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Encyclopedia of Canadian Social Work

Interview with Frank Turner

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Why did you decide to edit an Encyclopedia of Canadian Social Work?

I suspect that my original reason for undertaking this project had a chauvinistic quality to it in that our American colleagues have been publishing such an encyclopedia for some forty years with re-editions of it every few years and I thought it timely to do a bit of Canadian flag-waving. More seriously, even though for many years, education, training and practice of social work has been heavily influenced by U.S. thinking in recent years, it has been increasingly obvious that there is emerging a distinct profile of social work practice that can be called Canadian. In this regard I deemed it important that we begin to gather a broad profile of this unique professional perspective in a way that, first of all proclaims it, and secondly makes available a spectrum of Canadian thinking on the horizon of the profession.

What did you hope to accomplish in this venture?

My principal goal was to bring together and make available this Canadian viewpoint about Social Work and Social Welfare in a format that would both inform and lend itself to examination both here in Canada and from abroad. In this way I hoped to create a resource for students to assist them in the development of a professional image that is suited for practice in Canada. I wanted to provide a compendium of values, interests, theory and practice. Implied in this is the hope of helping social workers here in Canada to develop a sense of pride about the contributions of the profession and its unique characteristics, rather than an all too frequently found perception that practice in Canada is only a spin off of what takes place in the States.

What is new and different and special about this volume?

I think there are several facets of this volume that make it unique and quite distinct from the very popular three volume set of the U.S. “Encyclopedia of Social Work.” First we have included a very broad range of authors for the various entries including practitioners, senior policy people, academics, retired colleagues and students. Second, we cover more topics, but in a more concise fashion.

Why do we need a Canadian Encyclopedia of Social Work?

We need a way of obtaining knowledge of Social Work as it is practiced in this country with our unique challenges of diversity, geography, history and political structures. In the American encyclopedia Canada is scarcely mentioned. Although not one of our original goals, one of the exciting things that developed in the process of preparing the volume was the discovery of the social work heroes we have in this country, most of whom are only known to a few.

It seems unusual that you would have undertaken a project such as this on your own rather than making use of an editorial committee. Why did you adopt this strategy?

I think it would be misleading to pretend that this book is the product of a single person’s efforts. It is true that I did not have a formal editorial committee that reflected all areas of the country, nevertheless the final product does reflect the input and sage counsel of a broad spectrum of colleagues representing all areas and all aspects of the profession. I am impressed with and grateful for the response of this group of social workers from all parts of the country.
Nevertheless decisions were made about what to include and who to include and for this I must of course take responsibility and cannot say, “the committee made me do it.” One of the realities about which I was reminded during this process was the vast size of our country, and of the relatively small population. These factors influenced the process of preparing this volume just as they influenced the development of social work and social welfare in Canada.