The former advocate for children in New Brunswick has been asked to fill the job in British Columbia.

A special committee to appoint a new representative for children and youth has unanimously recommended that Bernard Richard be hired for the job.

The legislature must now vote, once it returns in February, to officially fill the position left vacant when Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond completed her second and final five-year term on the job. 

In the meantime, starting Nov. 27, Richard will be filling the role on an interim basis.

"It's a big challenge. It's work I am familiar with, in a sense I have been the child and youth advocate here for five years," he said.  

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond makes her final presentation as representative for children and youth to the Select Standing Committee on Children and Youth on October 24, 2016. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

"Even after I left the position here I remained extremely active in the areas such as youth mental health, youth criminal justice. I have worked with the First Nations chiefs in New Brunswick to refocus services in First Nations communities."

First Nations youth make up 60 per cent of the children in care in British Columbia. One of Richard's most significant reports in New Brunswick, Hand to Hand, provided 93 recommendations on how to better serve Aboriginal youth.

"I doubt anything I have done in the past will be enough. I really want to be judged for what I do in the future," said Richard. "I come there with some knowledge but with the willingness ot learn much more, to listen and to search for better solutions. No one can be happy with the state of Child care for First Nations in Canada. It's not good."

Richard also arrives in British Columbia with a clean slate having been selected by a committee that is made up by three Liberals MLAs and two NDP MLAs, all of whom supported his hiring. 

"He is very well-respected as far as we can determine from the British Columbia perspective, in terms of his advocacy for children and families. But also just his passion for the citizens," said committee chair Don McRae.

Richard brings extensive experience

Richard hopes to bring his extensive resumé with him to British Columbia.

Not only was he New Brunswick's former advocate for children, but he also served as the provincial ombudsperson. From 1991 to 2003, he was a member of New Brunswick's Legislative Assembly and served in many roles including minister of education and minister of justice. 

The former politician fills a void left by Turpel-Lafond. The two-term representative was the first, and so far only, advocate for children the province has ever had.

Interim representative to be appointed

Turpel-Lafond was often described as outspoken. During her time in office she released nearly 100 reports, while providing the government with more than 200 recommendations.

Her term officially ends, Nov. 27.  

"I have congratulated Mr. Richard on the appointment and assured him that the staff at the representative's office have always provided a high degree of professionalism and support and are eager to do likewise for his tenure," said Turpel-Lafond in a statement.

"I am confident there will be a smooth and effective transition, without any significant loss of time or effort on investigations, monitoring or advocacy functions at the RCY."