Ontario has the most culturally diverse population in the country. It is home to 54 percent of the visible minorities in Canada as well as the largest percentage of people who identify as Aboriginal of any of the other provinces or territories.

Ontario is also the lead destination for Canadian newcomers, and their children are more likely to go to college or university than children whose parents were born in Canada. The study Pathways of Immigrant Youthfinds that immigrants tend to have high expectations for success, which motivates their children to succeed.

Ontario’s postsecondary student body reflects this deepening provincial diversity. College and university campuses are increasingly ethno-racial, linguistic and religiously diverse places. This growing diversity requires that postsecondary institutions adapt to meet new needs of students including considerations around language barriers and cultural adjustment. Departments that support students’ mental health need to create safe and inclusive environments that are reflective of diversity and promote resilience.

These tools were designed to support providers with resources to help them incorporate cultural competency and health equity into their campus policies, programs and procedures in order to better respond to the needs of their growing diverse student bodies.

Start to explore equity tools and resources now!

What is Cultural Competency?

Cultural competency is a professional skill that enables staff and organizations to serve their diverse clients effectively and competently. Beyond simply treating diverse clients with sensitivity, culturally competent organizations actively identify and remove any barriers that prevent them from accessing and participating in the organization’s programs and services. Being culturally competent enables service providers to provide equitable and student-centered care.

What are Culturally Competent Services?

The Child Welfare League of America defines cultural competence as the “ability of individuals and systems to respond respectfully and effectively to people of all cultures, classes, races, ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, and faiths and religions, in a manner that recognizes, affirms, and values the worth of individuals, families and communities, and protects and preserves the dignity of each.”

What is Health Equity?

The Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) has identified equity as a key component of quality care. Research has established that social and economic barriers – such as poverty, social exclusion, job security, and level of education – are equally important to a person’s health status than personal health behaviours or medical care. These factors, known as social determinants of health, have a significant impact on one’s wellbeing.

Marginalized individuals such as immigrants, Aboriginal people, single parent families and people living in poverty tend to face many of these barriers and, consequently experience disparities in their health status. In terms of mental health care, significant inequities exist with regards to how people access and experience services. For example, factors such as gender, race, sexual orientation, immigration status, income and education can influence a person’s access to timely, appropriate and high-quality care.

Health equity is concerned with creating equal opportunities for good health for all and reducing avoidable and unjust differences in health among population groups. There are several tools and resources available to help service providers incorporate healthy equity into policies, programs and procedures. For example, the Ontario Health Equity Impact Assessment (HEIA) Tool was developed by MOHLTC in collaboration with the province’s Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) and Public Health Ontario.

Integrating health equity into an organization is a complicated, ongoing process. It tends to be a continuous process of learning and improvement. Below are some creative ideas for helping to integrate health equity concerns into your policies, programs and procedures. For more experienced practitioners, let us know what you’re seeing on your campus and if these ideas are in line with your strategy!


HEIA Online Course: This free, two-hour, skill-building course teaches participants how to identify and address the health impacts that a plan, policy or program might have on vulnerable or marginalized groups. The HEIA tool itself, which is used extensively in Ontario, was designed by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. The course was developed in collaboration with the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health, Canada’s largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital.

The Cultural Competency Training Program: Originally funded by the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration and delivered by Human Resource Professionals Association (HRPA)  this training program helps organizations become more culturally inclusive and provides strategies to effectively hire, on-board, train and retain culturally diverse candidates/newcomers to Canada. Training is offered either at HRPA Learning Centre or in-house at your institute.

Ontario Core Indigenous Cultural Competency (ICC) Training: This online training is designed for non-Aboriginal health professionals working within Ontario’s health services sector, including primary care, CHC/AHAC, hospitals, CCAC, mental health and addictions health service providers, the Local Helath Integration Networks, Ministry of Health and Long Term Care staff and other Ontario Ministries providing services to Aboriginal communities.

Confederation College Aboriginal Training: Confederation College offers a community based training  to organizations or communities around cultural sensitivity, awareness and competence. It has been designed specifically to increase understanding of Aboriginal cultural lenses.

Cultural Competence: Is a for-profit company offering training, presentations, and educational tools related to managing change, addressing diversity, building organizational cultural competence and leveraging differences at work.

Diversity – Cultural Sensitivity Training – Source Line offers this workplace based workshops and training on cultural sensitivity and exact training content can be custom designed to meet client needs.


Health Equity Impact Assessment Tool:  The HEIA is a decision support tool that walks individuals through the steps of identifying how a program, policy or similar initiative will impact population groups in different ways. HEIA surfaces unintended potential impacts. The end goal is to maximize positive impacts and reduce negative impacts that could potentially widen health disparities between population groups—in short, more equitable delivery of the program, service, policy etc. Effective use of HEIA is dependent on good evidence.

Advancing Equity in Ontario: Key Concepts: The purpose of this discussion paper is to increase understanding within the health system about equity issues in mental health. Despite growing stakeholder interest in health equity, there remains no clear understanding of what equity means in the mental health context, and consequently, no clear plan of action to respond to the challenges faced by Ontario at the policy, planning and practice levels.

CAMH (2014) From the Margins to the Middle: D.I.Y. Health Equity Kit: This is a beginner’s guide for those interested in working toward equity within Ontario’s mental health system and beyond. This kit can be used in many ways. You can use it to: Reflect individually on your own practice; Start a conversation with others; Build understanding within a group; Explore related resources as needed; or Guide project planning

Racial Equity Tools is an excellent website that has close to 2000 resources to help you create change in your organization or community.

Annie E. Casey Foundation (2009). Advancing the Mission: Tools for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. This toolkit offers organizations encouragement of where to start to incorporate equity, diversity and inclusion in their work. It includes an Institutional Assessment Quiz. This collection of tools can be adapted to your organization and are based on a case example. As such, it is only one story, not a prescription.



From college or university campuses:

Check out page 15 of http://www.ousa.ca/dev/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Student-Health-2012.pdf for more on advancing equity issues in postsecondary institutions.