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4.11 Races, languages and peoples

Capitalize nouns and adjectives referring to race, tribe, nationality and language:

  • Amerindian
  • Anglophone
  • Arabic
  • Caucasian
  • Cree
  • Francophone
  • French
  • Indian
  • Inuk (plural: Inuit)
  • Métis

Do not capitalize the word allophone, which refers to a person whose first language is neither English nor French and which is used with specific reference to Quebec.

The form of some words may vary depending on the meaning:

  • Highlander (inhabitant of the Scottish Highlands)
    • highlander (inhabitant of any highland area)
  • Aborigine (one of the indigenous peoples of Australia)
    • aborigine (indigenous inhabitant of a region)
  • Pygmy (member of a group of African peoples)
    • pygmy (small in stature; insignificant)

Capitalize the singular and plural forms of the nouns Status Indian, Registered Indian, Non-Status Indian and Treaty Indian, as well as the adjectives Indigenous and Aboriginal, when they refer to Indigenous people in Canada.

Note the differences in meaning of the following noun phrases:

  • Indigenous person (one individual)
    • Example: Any Indigenous person in Alberta is eligible under this program.
  • Indigenous persons, Indigenous people (more than one person)
    • Example: The conference could not have succeeded without the help of almost a thousand Indigenous people from all over Saskatchewan.
  • Indigenous peoples (two or more Indigenous groups)
    • Example: Representatives from three Indigenous peoples were present.

For further information on the representation of Indigenous peoples in written communications, see Chapter 14 Elimination of Stereotyping in Written Communications.

14.12 Elimination of Racial and Ethnic Stereotyping, Identification of groups

Be aware of the current self-identification preferences of racial and cultural groups in Canada:

  • Black(s), not Negro(es)
  • ethnic (or cultural) minorities, not ethnics
  • Indigenous people(s) in Canada, not Indigenous Canadians
  • Inuk (singular), Inuit (plural), not Eskimo
  • Métis, not Metis

Note that the term African American is gaining currency in the U.S.A.

Note also that the terms used to designate the Indigenous peoples of Canada have undergone considerable change in recent years. Although the Canadian Constitution Act, 1982, uses the term aboriginal peoples in the lower case, the words Aboriginal and Indigenous have since come to be capitalized when used in the Canadian context. The terms currently preferred are the following:

  • Indigenous people(s)
  • First people(s)