Key messages

An ARAO Framework: personal and organizational planning and change for better client outcomes. An Anti-racism/ Anti-oppression (ARAO) framework, at an organizational level, is a way of looking at our work in the sector, which allows us to change our personal and systemic practices in order to reduce or eliminate service barriers for our clients. It is a process that starts with continuous self-reflection as individuals and as organizations, but moves the organization (its staff, its volunteers and peers, and its board of directors) to concrete, planned changes to policy and programs – changes that result in better health outcomes for our clients.

History’s legacy, its connection to identity, and its resulting barriers to health outcomes. Fundamental to understanding the need for such a framework is understanding the roots of inequity and oppression – including the particular history of racism in Canada — and how this history plays out in terms of barriers to health and social services. Also important is an understanding of how people belong to more than one category or social location at the same time, and they experience the world based on the intersection of all of those identities. This concept of experience based on overlapping identities is known as intersectionality.

Our organizational role means power over clients. Our identities, and the identities of our clients, are complex and multiple and sometimes they change over time. We must also understand how identities can change depending on what position a person occupies in any given role or situation. What this means in our organizations is that, by virtue of being a staff, volunteer or peer, we hold positional power over clients – power based on the position we hold, even as front-line workers, volunteers or peers – even though we may have less power in situations outside of the workplace, or with respect to managers.

An ARAO framework is inextricably connected to the goals of our work. We have a choice: we can either perpetuate or work to break down inequity and oppression. The goals of an ARAO framework are not separate from the goals of our HIV, Hep C, harm reduction and housing support programs: our clients experience barriers in the health, social service and housing systems. These include barriers, imposed by us, to preventing HIV & Hep C infection, to reducing harms, and/or to achieving a suppressed viral load and to living healthy and happy lives. Our goal is to recognize our power, to be allies to our clients, and then to make changes to the way we provide service. And, as our clients and the world changes, we must be willing to continue to change over time.

What does this mean locally / at your organization?

We suggest you chat with your supervisor and/or colleagues and learn about the following:

  • What policy changes your agency has made to ensure equity to all employees and members of the community you serve?
  • What actions your agency are taking to be part of the solution?


Core curriculum training

While no HRO Core Curriculum exists, several HRO members offer more in-depth training and support and some basic level training is available for free online. Some of these are noted below.’


Learn more here