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History of Social Work

The roots of the social work profession in Canada can be traced back to the early 19thcentury, when Canada was a newly founded country basing much of its law on the examples of England. The earliest form of social workers were private citizens who through religious or charitable organizations set out to provide relief to those struggling with the hardships associated with poverty. In 1902 the first Canadian settlement house was established in Toronto, bringing middleclass volunteers and less well-off citizens together under one roof to establish and provide much needed services, as well as to advocate for improved working conditions, housing and education. By the late nineteenth century the notion of a scientific approach to social work which focused on the relationship between person and environment was becoming accepted, and the need for professionally trained workers rather than volunteers had become apparent. As a result, in 1914, Canada’s first school of social work was established at the University of Toronto. A little over a decade later, in 1926, the Canadian Association of Social Workers was formed. The Great Depression of the 1930s with its mass unemployment, as well as the two World Wars played significant roles in the shaping of Canada’s modern day welfare state and the expansion of the social work profession. These historic events prompted the realization that unemployment and poverty were not private personal problems, but rather larger social issues requiring government intervention. This led to the establishment of government-funded social programs and the growing need for trained social workers to run these programs. Today, social workers work in a variety of fields serving diverse populations, and the profession continues to expand as social workers persist in their mission to achieve social justice and ensure the welfare of all people. [1]


[1]. Hick, S. (2006). Social work in Canada: An introduction (2nded.). Toronto, ON: Thompson Educational Publishing Inc.