Chris Wagner, MSW, RSW is this year’s Bridget Moran Advancement of Social Work in Northern Communities award recipient.
Wagner has been employed as an advocate for youth and young adults at the Office of the Representative of Children and Youth in BC since 2013. British Columbia’s Representative for Children and Youth supports the province’s young people and their families in dealing with the provincial child and youth welfare system.
Part of what Wagner enjoys in this role is that it is “all about improving services for young people in the province. I advocate for children and young adults to make sure their rights” are taken into account.
Furthermore, he says: “I get to identify areas where there are services gaps [in the provincial child and youth welfare system] and make suggestions on change and improvements.”
Wagner has been a registered social worker since 2004 after he graduated from the Master of Social Work program at the University of Toronto. Wagner shares that he was drawn to the social work profession as a venue to work towards social justice in a holistic, person-centred manner.
He believes strongly in the social work tenet that those individuals who are served ought to be understood holistically in terms of their needs, dreams, challenges/successes, families, communities, and environment.
“I like the connection social work makes between the individual and society,” Wagner said. “I like to look at where change can happen and all aspects of a person’s experience in that regard.”
Soon after completing his studies he moved from Toronto to Ft. St. John in October 2004 where he worked with North Peace Addictions Services and the Northern Health Authority as a Youth and Family Counsellor. Wagner’s commitment to holistic, social work practice and social justice is long-standing.
During his studies at university he was actively involved Graduate Student Society – Social Justice Committee. He was engaged in many poverty reduction actions with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty. In this action, he describes using his privilege as a white male to stand alongside and witness with those in poverty as they marched the streets. During his time in Ft. St. John he was actively involved with the Peace Valley Environment Association.
Through this work he gave voice to concerns relating to the environmental, economic, and social impacts of the Site C Dam development. Wagner recognizes that people are embedded in their environments and it is particularly potent to consider the impact of industrial activity on the well-being of people in northern B.C. Further to this, Wagner has been active with the Prince George Search and Rescue since 2013.
Wagner has been a member of the BCASW since the autumn of 2004. He has a strong commitment to social justice and continuing education and professional development. He has organized guest speakers, social work ethics discussions, and group discussion for the professional development component of Northern Branch activities. He is very active in the professional association and he is an exemplary social worker.
In all of this, Wagner exemplifies a commitment to the values of social work practice with an eye for the needs and context of northern B.C. Wagner states he is “humbled” to hear that he has been selected for the Bridget Moran Advancement of Social Work in Northern Communities award. He describes Bridget Moran as the “ideal [social worker] that I aspire to…[practicing as she did] is something I continue to work towards.”