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The fact that some people have more social power and access to privilege than others leads to oppression of less powerful groups. In Canadian society, less powerful people include those who fall outside of the white, heterosexual, middle-/upper-class, able-bodied “norm.” Oppression happens when less powerful people are shut up, ignored, shut out, seen as “abnormal,” and looked down upon. Oppression comes in many forms (e.g., sexism, racism, heterosexism), and people can experience different kinds of oppression at the same time.

Oppression also occurs on a systemic level, based on the way that societies and the world have been created and are maintained to suit the needs, desires, and wants of powerful groups. Systems that have historically run in oppressive ways include the mass media, schools, all levels of government, policy-making institutions, religious organizations, and corporations. Oppression is a form of economic, social, and political exploitation that affirms a system hierarchically arranged as superior and inferior. There is a gross imbalance of power in this system.

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