Historical Content and Development

CASW was founded in 1926 to monitor employment conditions and to establish standards of practice within the profession. The CASW Code of Ethics has a long tradition of guiding the social work profession in Canada.

(1927-1938)
In 1932 CASW identified ethics as a study project. After thorough discussion in committee, in board meetings, and in branches, a simple code of ethics was adopted in 1938.

(1938-1948)
After 1940, the national committee on ethics was discontinued. It was decided that, in instances of unethical behaviour, the national board or local branches should implement the code on a casework basis rather than a punitive basis, through a special committee appointed by the executive branch or the national board, and that in all cases the social worker involved should have a fair hearing.

(1948-1958)
In the early 1950s, in the light of new developments and new forms of practice, it was decided that the CASW Code of Ethics should be reviewed and revised. After a long period of study, a new Code of Ethics was adopted in 1956 for a testing period of two years. A plan of implementation was adopted suggesting that, if possible, ethical questions be dealt with by a panel of experts at the local level, with reference to the national level only if the issues were too involved for the local group. On only two occasions in this era were questions of serious importance drawn to the attention of the national board.

June 1964
A revised Code of Ethics was adopted by the CASW Board.

June 1983
An amended Code of Ethics was adopted by the CASW Board.

1994
A revised Code of Ethics was adopted by the CASW Board.

2002-2005
Given changes in knowledge and practice, CASW decided to consider a review of the 1994 CASW Code of Ethics. In light of current literature and the need for the CASW Code of Ethics to be consistent with both international and provincial developments in Codes of Ethics, in 2002 the CASW Board decided to revise the CASW Code of Ethics.

Process for Developing Code of Ethics
From the beginning, CASW planned to develop a new Code of Ethics that incorporated current research as well as the knowledge, experience, and expertise of CASW member organizations and local experts. The new Code of Ethics was developed in three phases.

Phase 1: Critical Appraisal of the Literature (September 2002)
Objective: To conduct a focused review of the relevant professional and bioethics literature and prepare a report of salient concepts and issues.
Outcome: A report entitled CASW-ACTS Project to Research and Develop a National Statement of Ethical Principles Phase I: Critical Appraisal of the Literature (2002) was developed and is available on the Members’ Site of the CASW website.

Phase 2: Review of International Codes of Ethics (December 2002)
Objective: To conduct a comparative analysis of the 1994 CASW Code of Ethics and codes of ethics from the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW), Australia, Britain, and the United States. To conduct an analysis of relevant provincial/territorial codes of ethics and selected standards of practice, as they relate to ethical issues.
Outcome: A report that indicated the similarities and differences between the CASW Code of Ethics and other documents, which led to a recommendation that CASW revise the Code of Ethics.

Phase 3: Consultation on Draft CASW Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Ethical Practice (March 2003-November 2004)
Objective: To draft a Code of Ethics that incorporates knowledge from phase 1 and phase 2 as well as includes information received from consultations with member organizations and other experts in the field of ethics.

Process of Consultation:
• CASW Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Ethical Practice were drafted
(March 2005).
• Each CASW member organization was given a copy of the draft Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Ethical Practice and encouraged to obtain local review and provide written feedback.
• Personal consultation was held with presidents of provincial/territorial social work associations (Spring 2003).
• Feedback received from consultations was incorporated into a revised copy of the CASW Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Ethical Practice.
• Second draft was circulated to CASW member organizations, lawyers, and experts with experience in social work ethics for comment.
• Teleconference was held to discuss key issues in which changes were being introduced, and local experts were invited to a discussion about the new Code (Fall 2003).
• Personal consultation was held with presidents of provincial/territorial social work associations (Spring 2004).
• Further revisions, based on consultations, were incorporated, and drafts of the Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Ethical Practice were submitted to the CASW Board for approval (Fall 2004).
• CASW Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Ethical Practice were ratified and signed by all CASW member organizations (June 2005).