Canadian Social Research Links

My 2009 Weiler Award
Acceptance Speech

October 18, 2009

[ Go to Canadian Social Research Links Home Page ]

This is my acceptance speech from the 2009 Weiler Award ceremony,
which took place at the Factor-Inwentash School of Social Work
at the University of Toronto on October 14.

[ For more information about the Weiler Award and about co-recipient Marge Reitsma-Street,
see item #4 in the Canadian Social Research Newsletter for October 11 ]


Dean Mishna,

Directors of the Weiler Trust,

Dear Friends,


To borrow from an old Oscar acceptance speech, "I was going to thank all the little people, but then I remembered I am the little people."


I do wish to thank first and foremost the Weiler Award Trust Board of Directors for selecting me as co-winner of the of the 2009 Weiler Award, along with Professor Marge Reitsma Street of the University of Victoria. It's truly a humbling experience for me to receive this award, especially when the CO-winner has long been one of my West Coast social justice heroes.


Thanks to Faye Mishna, Interim Dean of the Faculty of Social Work for hosting this award ceremony. I'm sure Marge feels right at home here, having completed her PhD in this very faculty, and I've had great contacts in the U. of T. over my federal government career in social program information and since then through my website and newsletter.


Thanks to my nominators, Steve Kerstetter, former director of the National Council of Welfare, and Michael Goldberg, former Research Director of the Social Planning and Research Council in Vancouver and recipient of the 2005 Weiler Award. Both Steve and Michael are highly regarded in BC and elsewhere in Canada for their contributions to progressive social policy...


Thanks to those people who wrote letters supporting my nomination, two of whom are here today as my guests.


Marilyn Willis from Ottawa was my director for 24 years in the Social Program Information and Analysis Division of Health and Welfare Canada (and through several departmental name changes since 1994). She was always supportive of my work with others in the social research community, whether they were from government, academia or the non-governmental sector. She encouraged me to break down the barriers between us ("the feds") and the outside REAL world whenever possible.


Another supporter of my nomination who's here today is John Stapleton, who is a well-respected social policy expert and social justice champion with 30+ years' experience in welfare legislation and policy in the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services. I've known John since 1977, first as an Ontario program information contact and later, I'm proud to say as a good friend. Thanks, John!


Also on my list of Ottawa guests is Joan O'Connell, friend and former work colleague from Marilyn's group who convinced me 7-8 years ago to start a weekly newsletter to complement the website that I'd created back in 1997 for welfare researchers. I was worried that I'd be creating more work for myself and end up with a few dozen people on my list. That list now has over 2100 subscribers, and sending out my newsletter is the highlight of my week. Thanks, Joan.


Thanks to my son Daniel and his partner Alicia Pace, who came from Montreal to celebrate this special moment with Pops, thus making the occasion that much more special. After a number of commendable but futile efforts on his part over the years to drag me and my twelve-year-old plain-vanilla HTML website into the 21st Century with Web 2 features and all that, I think he's finally resigned to the fact that Pops is not only a big fan of social justice but also a Luddite at heart. Still, he continues to encourage me in my retirement project, and I appreciate that encouragement. Thanks for being here, Alicia and Dan...


Thanks most of all to my patient and understanding wife, Anne Tweddle, for putting up with the eccentric social welfare link collector who spends far longer than he should at the computer in the basement. Thanks for your ongoing support even when it meant forgoing a Sunday outing together so that I could finish my newsletter for that week. Thanks for being my Number One typo-spotter, and for telling me when I was over the top in one of my rants or editorial comments. Thanks most of all for your unwavering support and encouragement, since that first day back in 1997 when I mused out loud about setting up a website for welfare researchers. Thanks, Annie!


When I was notified this past spring that Marge and I were co-recipients of the 2009 Weiler Award, my immediate reaction was: "I'm not worthy."

I've long been an admirer of the work of Marge Reitsma-Street, and I really didn't feel that we were in the same league in terms of "contributions to community and social development in Canada."

Marge has her Ph.D. in Social Work from the University of Toronto, she's a Professor of Social Policy at the University of Victoria, a researcher, author, speaker, community facilitator, and tireless social advocate.

Me? Joe BA, English Lit. (1970, University of Ottawa!), 30 years deep in the bowels of the federal government, now working part-time on my website and newsletter as my retirement project in the basement at home with my three kitty supervisors.


But after reading about Dick Weiler and speaking to a few people about him, I came to realize that the Weiler Award isn't so much about recognizing credentials as it is about recognizing an ongoing deep commitment to and passion for social justice, and it's in that light that I humbly and proudly accept this award as an "unsung hero", the expression that Gweneth Gowanlock used when she called to announce that I was CO-winner of the award.

I accept the award on behalf of ALL unsung heroes out there, whether they're helping with lunch at the local men's shelter, or delivering meals on wheels to shut-ins, blogging about poverty reduction, or doing volunteer stints at the local long-term care facility and so much more. There are many ways that we can contribute to the advancement of progressive social policy, and each of us CAN make a difference.


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