Lisa Lapointe says her third term as B.C.’s chief coroner – ending in February – will be her final after 13 years in the role and nearly three decades in public service.
Lapointe announced Wednesday (Dec. 6) that she would be stepping down when her term comes to an end on Feb. 18, 2024.
“It has been an incredible honour to have been chief coroner for the past 13 years and a public servant for so many more, and I have decided that this is the right time for me to retire.”
She said her years as chief coroner, while “both humbling and challenging,” has been a highlight of her career. She points to the often challenging work investigating the circumstances of deaths to provide information and help to families and communities devastated by the sudden loss of their loved ones.
“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.”
She said there’s never a perfect time to leave, adding there are “many significant challenges” face by British Columbians and the coroners service.
Nearly half of her time in this role has been shadowed by the toxic drug crisis, which marked seven years as a public health emergency in April of this year.
“Like so many others, our agency has been forever altered by the toxic-drug public health emergency that continues to take the lives of people of all ages in communities throughout B.C.”
Most recently, Lapointe and a BC Coroners service death review panel called for the province to expand access to safer supply drugs by removing the requirement for a doctor’s prescriptions. B.C.’s mental health and addictions minister swiftly said that’s out of the question.
“It deeply saddens me that we have been unable to influence the essential change necessary to reduce the tragic impacts of toxic drugs on so many thousands of our family members, friends and colleagues across the province.”
She said the measures recommended by those expert panel members are essential to ending the crisis.
“I will continue to support those recommendations post retirement.”
Lapointe’s career as a public service employee in B.C. began in 1995 when she was first appointed as a coroner by then-chief coroner Vince Cain. Since then, she’s held positions in the B.C. Coroners Service, the corrections branch and the provincial civil forfeiture office.
“A public service career is both an occupation and a calling, and I am grateful to have been given so many wonderful opportunities to support positive change.”
The Public Safety Ministry will start a recruitment process to choose her successor, who is then appointed by an order of the lieutenant governor after a merit-based process. The initial term may be three to five years, and then re-appointments of up to five years can be made.