5th Annual Splane Lecture in Public Policy

Each year the Vancouver Branch of the United Nations Association in
Canada organizes and co-ordinates a presentation in the field of
Canadian public policy. It is in the spirit of Article 25 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) ratified by Canada in 1948, and to honour the work of Dr. Splane, that UNA Vancouver continues to hold the
Splane Lecture series in Public Policy.
Article 25 states that, “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family,including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”
Care and the Welfare State: Past Patterns, Future Prospects –
presented by Dr. James Struthers, Trent University
In his lecture,Dr. Struthers provides a review of the evolution of
social policy in the developed world. He explains that “social spending
today comprises over half of the budgets of OECD nations, including
Canada, and is intimately connected to both the quality and degree of
equality of modern life in the developed world”.   Furthermore, he says
that due to the anticipated costs of an aging population in the near
future, a steady upward trend in social expenditure is forecast.

The consequence of these two facts has been that, since the 1990’s, the efforts of governments have moved towards privatizing a significant portion of the care which social spending represents.  This privatization has transferred the burden of care not to the marketplace or the private sector, but to families, and more specifically to women.

Dr. Struthers explains the extent to which this has happened in certain countries. France is the most parental-friendly nation with regard to the welfare of its citizens.  As far back as 1896, it was argued that “if you want children, honour the mothers”.  In Canada in the 1970’s, unemployment insurance was changed to include almost all women in full-time employment and to provide maternity benefits. Family allowance payments increased. Home care, a program most needed in Canada at the current time, was left out of social policy planning.

Since universal family allowance was reworked in the early 1990s, Canada began a phase of targeting “child poverty”, a noble focus but one which, as a stand-alone policy, has “written women out of the poverty debate”. A 2002 Status of Women Canada report argues, “child poverty discourse separates mothers from children and obscures the persistently gendered nature of caregiving labour and its consequences for women as a group.” In Canada, as well as in Britain and the United States, women are treated as job-seekers rather than as mothers, and “ignores the fact that child care is also work, and which raises the much larger issue as to how care work is valued and shared in our society”.

Canadians completing their working life today grew up in a context of proactive and caring social policy which relieved some of the burden of care from women and their families. Dr. Struthers’ research reflects social policy in Canada which no longer seeks to accomplish this; he lays the groundwork for Canadian citizens and their government leaders to be able to compare what they need and want in terms of social policy with what is actually in place – no longer to believe that the experience of the family they grew up in is the norm.  Dr. Struther’s final comment on current Canadian social policy is not complimentary.

Listen to the full presentation of Dr. James Struthers here, in addition
to his subsequent question and answer session.

Biography of Dr. Richard (Dick) Splane
Dr. Splane’s distinguished career began with his education at McMaster University and the London School of Economics. After time with the Royal Canadian Airforce, he started a career in government and held roles such as Director-General of Welfare Assistance and Services, Director of Unemployment Services, and Assistant Deputy Minister of Social Allowances and Services.

His other affiliations involved a position as the Canadian representative on the UNICEF Board and member to the UN expert group on Social Welfare and Planning. From 1973 to 1982, Dr. Splane was a professor in the University of British Columbia School of Social Work; in retirement, he continued his important work and was a board member of

Dr. Splane’s wife, Verna Splane, is no less distinguished in academics. She and her husband were the first ever to receive a joint honourary doctorate together from the University of British Columbia. Both continue to support the work of UNA-Vancouver as near-centenarians.

The United Nations Association of Canada – Vancouver Branch is pleased to be able to organize and co-ordinate this annual event In Dr. Splane’s name, jointly with UBC’s School of Social Work and the Liu Institute for Global Issues, the World Federalist Movement of Canada and UNAC-Vancouver.


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