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About Us


Until 1969 when the Social Workers Act came into force, social work in British Columbia was an unregulated profession: if a social worker, or an unqualified person claiming to be a social worker behaved unethically, clients had nowhere to seek a remedy. The Act created the Board of Registration for Social Workers (BRSW) which had the authority, like oversight bodies for other professions, to regulate social work in the public interest.

In the following decades the practice of social work changed substantially as social workers started practising in areas such as mental health care and family relations. The BRSW, all of whose board members were appointed by the government, worked hard to adapt its Standards of Practice to an ever-changing environment and came to realize that both the public and social workers would be best served by a new Act regulating the profession.

In 2008, a new Social Workers Act came into effect creating a new regulatory body, the British Columbia College of Social Workers, with a majority of its Board elected by Registered Social Workers. The Act also established an online registry, maintained by the College, that lists all Registered Social Workers.

The College controls the title, “Registered Social Worker”. Persons describing themselves as social workers generally must register with the College. Those who work for public organizations such as the provincial government or First Nations are not legally required to register. However, many of them choose to register with the College and so make themselves publicly accountable.

Important Dates in the History of Social Work in British Columbia

1871 British Columbia becomes a Province within Canada
1894 Vancouver’s Alexandra Hospital converted into a children’s orphanage
1895 Vancouver Friendly Aid Society founded. Comprised of representatives from municipal, church and private organizations, one of the Society’s major goals is to “relieve all who may be found to be in real distress, especially women and children.”
1901 Children’s Protection Act of British Columbia passed. Children’s Aid Society of Vancouver formed.
1908 Juvenile Delinquents Act passed in Ottawa. Two years later BC establishes first youth courts and detention homes.
1920 BC passes Adoption Act and Mother’s Pensions Act, which provides monthly payments for women with children under 16.
1927 Laura Holland, BC’s first professional social worker, becomes Superintendent of Children’s Aid Society in Vancouver.
1929 First social service (name changes to “social work” 11 years later) courses offered at UBC.
1950 School of Social Work founded at UBC with Marjorie Smith as Director.
1969 Social Workers Act establishes Board of Registration for Social Work
1975 School of Social Work founded at UVIC with Brian Wharf as Director
2008 Revised Social Workers Act establishes BC College of Social Workers

Further reading

Purvey, Diane and Walmsley, Christopher (ed). Child and family welfare in British Columbia: a history (Calgary: Detselig, c.2005)
Scott, Beverley, Establishing professional social work in Vancouver and at the University of British Columbia (self-published: 2004)