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Politics

Jennifer Charlesworth expected to be B.C.’s next children’s watchdog

B.C.'s Representative for Children and Youth Bernard Richard is stepping down effective August 31, 2018. .
B.C.'s Representative for Children and Youth Bernard Richard is stepping down effective August 31, 2018. . Richard Zussman/Global News

The province seems to have found a new children’s watchdog.

An all-party special committee tasked with appointing a new Representative for Children and Youth has unanimously recommended Jennifer Charlesworth for the job.

“What I am bringing into it is four decades of dedicated, passionate service for the weel being of children and youth,” said Charlesworth. “Another key thing for me is the experience of indigenous youth and families in the system. And really bringing a lens to that to see what we can do that will address the over representation of Indigenous children.”

The legislature must now vote on the appointment, with the expectation the recommendation will pass easily.

“Dr. Charlesworth has extensive and broad experience in the social services sector in all parts of British Columbia and beyond,” NDP MLA and committee chair Nicholas Simons said.

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“She has worked with Indigenous organizations, multicultural service providers, and children and families throughout the province. The committee was impressed by her knowledge, experience and leadership style, as well as her deep understanding of the need for diverse perspectives, and culturally safe approaches to work in the social services sector.”

READ MORE: B.C. children’s representative ‘concerned’ about staffing at care homes

Charlesworth has an extensive resume, having served in B.C.’s social and health-care sectors since 1977. Part of her experience includes work as the co-lead on a comprehensive review of child and youth residential care, in collaboration with the Ministry for Children and Family Development. She was also a member of the Premier’s Advisory Council on Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

“Her professional and personal experiences, along with her values and principles, will support her as the next representative for children and youth,” said  committee deputy chair Stephanie Cadieux.

READ MORE: B.C. children’s watchdog Bernard Richard resigns to head home to New Brunswick

Charlesworth is expected to succeed Bernard Richard, who announced in April his plan to step down effective Aug. 31, just 16 months after taking the job. The current children’s representative said 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.

“The office of the representative serves a crucial function to advocate on behalf of some of the most vulnerable children and youth in British Columbia,” said Children and Family Development Minister Katrine Conroy. “I want to take this opportunity to recognize Bernard Richard for his dedicated service in that role, and to wish him the best in his future endeavours.”

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WATCH HERE: Term ends for children’s watchdog Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond

Term ends for children’s watchdog Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond
Term ends for children’s watchdog Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond

The role of representative is to provide advocacy services for children, young adults and families regarding designated services and reviewing, investigating and reporting on the critical injuries and deaths of children. The appointment is for a term of five years.

Charlesworth will be the province’s third children’s representative. Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond was the province’s first representative, having served in the position for 10 years.