New Brunswick Lawyer Bernard Richard looks to be the pick to replace Representative for Children and Youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond.
The all-party committee formed to choose the children’s watchdog has unanimously recommended Richard for the job.
MLA Don McRea who led the hiring committee says Richard comes with a wealth of experience in New Brunswick.
“He’s held a similar office there. He’s also held other offices as independent officer of the legislature of New Brunswick. He’s even served as a former MLA in New Bruswick and a cabinet minister,” he said.
Indeed, Richard comes with an impressive resume. Along with practicing law, he is a former social worker and served as an MLA in the N.B. legislature from 1991-2003, including a stint both in Cabinet as Minister of State for Aboriginal Affairs and as Leader of the Opposition.
“His political experience is solid. His independent officer experience is outstanding and his references couldn’t have been more glowing,” says McRea
The daunting job won’t be new territory for Richard, who in 2006 became New Brunswick’s first Child and Youth Advocate, where he published a number of reports on subjects including youth mental health, First Nations child welfare, and the youth criminal justice system.
Richard was recently tasked with developing a new model to child and family services delivery for children and their families in New Brunswick.
North Vancouver-Seymour MLA and Chair of a select standing committee in charge of appointing the province’s new child watch dog Jane Thornthwaite says it’s a tough role to step into.
She adds the committee had decided early on, whomever was going to take on the new role, would need past experience with First Nations issues.
“He’s done a similar job in New Brunswick. He’s worked in the capacity of the independent offices and he’s also been in cabinet. First Nations Leaders endorsed him and he had come with a very prominent endorsement.”
Thornthwaite says Richard came with a very prominent endorsement from First Nations Leaders in New Brunswick.
“First Nations issues are key. The majority of the children in care are First Nations. We need somebody that is in tune to First nations issues. And the people from New Brunswick that know him, recommended him.”
In a statement, outgoing children’s watchdog Turpel-Lafond says she’s “delighted” with the choice, and that Richard will take over as Acting Representative for Children and Youth November 28, until he can be formally appointed when the legislature returns this spring.
“I had the privilege to work closely with Mr. Richard when he was Child Advocate in New Brunswick and was impressed with his knowledge, child-focus and capacity to be an independent advocate to effect change,” she wrote.
Turpel-Lafond’s term officially ends on November 26, but unused vacation time mean’s she’s already off the job.
Richard’s appointment still needs to be approved by the B.C. Legislature.