Sixteen months after taking the job as British Columbia’s Representative of Children and Youth, Bernard Richard, has resigned.
Richard says he is heading home to New Brunswick to be closer to family and to work with First Nations communities on the issue of children in care.
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“I made no secret about the fact I was not going to be here for a long time. I told the committee at one of my appearances I consider myself as a transition representative,” Richard said in an emotional scrum following his resignation announcement.
“I want different experiences for myself, I want to continue to contribute.”
Richard started in the role on Nov. 27, 2016, replacing Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond who served in the job for 10 years. One of the biggest challenges for Richard in the role was rebuilding the fractured relationship between the representative’s office and the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD).
“Every meeting I attended there was a tension and I really saw my role quickly as reestablishing trust between our office and primarily MCFD and I think that has happened,” he said.
“It was clear there was a need to find some relationship building and I really focused my attention on that. I think I can leave and feel pretty confident about the work of the office.”
Richard, who is celebrating his 67th birthday on Wednesday, will stay on the job until Aug. 31. He sees repairing the fractured relationship as his greatest legacy from his time in British Columbia. The provincial government is now expected to strike a committee to search for a permanent replacement.
As the province’s second-ever representative for children, Richard arrived in B.C. with significant pressure and a long resume. He has served as a minister in the New Brunswick government and was both his home province’s representative for children and ombudsperson. But it is the work with vulnerable children and improving their lives that Richard felt was his calling.
“This is the work I am passionate about. It is what I want to do and I am so grateful I have the opportunity to continue doing this kind of work. But home is home.”
“My first language is French. I miss being able to go to the post office, the hockey rink, the store and speak French every single day to everyone I meet.”
Richard’s new role in New Brunswick will include working with First Nation chiefs and providing advice on helping vulnerable children in the community.
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B.C.’s Minister for Children and Families Katerine Conroy says she was surprised to hear the news.
“One thing that Mr. Richard said when I first became minister is that he thought that our relationship would be one of healthy tension and it was,” Conroy said.
She said she wasn’t expecting it but that she understands his decision.
- With files from Liza Yuzda