B.C.'s representative for children and youth stepping down

The representative for children and youth in British Columbia announced Wednesday he would be leaving his position, just over a year after he was appointed to a five-year term.

Bernard Richard, who will officially leave Aug. 31, was appointed to a 5-year term little more than a year ago

Bernard Richard has announced he will step down as B.C.'s representative for children and youth in August 2018. (Chad Hipolito/Canadian Press)

The representative for children and youth in British Columbia announced Wednesday he would be leaving his position, little more than a year after he began a five-year term. 

Bernard Richard, who had been New Brunswick's ombudsman and child and youth advocate, told a legislative committee he would be leaving the job on Aug. 31. 

Richard cited a need to return home to be closer to family, including his 93-year-old father and said he was accepting a position working with Indigenous groups in New Brunswick.

"I'm confident it is the right thing to do and now is the right time to announce it. It will give the legislature five months to find a replacement," he told the committee.

Children and Family Development Minister Katrine Conroy said Richard's announcement was a surprise but praised his tenure and said a search for a replacement would likely begin in the coming weeks.

"He thought our relationship would be one of healthy tension, and it was, and I think that's important," she said. 

'Valuable' appointment

"Your time here was not as long as we would have hoped, but it has been valuable," said Michelle Stilwell, deputy chair of the committee of children and youth, after Richard made his announcement. 

Richard replaced Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond in the position on an acting basis in 2016 and was confirmed as the representative in February 2017. 

His tenure was marked by resetting the contentious relationship between his independent office and the provincial government  — characterized by acrimony over biting criticisms in Turpel-Lafond's reports into the deaths of children in care. 

"I think you have to take advantage of the independence you have, and Mary Ellen was supreme at doing that. She was an amazing representative for children and youth, It was hard to follow in her footsteps," Richard said.

​"But you also have to have a level of balance, I'll call it that. It's never personal. Systems operate in the way systems do, and they're imperfect, and bureaucracies are imperfect," he added.

"So finding ways to make progress happen is more important, sometimes, than making a point. And that's, I think, what I'd like to pass on."