Understanding Social Work Leadership in Canada

Do you know a retired social worker who has distinguished themselves during their career?

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We are currently seeking nominations of social work leaders whose career experiences should be documented and preserved as part of Canada’s social work history.

Through our research project, Understanding Social Work Leadership in Canada, we will collect and curate the oral histories of 50 contemporary social workers who have had a notable impact on social work practice, social policy development and/or social justice in Canada.

Our goal is to reflect a contemporary history of social work and develop a deeper understanding of social work leadership.

The deadline for Round 2 nominations is June 30, 2023.

Shaping systems, changing lives:

Why social work legacies must live on

In an oral history interview from January 26, 1984, Helen Riesberry talks about her career as a leader in child welfare in Manitoba and an innovator in services and funding.

Watch the oral histories of some of Canada’s social work pioneers and innovators!

Rediscovering Social Work Leaders

Various devices with video interviews playing on them.

The project is funded by an Insight Grant from:


The project has been approved by the McMaster University Research Ethics Board, certificate #4996.

Acknowledgement of the Land

We recognize and acknowledge that the School of Social Work at McMaster University meets and learns on the traditional territories of the Mississauga and Haudenosaunee nations, and within the lands protected by the “Dish With One Spoon” wampum.

The dish with one spoon wampum belt, “is probably the most significant in terms of the Native people in this land,” said Hill. “The old people say this represents the first treaty made in North America. It was made between all the Native nations before the Europeans arrived. It’s a simple belt with a field of white which represents peace and unity and harmony, with a little dark figure which represents the bowl.” Of particular importance in this age of environmental degradation is the fact that the dish with one spoon is also a covenant with nature. “Nature says, ‘Here’s the great dish and inside the dish are all the plants, the animals, the birds, the fish, the bushes, the trees, everything you need to be healthy and therefore, happy’.” Hill spoke about the rules nature attaches to this covenant. “The three basic rules are: only take what you need, second, you always leave something in the dish for everybody else, including the dish, and third, you keep the dish clean…that was the treaty between us and nature, and then the treaty between us and everybody else.”

School of Social Work
Kenneth Taylor Hall (KTH), Room 319
1280 Main Street West
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8S 4M4