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14.01 Introduction

A 1982 Government of Canada document entitled "Elimination of Sexual Stereotyping"1 defines sexual stereotyping as "the use of words, actions, and graphic material that assigns roles or characteristics to people solely on the basis of gender, and without regard for the intrinsic potentials of women and men" and goes on to state that it is the policy of the Government to eliminate sexual stereotyping from all government communications.

Given that communications have a cumulative impact on people’s perceptions, behaviour and aspirations, that most communications reach an audience composed equally of women and men, and that women are the prime target of sexual stereotyping, the document provides a number of guidelines for written communications.

In 1990, the Government of Canada issued "Fair Communication Practices,"2 guidelines to eliminate sexual stereotyping and to ensure the fair and representative depiction of ethnic and visible minorities, Indigenous peoples and people with disabilities. The guidelines are based on the principle that "all individuals, irrespective of gender, ancestry and ethnic origin or disability, are and must be portrayed as equally productive and contributing members of Canadian society." They are intended to help correct biases and stereotypes that constitute barriers to full participation in society. In practical terms, they require that material "be reviewed to eliminate words, images and situations that reinforce erroneous preconceptions or suggest that all or most members of a racial or ethnic group have the same stereotypical characteristics."

This chapter lists many of the stereotyping problems covered in the two federal government documents and in other pertinent material, and shows how those problems can be solved. The objective in each case is to ensure the equal treatment of men and women in written material, to depict all individuals as fully participating members of society, and to eliminate preconceived ideas about their functions and attributes.

Ultimately, the issue boils down to one of courtesy and respect for all, regardless of gender, origin or disability.


  • Back to the note1 Treasury Board, Administrative Policy Manual, Chapter 484.
  • Back to the note2 Treasury Board, Treasury Board Manual, Information and Administrative Management, Appendix E.