Bernard Richard, B.C.’s second Representative for Children and Youth, has given notice that he is quitting this summer and returning to his native New Brunswick.
Richard, 67, informed the legislature’s children and youth committee of his decision Wednesday, saying he made it clear to B.C. MLAs he is a “transition representative” after the departure of Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond. He is less than halfway through a five-year appointment, having been unanimously selected by MLAs in February 2017.
Richard told committee members he intends to leave this summer, giving them five months to find a replacement. He is returning to be with his 93-year-old father and to take up a job working with Indigenous leaders in New Brunswick.
Richard said B.C. needs to do a better job of dealing with the over-representation of Indigenous children in government care, and to provide better services to parents and young people in need. Teens are “aging out” of care systems and going onto the streets to fall into addiction, he said.
“I talk to parents almost on a weekly basis, and it breaks my heart every time,” Richard said. “They can’t access services when they need them. They’re assigned to wait lists for treatment. The treatment centre says because they’re in a particular health region, they don’t accept children from other regions.”
Committee members thanked Richard for his service to B.C.
“I think your approach has been appreciated, and your words of wisdom are appreciated,” said Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nick Simons.
A lawyer and former social worker, Richard served in the cabinet of former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna, including the aboriginal affairs and education ministries. Richard was appointed New Brunswick Ombudsman in 2004 and was appointed that province’s first child and youth advocate in 2006.