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High-profile Legal Aid CEO Leaves Post after Two Years

Michael Bryant was a former Ontario cabinet minister involved in the death of a cyclist.

Andrew MacLeod 28 May 2024The Tyee

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria and the author of All Together Healthy (Douglas & McIntyre, 2018). Find him on X or reach him at .

Legal Aid BC is looking for a new CEO a little more than two years after former Ontario star politician Michael Bryant took the job.

Bryant parted with the provincially funded organization on April 9, according to a short statement from Legal Aid BC’s board of directors.

“The board wishes him well in his next chapter,” it said.

Bryant’s previous chapters include two degrees from the University of British Columbia, law degrees from Harvard and Osgoode Hall, clerking at the Supreme Court of Canada, a decade in provincial politics in Ontario, and involvement in the tragic 2009 death of a cyclist, an incident for which charges were laid against him and later dropped.

Chief operating officer Salman Azam is acting as CEO of Legal Aid BC, which provides legal aid to people with low incomes, during the search for a replacement for Bryant.

The statement did not say whether Bryant, who is 58, had quit or was fired. A spokesperson declined to answer questions saying in an email “it’s important we respect privacy rules regarding the employment status of any employees.”

Bryant responded to an initial message, but was unavailable for an interview before publication time.

A spokesperson for B.C. Attorney General Niki Sharma referred questions to Legal Aid BC.

A Crown corporation, Legal Aid BC is primarily funded by the provincial government and receives grants from the Law Foundation of BC and the Notary Foundation of BC.

In the year that ended March 31, 2023, the organization paid Bryant $260,442 in salary and $50,845 for expenses.

Bryant, who grew up in Esquimalt where his father Ray Bryant was mayor from 1966 to 1969, was once a rising star in Ontario politics. He was the youngest Attorney General in the province’s history when former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty appointed him in 2003.

In 2009, a couple of months after Bryant left the Ontario government, he was involved in a road accident in Toronto that led to the death of bicycle courier Darcy Allan Sheppard. The Crown dropped charges against Bryant in 2010, reportedly because of the strength of the case lawyer Marie Henein built in his defence.

Bryant later released a memoir, 28 Seconds: A True Story of Addiction, Tragedy and Hope, that intertwined the stories of Sheppard’s death and his own struggle with alcoholism.

Before moving to the job with Legal Aid BC at the start of 2022 Bryant served for four years as executive director and general counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

At the time Vancouver Sun columnist Ian Mulgrew wrote, “Bryant comes with an over-achiever’s resumé, governance skills and, importantly, an especially relevant personal trauma and experience that gives him a unique, pertinent perspective.”  [Tyee]

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