Reminiscences by Gail McDougall

Being elected to the presidency of CASW generated for me a sense of excitement and challenge, as well as a sense of apprehension about my ability to meet the challenge and expectations that came with the position. At that time, CASW was without a permanent executive director, although we had the interim services of staff member Eugenia Moreno. Looking back, I remember several things that stand out as highlights during what was an exciting period in the history of CASW.

Working on the board with colleagues from across the country, who were excited to be working on behalf of the social workers of Canada.

Filling that important vacancy with an Executive Director, Eugenia Repetur Moreno, who has served CASW and the profession with commitment, a passion for social work, and professionalism.

Representing CASW at meetings of the International Federation of Social Workers in Argentina (1990) and seeing the important leadership provided to that organization by two Canadian social workers, Gayle James and Dick Ramsey.

Having the opportunity to serve on the executive of IFSW and to advance the work of social work internationally.

Working for social justice on behalf of the profession. This included a national campaign to protest the imposition of the GST and to highlight the impact of this tax on low-income Canadians. Several thousand social workers responded to the call to write to the prime minister to voice concern. In addition to meeting with federal ministers, we made presentations to parliamentary and senate committees and hearings on issues of social justice and social service delivery whenever the opportunity arose.

Chairing the CASW board that decided to establish National Social Work Week and being present at the first special celebration in Ottawa.

Working with the board and staff to obtain funding from Health Canada to start the ground-breaking work on HIV-AIDS that educated Canadian social workers about this illness and the ways in which social workers could help those affected by it.

Arranging the first meeting of the presidents of member provincial and territorial organizations. These meetings have continued to provide a forum for discussion and collaboration regarding issues facing the profession.

Sharing a vision with others of establishing a regular national social work conference and over the years seeing that vision accomplished.

Many other “highlights” come to mind, as well as the many challenges that had to be faced. I appreciate the opportunity to think back over those years. Without doubt, for me the main highlight was to have the privilege to serve the profession and, through it, those individuals, families, and communities that social work serves. I had the opportunity to meet and work with many fine social workers across the country and, through this experience, to understand more fully the importance of social work’s contribution to strengthening the principles of social justice and human rights that are the foundation of Canadian society.

Gail McDougall, Social Worker