I am not sure of the exact dates during which I was president of our association, except to recall that it was early in the 1970s. I do recall that it was a busy position that I quickly learned could only be discharged through the able assistance of the staff in Ottawa.
Many things were happening in those days, in the country and indeed in the whole world, that influenced the ongoing development of social work. Within the country the increased interest and importance of bilingualism was a topic of considerable import for the profession. Interwoven with this was the understanding of the challenges of a country of Canada’s size in which strong bonds of commonality held us together, yet important issues of regional and provincial differences required specific and unique provincial attention.
Among the many issues that cut across federal and provincial interests and jurisdictions was the question of legislative recognition of the profession and the related questions of legislatively based professional control. Important as this question was from a national perspective, the understanding remained that, in the distribution of powers between the provinces and the country, control of professions rested in the hands of the provinces.
This fact led to a growing clarity of understanding that, as we sought for legislative recognition and some level of control, each province had its unique challenges, history and interests in the type of legislation that would best suit its needs. It also became clear that many other provincial social policy and service issues required the ability of the profession to act in a visible and distinct provincial voice.
As I came into the presidency, it was evident that we needed to move to a different kind of professional organizational structure: one that could continue the important responsibilities of a national association and as well maintain the history and voice of the differential needs of the profession in each province.
I would have to review the minutes of those days to speak precisely of the process and issues that faced this transition of structure. My recollection is that, apart from a nostalgic fear that as we moved to a provincially based structure CASW would be weakened and its historic role in the profession diminished, there was little conflict around the need to move in this direction. Rather, the issues focused on the shape that such an organization would take to allow us to act provincially when necessary and as a country as a whole when that was needed. Included in the appreciation for a continuing need for a strong national structure was the growing importance of international social work and the significant role that Canada was playing.
Eventually a proposed structure emerged after many, many hours of meetings and discussion. When finally the new structure for our profession was approved, we moved into an important new chapter in the profession’s history.
Many other national professional matters came before the board during those days, but the development of the new “persona” of our profession is the one I remember best. I am pleased and honoured that as president I was able to play a part.
Francis J. Turner, Professor Emeritus, Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty of Social Work