However, we have amongst us a great lady: Bessie Touzel. In 1933, The City of Ottawa hired Bessie Touzel as Chief of the newly formed City of Ottawa Public Welfare Department. After doing so and running it successfully, the politicians made changes in the relief program which she objected to. She resigned in protest, along with the women whom she had hired to run the program.
In 1946, the Toronto Welfare Council held a conference at which there was a strong expression of a need for a provincial voice, an agency which could function as a social planning body on a provincial level.. The director of the Toronto Council, Bessie Touzel, led the effort. Several provincial conferences were organized during this time to address social welfare issues.
In June, 1953, Bessie Touzel assumed the position of Executive Director and started a new era for the Council. She launched the "Province of Ontario - Its Welfare Services" as well as the Ontario Welfare Reporter. These two publications were to become the main means of communication for the Council right into the '70s.
Bessie Touzel contributed greatly to who Canadian social workers are today. Born and educated in Renfrew County, she was a charismatic leader in her day in achieving social change. She was also a visionary, particularly in the field of community & social development and the potential role of the Association of Social Workers as a respected voice on matters of social justice. She was an educator and mentor to many. Bessie was a recipient of City of Toronto’s Civic Award of Merit, a first recipient of the Order of Ontario and recipient of an Honorary Doctorate from University of Toronto.
In 1985, Bessie was named the first recipient of the Award, which subsequently bears her name. Its criteria were those of vision, leadership, not only within the social work community, but in like minded organizations. Given annually at the Spring Annual Meeting Gala to a branch member nominated by fellow members, it is the highest honor branch members can confer on their peers.