15 Jun 2020

Message from the Registrar and CEO: Recognizing and Reflecting Upon Anti-Black Racism

Also in this message:

As Registrar and CEO for the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers (the College), I wanted to take this opportunity to recognize the worldwide mobilization against anti-Black racism following the recent and horrifying events in the United States and Canada. A dialogue around these social justice issues is not only essential but long overdue.

The College recognizes that profound societal, political and institutional changes are needed to address anti-Black racism and other forms of systemic oppression. Our members play an important role in this change. Principle II: Competence and Integrity in the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice requires all College members to advocate for social justice and ensure that they are knowledgeable with respect to how social injustice, discrimination and imbalances of power impact their clients.

As the regulator of over 23,000 social workers and social service workers in Ontario, the College must also consider its role with respect to these issues – a role which is distinct from that of a professional association, whose mandate includes advocacy. It is certainly incumbent upon all of us to reflect upon and critically examine our assumptions. We must continue to commit to working on issues of diversity, inclusion and anti-racist practice – both in the nature of the materials that we develop and in our organizational practices and processes.

As reflected in our new Strategic Plan 2020-23, which was recently approved by the College Council in May 2020, the College is committed to increasing diversity, inclusion and equity across organizational processes, resources and materials. We will share the Strategic Plan 2020-23 in the coming week.

We are in the midst of a period of profound change, and we will continue to reflect upon and carefully consider our regulatory role.

Ongoing Impact of COVID-19

With summer on the horizon, the College continues to monitor and respond to the significant impact of COVID-19. We recognize that this continues to be an extremely challenging time – both personally and professionally.

As noted in our May 29, 2020 eBulletin as well as our follow-up June 2, 2020 eBulletin for members in private practice, the College continues to strongly advise members to suspend all non-essential social work and social service work services and to continue – wherever reasonably possible – to provide services by electronic means.

The College cannot decide on behalf of individual members which of their services are essential and/or when it is safe and appropriate for them to resume in-person services. Members must make their own determination, based on:

  • their employment setting;
  • the sector and/or clients that they serve;
  • consultation with their employer and a review of relevant workplace policies; and
  • careful consideration of how safety and infection control measures apply to their practice and setting.

Members must use their professional judgment to determine whether it is appropriate for them to resume in-person services at this time. Members should carefully review the safety and infection control measures that must be in place to ensure their own safety and that of the clients and communities they serve. They should also note that while resuming in-person services may be permitted, it is not required. Members are advised to use their professional judgment when making these important decisions.

Security Considerations for Electronic Practice

The College recently received some very concerning information from the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO) regarding members of their college who had been harmed by male clients in the context of electronic practice. We feel that it is important for College members to be made aware of these reports so that they can take steps to protect themselves and report similar events if necessary.

In both cases, the individual booked an intake appointment, then failed to complete the CRPO member’s intake form before showing up for the virtual appointment. At this point, the individual proceeded to perform indecent acts in front of the CRPO member. According to CRPO, there is no apparent geographical connection to the reports; in both cases the individual requested a female psychotherapist.

We would like to remind members to consider measures to protect their own safety when providing services by electronic means. Members may also wish to read the following resources which address a number of important issues, including security and privacy:

We ask that any College members who have concerns with client interactions contact practice@ocswssw.org.

As always, we are committed to providing members with updates, resources and practice support. Thank you for your dedication and commitment.

Keep well and stay safe.

Lise Betteridge, MSW, RSW
Registrar and CEO