History of Canadian Social Welfare

John Graham

in Social Work

ISBN: 9780195389678
Published online December 2009 | | DOI:
History of Canadian Social Welfare

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For the purpose of this entry, social welfare history encompasses the evolution of social policies and the social welfare system, as well as the profession of social work and those institutions that are associated with either. Also for the purpose of this entry, social welfare and social policy are collapsed together in one category. This is not because they are equivalent terms but rather because the focus of social policy in part represents the operationalization of social welfare at a societal level. And, it has certainly been a common practice in the Canadian social welfare history literature to highlight the development and removal or amendment of specific social policies as indicators of key shifts in social welfare throughout Canada’s history. Until the 1970s, scholarship on the history of Canadian social welfare was relatively sparse. A considerable increase in historical writings began between the 1970s and the 1980s, with an explosion of historical literature from the 1980s to the early 21st century, in which the number of topics and the variety of approaches increased considerably. Current sophistication in social welfare, social policy, and social work research includes the introduction of discourse analysis to highlight the perspective of the socially excluded. Also included is the critical rethinking of power relations between practitioners and service users and between funders and service providers. Finally, there is the emergence of new lines of inquiry into the emerging role of nonprofit organizations and the voluntary sector in meeting the social welfare needs of the populace. The selected references in this entry primarily discuss the evolution of the Canadian social welfare system and its impact on the socially excluded in general, and on women, aboriginal peoples, people with disabilities, children, and the elderly in particular. The reason for this emphasis is because it represents the primary focus in current social welfare literature related to the Canadian context. However, in addition we include select references from the social welfare and interdisciplinary literature to provide an overview of the evolution of scholarly writings on the topic and to help position our contemporary situation of social welfare within this historical context.

Article.  5326 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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