V A L E R I E R O Y
I have grown up in a Catholic family and one of my uncles was a missionary in South America. He was very devoted to his community, especially to poor families and to political prisoners. At 8 years old, I didn’t know anything about social work, but I sure wanted be a missionary too, in order to help people.
I chose Cross because …
… though it may be a delicate or controversial symbol, for me it shows similar complexities with social work. The image I chose to represent social work looks like a pendant I had at the time I knew my uncle. As I grew up, my religious beliefs have progressively given way to a secular commitment, but I always kept this motivation to serve others, including now in my current position as Professeure École de service social at Université Laval in Québec.
Serving others refers to a debate in Québec about the designation of social work itself, whether it should be called “service social” (social service) or “travail social” (social work). This debate brings back the religious roots of social work in Québec’s francophone context. At the time, the first forms of social work in Québec’s anglophone community were secular, while for the francophone community, they were carried by different Catholic organizations. I personally consider that the idea to “work with people”, which is an important value in social work, is better translated by the designation “travail social”; however, I have a personal and historical attachment to the designation “service social” because of these roots.
On the other side, the cross also symbolises for me a darker side of social work, namely the power social workers can have over people and the potential abuses of “acting in the name of” or “for the good of others”. Even if we “work with people” and even if we adopt a critical and reflexive practice, I do not think one can escape from these risks as we are all human beings. Therefore, ethics and regulation systems appear essential to me in order to protect people from our power and to ensure that we serve them without any personal or professional benefits.