As Registrar and CEO of the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers (the College), I would like to provide an update on a recent communication received by the College in relation to issues of diversity, equity and inclusion and the College’s role, mandate and communications.
As the College has noted previously, societal expectations change and evolve, and long overdue discussions and upheaval are taking place, rightfully challenging systems of oppression. For the College as regulator, this means examining – carefully, critically, and in an ongoing way – how we interpret our public protection mandate.
The College unequivocally condemns all forms of systemic oppression, and acknowledges that there has been a deeply concerning rise in anti-Semitism which negatively impacts College members, the communities they serve and the Ontario public as a whole. As reported in a Toronto.com news article, the Toronto police’s Annual Hate Crimes Statistical Report notes that anti-Semitic hate crime in 2020 increased by more than 40% from the previous year, while Toronto’s Jewish community makes up just under four per cent of the city’s population.
Letter about Anti-Semitism
On August 4, 2021, the College received a letter expressing concerns about the recent rise in anti-Semitism and what was understood by the signatories to the letter to be a failure on the College’s part in not issuing a statement on this issue. The letter – signed by 130 individuals, the majority of whom are College members – noted the College’s previous communications on anti-Black, anti-Indigenous, anti-Muslim and other forms of systemic racism and questioned why anti-Semitism had not also been acknowledged. The letter also expressed concern about the lack of Jewish representation on the College’s newly formed Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Group.
The signatories to the letter asked whether the College was prepared to acknowledge and condemn the recent rise in anti-Semitism and whether anti-Semitism would be deliberated by the DEI Task Group.
The College’s Role as Regulator
As the regulator for social workers and social service workers in Ontario, the College has an ongoing responsibility to engage in difficult discussions and to examine how issues of diversity, equity and inclusion fit within the regulatory context.
It can be difficult to get it right, and we acknowledge and regret our silence with respect to the recent rise in anti-Semitism and the issues raised. We are open to learning and unlearning as we consider public protection more broadly than in the past and as we carry out our important work in protecting the public by promoting ethical and professional practice and regulating our members.
The College’s previous eBulletins condemned recent, specific and very public acts of racism, acknowledging how these tragedies received attention in the media and impacted our members and their practice. It was not our intention to minimize the impact of, and the degree to which, anti-Semitism continues to cause great harm in Canada and elsewhere. Regardless of our intention, we will and we must reflect critically upon our assumptions and decisions moving forward when considering whether and when to issue communications to College members. The letter will also be shared with the DEI Task Group so that every effort is made to ensure that anti-Semitism is considered along with other forms of systemic and structural racism and oppression, as part of its work.
There is a great deal of work left to be done to address the challenging issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. The College is committed to working with its members and other stakeholders to facilitate and support positive change.
We genuinely appreciate the efforts of members and others in expressing their concerns. We remain committed to doing the necessary work around diversity, equity and inclusion and to providing practice resources that will be useful for social workers and social service workers as they serve clients and communities in Ontario.
Lise Betteridge, MSW, RSW
Registrar and CEO