The Road to Licensure: A Summary

The following is a summary of the 30 year period from the passage of the first Social Workers Act in 1963, a form of voluntary registration, to liscensure in 1993, the highest form of social work regulation. The licensing legislation ensures that the Association will be self-regulating which means that the members of the Association are responsible to ensure that resources are available to regulate the profession and protect the public.

From the beginning, the question of licensure was discussed but the legal advice at the time was that the timing was not right to win acceptance from the government. Therefore, it was decided to proceed with a lesser form of regulation and to revist licensure at a more favourable time in the future.

1963 - Legislation was approved to establish a form of voluntary registration which at the time was a major effort to formalize the profession in Nova Scotia. NSASW was the second provincial association to gain control of a specific title through legislation. It protected the title, "RSW" but not the title "social worker" which meant that anyone could label themselves a social worker without adhereing to the educational and practice standards and the code of ethics of the profession. Holding all persons accountable who referred to themselves as social workers was not possible under this form of regulation.

1960''s - The issue of membership eligibility occupied the energy of the NSASW during this period. There was conflict among the membership about opening up the association to include those working in the social work field who did not have formal social work education. A committee was appointed to study the question of a more open membership which culminated with a meeting in Truro where a decision was made by the association to open the membership. This decision was later reversed because it was found to be a violation of the Association''s constitution and there was a danger that the decision would split the Association.

1972 - With membership eligibility out of the way, the Association was able to turn to the question of regulation of practice. A general meeting of the membership discussed several regulatory alternatives: an effort to have employers require that the RSW be a condition of employment for social work staff; work toward licensing; and work to have the association recognized as a union under the Labour Relations Act.
1974 - A committee to study certification and licensing prepared by Dorothy Moore emphasized that for this stronger form of regulation to be seen as effective, it would have to be vigorously enforced which meant that appropriate resources would need to be available to the regulating body. A motion passed by the NSASW 1974 AGM to approve the principal of the feasibility of licensing.

1975 - A report by Gail Daniluck on the control of practice surveyed the Canadian and United States scenes and alternative models for regulation. Her report indicated that to exclude persons from licensing legislation seems to defeat the purpopse of licensing which is to protect the public from unqualified professionals.

1977 - The Cape Breton Branch of NSASW completed a survey which indicated that licensing was the second of ten important objectives.

1982 - A study conducted by the CASW on, "Social Work Regulation in Canada: 1926 - 1982", concluded that many social workers across Canada saw voluntary regulation as inadequate and wanted to see a stronger form of regulation to adequately protect the public and strengthen the profession. Securing legialation requires the consistent efforts over a long period of time by a committed group of social workers as well as professionals from law. The formula for achieving successful legislation is a complicated mixture of clarity of terms, coordinating with government agendas, conflicting loyalities to unions, a clear distinction between the profession and the regulatory body, and the resources that are needed to carry out the work.

1983 - A resolution was passed at the AGM to poll the membership by mail ballot as to the desire of members to explore a higher degree of regulation of the profession. The results indicated that over two thirds wished to change the Social Workers Act to reflect a greater form of regulation. In November a committee was struct to begin work toward licensure.

1986 - A change of course was made at the AGM when the membership passed a resolution that mandatory registration be made the the Association''s first goal. The reason given that mandatory registration would have a better chance of being successful because of the perception of government support at that time.

1987 - For two years the committee worked with legal counsel to prepare amendments that would reflect mandatory registration which were circulated to the membership and presented at a special October meeting for ratification.

1988 - The NSASW Council set up a consultation committee consisting of Marilyn Peers, Gwen Fitzgerald, and Mike Marentte to get input from the membership on how the Association could be better structured and any views on future legislation. In December the committee met with Carmen Moir, the Deputy Minister of Community Services and his staff to discuss the proposed amendments. Members of the committee attending were: Ms. Marilyn Peers (President), Ms. Freda Bradley (1st Vice -President), and Dr. Daniel O''Brien. A letter to the Minister of Community Services, Mr. Guy LeBlanc, was also sent asking for his support of the amendmants when brought forward in the legislature.

1989 - As a result of the consultation, there was a unanmous vote by the members present at the AGM to change the focus from mandatory registration to licensing and amendmants were prepared and sent to the Minister of Community Services for presentation in the Legislature. A licensure committee was established, chaired by Vicki Wood, to educate the membership on the proposed amended legislation.

1991 - A special meeting in June of the membership was held at the Maritime School of Social Work to provide information and to continue open dialogue with the membership concerning the proposed licensing legislation. A renewed commitment to continue lobbying for licensure was made. Members of the committee also attended similar regional meetings in Sydney, Antigonish, Amherst, Yarmouth, and New Glasgow. In addition politians were lobbied to support the legislation in order to achieve the goal of licensure. A report prepared by Cameron MacDougall, RSW for the June meeting set out the historical background and options available to members at the time.

1992 - The several regions of the Association were asked to approch their local MLA''s to seek support for the licensing legislation By the end of the year prominant MLA''s Roland Thornhill, John Leefe, Joel Matheson, David Nantes, Roger Bacon, Dr. Jim Smith, and Al Mosher all expressed support.

1993 - Legislation passed to provide for licensing which was implemented in April 1994.