Registration not the answer

The notion that mandatory registration with a self-regulating professional college, as is suggested by the BCASW for social workers, will somehow magically protect the public from harm caused by fraudulent or abusive practitioners, is a dangerously misleading nonsense.

Canadian history is rife with examples of physicians, pathologists, and dentists who have abused, sexually assaulted, and falsely accused people. All have been members of their various colleges, some on the basis of false credentials, and all have taken years and great investigative diligence by members of the press and the police to be exposed for the hateful shams they have been, and the tragic harms they have caused.

Mainstream investigative programs such as Marketplace and Fifth Estate have programs in their recent and long-term archives documenting this issue, most notably (as regards the practice of social work) involving pathologists generating false and misleading reports that resulted in numerous child abuse prosecutions.

Those prosecutions were unsound, but nonetheless resulted in decades or lifetimes of harm; children wrongly removed from parents, and wrongful convictions and incarcerations.

To be crystal clear: it was not the involved “colleges” that initiated or undertook the primary investigations in these, and so many other cases. That work inevitably falls to legal teams and journalists.

The practice of social work itself, especially in terms of the history of child welfare, has much to answer for. The First Nations communities of this country, and others, have long and bitter experience with flawed child “protection” policies and practices. The existence or absence of any mandatory practitioner’s college has nothing whatsoever to do with those harms.

As a life member of the BCGEU, I can tell you that my organization for years battled previous governments’ initiatives to under-resource and to deskill the practice of social work. It was those government initiatives that resulted in the failed oversight that led to Saunders’ engagement, and practice. Not the lack of mandatory social worker registration.

William A. Downey, BA, BSW.


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