was a struggle for social justice that took place mainly during the 1950s and 1960s for African Americans to gain equal rights under the law.

Here in Canada we had our own civil rights “moment” in 1946 when Viola Desmond refused to give up her seat in the front section of a segregated movie theatre in new Glasgow, Nova Scotia, to sit in the balcony where Black people were only allowed to sit. Ms. Desmond, a business woman, was jailed and charged but didn’t back down and, with support from the Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NSAACP), she fought the case right up to the Supreme Court. Even though her conviction was not overturned, the case galvanized Black Nova Scotians into seeking an end discrimination in their province.

Then there is the Orange Shirt day, the “every child matters” movement that officially began in 2013 to recognize and commemorate the survivors of Indian residential schools. This became even more poignant in 2021 when 215 bodies of children were found buried on the grounds of a residential school in British Columbia, bearing credence to what Indigenous peoples were saying for decades. September 30 is recognized each year as a day to commemorate the brutal treatment of Indigenous people and to focus on healing and reconciliation.

Equated with the Civil Rights Movement is the Black Lives Matter movement which started in the United States in 2013, after George Zimmerman who killed 13-year-old Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Black teenager, the previous year was acquitted. This case gained a lot of attention and in response, activists began the Black Lives Matter organization. The movement gained further awareness after the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. But it was in May 2020 after the murder of George Floyd by police was filmed and shown around the world that the movement went viral and global.

These movements were started by grassroots organizations and citizens who couldn’t stand the injustices being meted out to certain sectors of society. Governments seem to lag behind the work of these community associations, enacting laws following widespread protests and disruptions expressing the discontent and unwillingness to accept the status quo. The Civil Rights movement spawned affirmative action in the US which was initiated by President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration in the 1960s. The affirmative action policies were instituted under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and an executive order in 1965 prohibiting businesses that received federal from discriminating “because of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin.[1]

The unrests in the United States were also being felt in Canada. In 1971, the Canadian government introduced the Multiculturalism Policy due to pressures from “growing assertiveness of Canada’s Indigenous people, the force of Québécois nationalism and increasing resentment on the part of some ethnic minorities regarding their place in society”.[2]

While some changes were realized, the conditions didn’t change much and as immigrants from all around the world came to Canada, the calls for equity and equally, especially in the workplace continued. In 1986 the Canadian government adopted the Employment Equity Act (EEA), with the purpose of encouraging federally regulated private sector employers with 100 or more employees to improve the employment situation of four groups of people under-represented at work: women, aboriginal people, people with disabilities, and members of visible minorities.[3] The purpose of the EEA was to achieve equality in the workplace and to correct the conditions of disadvantage in employment experienced by the four designated groups 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.[4]

Despite these changes and subsequent amendments to the various Acts by successive governments, the fight for equity, diversity, inclusion, racial equity and social justice still continues, especially among Black, Indigenous and other racialized communities as well as people with disabilities and LGBTQ2S+ groups. Many would argue that the changes implemented by governments are not system changes that remove barriers to equity, especially barriers of implicit biases, prejudices and discrimination that are ingrained in attitudes and belief. History has shown that the work rests with grassroots organizations and individuals who fundamentally believe that systems needs to be dismantled to effect meaningful change.

The momentum around DEI, racial and social justice that was generated during the CIVID-19 pandemic must not wane. There seems to have been an awakening for many people who had a lot of time during the lockdowns to think about and digest the inequities, disparities, lack of access and discrimination within society. Government, institutions, corporations, businesses and individuals must look beyond superficial checklists to tick off when they develop a policy or host a workshop and should be held accountable for the pledges they made to remove barriers to equity and inclusion. This work will only be done by community-led, grassroot organization.


[1] Excerpt on Affirmative Action from Brittannica at

[2] Canadian Multiculturalism, Background Paper, Library of Parliament, Ottawa. Published September 15, 2022.

[3] Pocket Guide to Employment Equity. The Professional Institute of the Public Service Of Canada, October 2007.

[4]   Pocket Guide to Employment Equity. The Professional Institute of the Public Service Of Canada, October 2007.


The role of grassroots organizations in promoting equity and diversity

On Tuesday November 22nd at 8:30pm EST we will be discussing the following topics on #HCLDR:

  1. During COVID-19 were grassroots testing & vaccination efforts less effective, as effective, or more effective than public health efforts? Why?
  2. What can hospitals and government agencies learn from grassroots organizations (charities, faith-based groups) when it comes to equity, inclusion, and cultural awareness?
  3. How can governments, hospital leaders, and business leaders who want to promote equity and diversity change their own environments? Revising policies? Training staff? Creating partnerships? Building personal capacity?
  4. What data should be collected to determine if these equity and diversity initiatives are making a difference? How will we know when we are making progress?

Author Bio

Angela J. Carter, MA – @ajwcarter

Angela Carter, MA, is the Executive Director at Roots Community Services Inc., in Brampton, Ontario. Roots Community Services Inc., a multi-service organization serving primarily the BAC communities in the regions of Peel and Halton, is leading a team of community leaders focused on dismantling anti-Black racism and systemic discrimination from within systems, institutions and organizations to create a socially just society for all. Roots Community Services is also part of a coalition seeking to establish an integrated primary care and social services hub for BAC and other racialized communities within Peel Region.

Additional Reading

The role of grassroots community organizations in transforming healthcare systems to achieve health equity – Angela J. Carter, MA

Healthcare Management Forum, November 2022, Workplace strategies to successfully operationalize the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion

Event listing (with participation instructions): Forum Tweetchat – The role of grassroots organizations in promoting equity and diversity





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