Canadian Association of Social Workers

Nova Scotia Mainland Branch

In 1943 Dr. Fred MacKinnon initiated the development of the Nova Scotia Branch of the Canadian Association of Social Workers. At that time there was only one branch covering the entire province and it would be some time before there was a split and the Cape Breton Branch of CASW was formed. According to Dr. MacKinnon, there were six chartered members of the Branch, all of whom were professional social workers. In his interview with Karen Hill in "Oral History of Social Work in Canada", page 17, he cites the following as the six: Fred Mackinnon ( Assistant of Child Welfare for the province of Nova Scotia); Elizabeth Torrey (Executive Director of the CAS of Cape Breton); Miss Jean Fulton (Dependent's Board of Trustees); Gwendolyn Lantz ( CAS of Halifax); Jane Wisdom ( Welfare Officer, Town of Glace Bay); Phyllis Burns and Gwen Shand ( Executive Director, Halifax Council of Social Agencies).

Interviewed on May 24, 2002, Dr. MacKinnon stated that he spearheaded the establishment of a CASW Branch in Nova Scotia because he "... wanted to develop a group of people with a commitment to making social work a viable and acceptable profession in Nova Scotia".

Dr. MacKinnon also stated that the "hot" issue at the time the Branch was being formed was how much technical information in the area of medicine (psychiatry in particular) and law should be specifically adapted to social work education. Apparently, Frances Montgomery was a strong advocate for including a significant amount of such information in the curriculum while social work students were against it.

Minutes of the Nova Scotia Branch meeting on February 18,1948 indicate that Don Coulter, President of the newly formed Cape Breton Branch (also referred to as the Island Branch) and Executive Director of the Children’s Aid Society of Cape Breton attended the meeting. He reported that the Branch currently had ten members and had held its first two meetings. Jane Wisdom was the Vice President of the Cape Breton Branch and Alice MacLeod the Secretary.

Minutes of a meeting of the Nova Scotia Branch on March 10, 1949 indicate there were 24 members present.  At the meeting the Constitutional Committee consisting of Miss. Ada Greenhill (Chair), Sister Gertrude Marie and Miss. Frances Montgomery recommended that the name of the Branch be changed to Nova Scotia Mainland Branch and cover all the Province with the exception of Cape Breton Island.  The change was agreed to by members.

In September of 1949 there was a joint meeting of the Nova Scotia Mainland Branch of CASW and the Cape Breton Branch along with the branches from New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.  F.R. MacKinnon represented the Mainland Branch and Jane Wisdom represented the Cape Breton Branch.  The discussion centered on the common problems all CASW branches were experiencing such as the need to finds ways to interpret social work to the community and enhance the image of the profession.

Prior to the formation of NSASW, there were years of discussion and studies by the members of CASW regarding the development of provincial organizations.  Progress varied by province with some being more ready than others to discuss and proceed with a provincial organization of social workers.  By 1957, however, the matter was once again in the forefront.  That year a Delegate Conference of all CASW Branches was held in Ottawa where a statement on the “Implications of Provincial Organization” was discussed  Delegates at that conference agreed that CASW would consider only one organization from any one province; the aims and purposes of the provincial entity must be of a professional nature, the organization must have a preponderance of support of the CASW membership in that province and its leadership must strive to increase CASW membership within the province.

In January 1963 a proposed Bill to incorporate the Nova Scotia Association of Social Workers was presented to members of the Mainland and Cape Breton Branches of the CASW and both gave unanimous approval. In March 1963 the NSASW came into existance by an act of the provincial legislature and the two branches of CASW disolved to become branches of the provincial association.