Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Work


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

First Advisor

Martha Keniston Laurence

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


This is a historical comparative study (Babbie, 1999) in which legislative policy developments and social work curriculum were paralleled to determine the relationship of one to the other. This study explores whether social work education led or lagged the legislative policy process. More specifically, legislative policy developments were considered in terms of dominant paradigms in accordance with the ideas of writers such as George and Wilding (1985), Mullaly (1997), and Wharf and McKenzie (1998). Ontario, Manitoba and the federal governments were selected to provide a multi-jurisdictional vantage-point to consider the uneven and combined effects of development and reform in Canada. At the federal level, policy developments were considered over a fifty-year period from 1949 to 1999, and at the provincial level, legislative policy developments were considered during the 1960s, 1980s and 1990s. More specifically, the legislative policy developments were examined as they pertained to Aboriginal people, children, people with disabilities, the elderly, the poor, people of race, gay and lesbian people, and women. Social work education was examined at the Universities Manitoba and Toronto utilizing course syllabi contained in the documentation for accreditation submitted to either to the Canadian Association of Schools of Social Work or to the Council on Social Work Education. Within the decades mentioned above, documentation from one accreditation process was selected. For the University of Toronto, course syllabi were examined from 1967, 1983 and 1999, and for the University of Manitoba from 1961, 1984 and 1991. As a theoretical lens Mullaly's (1997) ideas on anti-oppressive social work practice were used to determine whether social work education challenged or supported the dominant ideological paradigms associated with the shifts in legislative policy. The results of the study showed that in a fifty-year period, 1949-1999, Canadian social policy moved through a number of transitions that included a period of growth and development from 1949 to 1973, a period of stalled growth from 1974 to 1982, and finally a period in which social welfare programmes were systematically dismantled from 1983 to 1999. At the provincial level, similar transitions occurred, but lagged behind those at the federal level. With each policy period was associated a dominant ideological paradigm. When the legislative policy developments were examined at the provincial level, certain anomalies were identified within the dominant ideological paradigms. For example, while the dominant paradigm federally, during the 1960s, was considered to be one of a "growth and development" such was not the case for women in the province of Ontario. A number of legislative acts defined the status of women in Ontario in the 1960s, such as the Deserted Wives and Children's Maintenance Act, the Matrimonial Causes Act, and the Dower Act. Each of these acts acknowledged certain entitlements, provided women did not commit the act of adultery, in which case she would lose her rights and entitlements. Also enshrined in the Dower Act was an unconscionable inequity. It read, "A widow, on the death of her husband may tarry in his chief house for 40 days after his death, within that period of time her dower shall be assigned, and that it shall be the third part of all lands of her husband" (RSO, 1960, c.139). In the 1960s, legislative policy in Ontario for women was paternalistic, inequitable and protected the dominant economic system in which men were clearly favoured. The dominant paradigm at the federal level was between of Liberalism to Social Democracy, but for women in Ontario the dominant paradigm was one of Neo-conservatism. In Manitoba, the legislative policy developments were not as blatantly sexist. However, the wording and the intent of Dower Act in Manitoba ensured a man's entitlement to his homestead and how the wife could release, in favour of her husband, all her rights in that homestead. The policy thrust was less obvious, but nevertheless, still protecting the dominant economic system and consistent with the Neo-conservative paradigm. The curricula at the U of T and the U of M and in the 1960s revealed no content that would, according to Mullaly (1997), be considered anti-oppressive in nature and challenging to the Neo-conservative paradigms that were prevalent for women in Ontario and Manitoba in the 1960s. There were, for example, references to mothers" and "preservation of the family" as well as a "mothers" and their "place within the family, but no references that would challenged the inequity and the oppressive nature of the legislative developments. By narrowing the focus of analysis to different jurisdictions and specific population groups this study revealed a number of anomalies to the dominant paradigm. As mentioned, the 1960s was not a period of "growth and development" for women in Ontario or Manitoba and nor was it for other groups such as the Aboriginal people living in either Ontario or Manitoba. For some groups, the legislative policy developments were more progressive in one jurisdiction than in another. For example, in the 1960s, people with disabilities experienced a dominant ideological paradigm of Liberalism in Ontario and of Neo-conservatism in Manitoba. At the federal level an ideological shift to Neo-conservatism had occurred in the mid-1980s whereas at the provincial level a number of groups were experiencing enhancements to social programmes consistence with a dominant paradigm of Liberalism. Given the how profound the anomalies were in certain cases, this study suggests that further research and thought be directed towards refining the current notions on ideological paradigms as they relate to social work practice with oppressed groups. In this study all course syllabi were analyzed as it was recognized that social policy, social change and anti-oppressive content could be founded in any of the courses offerings. An interesting observation, however, was a fluctuation in course offerings for social policy. At the U of T, social policy offerings, as a percent of the total course offerings, was 25 percent in 1967, 7 percent in 1983 and 13 percent in 1999. At the U of M, social policy offerings, as a percent of the total course offerings, was 0 percent in 1961, 14 percent in 1984 and 16 percent in 1991. Another interesting observation was a rather dramatic shift towards the teaching of social research in the 1980s. At the U of T, research offerings, as a percentage of the total courses offerings, was 5 percent in the 1960s, 25 percent in the 1980s and 3 percent in the 1990s. At the U of M, research offerings, as a percentage of the total course offerings, was 0 percent in the 1960s, 19 percent in the 1980s and 9 percent in the 1990s. In addition to the type of courses offerings, course content varied over the years at both universities. For example, the number of references to Aboriginal people in the course content at the U of T was 1 in the 1960s and 1980s and 5 in the 1990s. At the U of M the number of references to Aboriginal people was 0 in the 1960s, 34 in the 1980s and 52 in the 1990s (see Appendix 3). Given the various shifts and emphases observed in social work curricula, the study raises questions about how best to prepare students to effect change to the benefit of clients. More has been written recently about connecting policy to practice, and the trends observed in this study suggest there is a convergence of thought with a greater awareness of ideologies and of how best to challenge for change. However, this study recognizes that further research and thought is required towards refining the current notions on ideological paradigms and attending to the lack and type of course content for certain marginalized and oppressed groups.

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