Moving away from discriminatory public policy

Good morning subscribers and welcome to another edition of the Morning Brief!

Are you curious about how policy-making can strive to be inclusive of all people’s distinct identities? If yes, then you’re in luck! This week’s theme is intersectionality, and how the concept can be applied to policy-making. Read on to learn more about what intersectionality entails as well as to see some real-world challenges that could benefit from its application.

This week’s Morning Brief was prepared by Cindy Liu. Sign up here to receive the Morning Brief directly to your inbox.


  • Intersectionality explains discrimination by exploring the interconnected nature of social categories like gender, race, and sexuality, and how these categories interact with each other to create unique systems of discrimination. The value of intersectionality-based policy-making can be seen in its ability to create policies that account for the needs of people from a variety of distinct identities. This is accomplished by following certain principles, such as addressing inequities in relation to their institutional context. Learn about the other guiding principles of intersectionality with a new edition of the GDPP’s Unpacking Equity Series [Yousefi/PPGR].
  • Many social welfare programs in Canada are targeted at lower-income individuals and families. This “means-tested” approach to welfare assistance is considered justified because people with higher incomes do not require social assistance. However, is this method of welfare assistance truly fair and equitable? Marvin Ferrer argues that “Canada’s non-universal, means-tested approach to benefits has resulted in low- and middle-income Canadians facing dramatically higher marginal effective tax rates (METR) than very wealthy Canadians.” Check out the article to see how a Universal Basic Income could be the solution to making our social welfare programs fairer [Ferrer/PPGR].
  • Residents of Grassy Narrows First Nations did not find out till last week that mercury poisoning is still occurring at the site of a paper mill, and contaminating the Wabigoon River. Government officials had stated on multiple occasions that the mill was cleaned up and mercury poisoning had ended in the 70s. A confidential report by a consulting firm found otherwise – the province knew decades ago that the mill site was contaminated with mercury, and likely still is. This incident is a prime example of the cumulative effects of intersecting issues that impact Indigenous peoples, whose needs are often ignored or poorly addressed by corporations and government officials [Bruser & Poisson/The Star].
  • Kalyb Wiley, a 7-year old hearing-impaired boy, was handcuffed by his school’s law enforcement officer after crying and yelling in the classroom. The disciplinary action traumatized him, and resulted in him being home-schooled for the next two years. Stories like Kalyb’s serve as evidence of how children with disabilities (as well as racial minorities) are often discriminated against by zero-tolerance policies that do not account for intersectionality. Learn more about why these policies are often nicknamed the “school-to-prison pipeline” [Kirk/CityLab].
  • Although there have been significant advances made in LGBTQ rights and equality, there has also been an increase in systemic discrimination and violence against those who identify as LGBTQ in parts of the world. “It is illegal to be gay in over 75 countries around the world and in 5 countries being gay can even be punishable by death.” Discriminatory policies and laws, acts of violence, and criminalization are forcing LGBTQ populations to seek safe haven in other countries, including Canada. How is Canada rising to the challenge of protecting refugees on the basis of their sexual orientation? Listen to the latest BTH episode to find out!

We hope you were one of the lucky ones who just finished reading week and are eager to comb through the latest PPGR articles to get back to learning! For those who didn’t, there’s always that next coffee break. The next edition of the Brief will be making its way to your inboxes on November 22nd.