‘An honour to serve’: B.C.’s chief coroner to retire in February

Click to play video: 'B.C.’s chief coroner addresses ‘questions’ about prescribed safer supply program'
B.C.’s chief coroner addresses ‘questions’ about prescribed safer supply program
Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe addressed "questions" that have been circulating about the role of prescribed safer supply in B.C.'s overdose crisis in a Mon. June 5, 2023 press conference in Victoria. Statistically, she said Vancouver's Downtown Eastside is not "the face" of toxic drug poisoning deaths, nor has prescribed hydromorphone played a significant role in fatalities. – Jun 5, 2023

After more than a decade of serving as British Columbia’s chief coroner, Lisa Lapointe has announced her decision to retire at the end of her term in February.

Lapointe, a veteran public servant, has become a familiar face to many in the province’s response to the toxic drug crisis that has claimed more than 13,000 lives since it was first declared a public health emergency in 2016. Lapointe was appointed to the top job in February 2011.

In a Wednesday statement, she described the position as “both humbling and challenging,” and stated that it was “an honour to serve the public.”

Click to play video: 'Increased safer supply fastest way to reduce toxic drug deaths: B.C. expert panel'
Increased safer supply fastest way to reduce toxic drug deaths: B.C. expert panel

“The work of a coroner is a challenging one, investigating the circumstances of deaths to provide information and assistance to families and communities devastated by the sudden loss of their loved ones,” Lapointe wrote.

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“For every tragic loss, the coroner must consider whether there is an opportunity to prevent similar deaths in the future. In this way, the role of the coroner, which may seem a bleak one, provides an opportunity to advance meaningful change. This is the most silver of linings in often very dark clouds.”

Click to play video: 'Coroner’s jury deems Myles Gray’s death a homicide'
Coroner’s jury deems Myles Gray’s death a homicide

Lapointe, a University of British Columbia law graduate and policy analyst, first became a coroner in 1995. She has served as the regional coroner on Vancouver Island and B.C.’s assistant deputy chief coroner, as well as worked in the Corrections Branch and Civil Forfeiture Office.

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She is a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for her dedication to public service.

In her statement, Lapointe lamented that her office was unable to “influence the essential change necessary” to reduce the impacts of toxic drugs on thousands of British Columbians.

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Click to play video: 'B.C. Coroners Service release data of toxic overdose deaths in 2022'
B.C. Coroners Service release data of toxic overdose deaths in 2022

“There is never a perfect time to leave and there are many significant challenges facing British Columbians and the Coroners Service that will endure after my departure,” she said.

“The measures recommended by the expert members of Coroners Service death-review panels are essential to ending this crisis and I will continue to support those recommendations post retirement.”

Click to play video: 'What we know about toxic drug fatalities since B.C. declared a public health emergency'
What we know about toxic drug fatalities since B.C. declared a public health emergency

Lapointe has been a relentless advocate for safer supply initiatives. Last month, the death-review panel urged the B.C. government to immediately expand that initiative to include prescription-free quality-controlled drugs, criticizing the current medical model as inadequate in the current unregulated market.

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Mental Health and Addictions Minister Jennifer Whiteside rejected the recommendation.

Lapointe’s third term as chief coroner ends on Feb. 18. The Ministry of Public Safety and solicitor general will begin a recruitment process to choose her successor.

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