The Montreal Council of Social Agencies and its Effect on Youth Crime and Drug Use

Introduction & Analysis of the History of MCSA

The Montreal Council of Social Agencies was a grouping of agencies that dealt with social welfare issues in Montreal. It was created in 1921 by the head of McGill’s Department of Social Studies John Howard Toynbee Falk. The MCSA worked closely with fund-raising organizations, church groups, hospitals, and boys’ clubs, which depict its importance within the city of Montreal.(1) The following list is the main mandates of the Council of Social Agencies; To promote, co-ordinate, advance and maintain health and welfare work in the city and suburbs of Montreal and in particular(2):

⁃ To secure the necessary factual basis for planning and action.
⁃ To promote community thinking and joint planning.
⁃ To gain the advantages of concerted action, through co-operative services and otherwise.
⁃ To increase the effectiveness and improve standards of work of individual organizations.
⁃ To increase public understanding of what is being done in health and welfare work.
⁃ To help secure adequate support from the public and from government bodies for both public and private health and welfare work.

This blog will deal with the description and analysis of the historical subject, the description and analysis of the archival subject’s activities, the time period the council of social agencies dealt with, the social movement in which the archival subject relates to and short and long term impacts of the Montreal Council of Social Agencies. The following sections that are in this blog will deal with these inquiries.

Historical Context 

In order to understand the basis of the Montreal Council of Social Agencies, one needs to look at the factors that lead to its creation. As explained in William F Shepherd’s Genesis of the Montreal Council of Social Agencies, the development of social agencies all over North America were due to rapid industrialization, urbanization, as well as urgent social problems that were emerging from the first World War.(3) According to Shepherd, four major factors in the late 19th century brought a wave of new social norms regarding charity. These factors are; the creation of Charity Organization Society in London in 1869 which analyzed the problems surrounding human relations, the second factor was the creation of the settlement movement in London as well in 1884 which brought students and social leaders with poverty, the third factor is the influence of sociological surveys on the society’s moral conscience and the final factor was the influence of Darwin’s On the Origin of species which had profound impact on the minds of sociologists.(4) These four factors were based in London, and soon after transplanted to the United States.(5)

As a result of having Montreal welfare leaders traveling to the United States they became aware of these sociological trends, which were quite similar to those in Canada. Taking these trends into consideration, they took these ideals that were being used in the United States and formed a predecessor to the MCSA called the Family Welfare Association created in 1900.(6) This agency had a great impact on social services in Montreal but in 1918 there was a need to readdress new social problems that were emerging in Quebec as a whole. The province responded to these issues by the creation of the Provincial Branch of the Dominion Social Council, however the council did not address issues surrounding new concepts of organization.(7) In Montreal the issue of a booming Anglophone population and the growing population of the city influenced by suburban flight, as a result led to growing welfare needs across a larger geographic locale.(8) This led McGill to create the Department of Social Service, assigning John Howard Falk as head. Falk was born in Great Britain and immigrated to Canada in 1906.(9) Falk began to closely work with different social organizations in Montreal and saw the need to create an umbrella organization in which these organizations can closely work with each other and with outside organizations, such as hospitals and churches.(10) He saw the need to create a federation of social agencies from his time in Winnipeg as the Secretary of the Winnipeg Associated Charities. He obtained that position after working on a survey of local agencies surrounding social concepts.(11) The idea of federation of social agencies led Falk to decide that Montreal needed its own federation. In result, in 1921 he created this federation calling it the “Montreal Council of Social Agencies.” The  MCSA has been influenced by sociological projects from London to the United States and to Winnipeg, which in turn had great influence on John Falk’s efforts to MCSA.(12)

The Montreal Council of Social Agencies statement of intent – it’s a voluntary association in which “Of organizations [are] devoted to developing a planned program of welfare, recreation and health services, particularly for the needs of English-speaking Montreal and its suburbs.”(13) At the beginning of the organization a focus was made on the “sick and handicapped, dependents and partial dependents, the education and recreational activities and finally child welfare delinquents.(14) This shows that the organization early on took on a significant role in dealing with youth problems. Given Falk’s position in the Manitoba Government Royal Commission and Montreal’s child mortality rate of 178 of every 1000 children, a re-arrangement of child services was required in the early days of the MCSA.(15) Falk’s ideals helped govern the direction of the MCSA until the end of World War II.

The end of World War II meant a whole new barrage of new social issues that began to emerge especially pertaining to the youth. This was due to the explosion of birth rates across Canada as a result of returning soldiers and the scientific advancements in medicine. These advancements in medicine led to a drastic fall in infant mortality rates.(16) These new emerging social issues included increased youth homelessness, increasing youth crime rates and the experimentation of drugs. Montreal was especially vulnerable because it became a hub for transient youth that emigrated to the city. These new trends led to the creation of the organization Y.E.S. (Youth Emergency Services). The organizations goal was to help youth in need by providing counselling, shelter, food and help youth feel that they do not belong to the “mainstream” society. Y.E.S. was one of the predecessors to the creation of J.O.Y. (Joint Organization of Youth), which shared similar objectives.(17)

(1) Archives McGill, “Montreal Council of Social Agencies, 1921-1976,” A Guide to Archival Resources at McGill University: Private Papers held at McGill University 3, no. 2 (1985): 293, http://www.archives.mcgill.ca/resources/db/about_mcsa.htm.
(2) William F. Shepherd, “ Genesis of the Montreal Council of Social Agencies,” Department of Social Work, (1957): 2, http://digitool.library.mcgill.ca/R/?func=dbin-jump-full&object_id=111302.
(3) Ibid, Shepherd, 12.
(4) Ibid, Shepherd, 34.
(5) Ibid, Shepherd, 34
(6) Ibid, Shepherd, 36.
(7) Ibid, Shepherd, 41.
(8) Ibid, Shepherd, 4.
(9) Stanley Brice Frost, “Development Between the Wars” (Montreal, Canada: McGill-Queens University Press, 1984), 148.
(10) Ibid, Frost, 148
(11) Ibid, Shepherd, 50
(12) Ibid, Shepherd, 49
(13) Montreal Council of Social Agencies Pamphlet, 1956, File: What’s in the name, Box 1, Montreal Council of Social Agencies (Pre-Centreaide) Fonds, McGill University Archives.
(14) Ibid, Shepherd, 57
(15) Ibid, Shepherd, 59
(16) Bavel, Jan Van, and David S. Reher. “The Baby Boom and Its Causes: What We Know and What We Need to Know.” Population and Development Review 39, no. 2 (2013): 257-88.
(17) Youth Emergency Services, 1968-1970, Youth Emergency Services Project: Working Papers, Correspondence, Committee Reports, Box 20, Montreal Council of Social Agencies (pre-Centriade) Fonds

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