Former journalist and coroner Barb McLintock remembered for honesty, diligence
Barb McLintock is seen in this undated handout photo provided by the BC Coroners Service. Barb McLintock, a former B.C. legislative reporter and coroner, died at 68 on Saturday from complications related to thyroid cancer. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Facebook
Amy Smart, The Canadian Press
Published Monday, December 31, 2018 11:44AM PST
As new bills dropped in the B.C. legislature and others in the press gallery scrambled to put out stories, Barb McLintock would casually flick through the pages, sometimes calling out page numbers with important details.
Colleagues say the former journalist and coroner, who died Saturday, had a knack for finding information buried in government reports and legislation.
“Barbara was one of the first people who preached, 'Don't listen to what the minister says in the House, don't read the description of the bill, don't read the press release - read the bill,” longtime Vancouver Sun political columnist Vaughn Palmer said.
“She was really good at figuring out what the essence of it was, and also the stuff that maybe the government didn't want us to talk about. She would find flaws, holes and things that might generate controversy.”
McLintock died in Victoria from complications related to a recent diagnosis of thyroid cancer. She was 68.
McLintock was born in Regina and was the “cherished only child” of her parents, her friend Charley Beresford said.
She followed in the footsteps of her father Peter McLintock, who worked at the Regina Leader-Post before moving to the Winnipeg Free Press, where he was an editor.
Barb McLintock worked more than 30 years as a journalist, primarily for The Province newspaper with stints at the Victoria Times Colonist and the Tyee. She transitioned to the BC Coroners Service in 2004, first as an investigating coroner and later as the face of the organization.
But friends are also remembering her as a Jane-of-all-trades whose curiosity led her to birdwatching, horseback riding and knitting. She also sang with the Victoria-based Gettin' Higher Choir, and took on various roles with community organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club and Girl Guides.
“I think 'kind' is the first word that comes to mind,” Beresford said, describing McLintock. “Kind, opinionated, bright.”
Judith Lavoie became friends with McLintock despite some friendly competition when Lavoie joined the press gallery in 1991.
“There really was a rivalry between the papers - she was at the Province and I was at the Times Colonist - but there were hardly any women around still at that point,” Lavoie said.
The wood-panelled stairway up to the press gallery in British Columbia's parliament buildings is dotted with photos of the journalists who've worked there. One photo shared on Twitter by CHEK News reporter Mary Griffin shows a group of 24 reporters in 1973 and just two are women - McLintock, who spent the bulk of her time there writing for The Province, and Marjorie Nichols of the Vancouver Sun.
“She was just amazing. She had a network of contacts that was different from anybody else,” Lavoie said. “She always got the story.”
Lavoie made the comments from her home in Victoria, where she said every room holds something McLintock had touched - from needlepoint she made to framed photos she'd taken of Lavoie's pet dogs and horses. The pair saw each other almost every day until her death, often meeting at the barn they shared to ride horses together - McLintock atop her beloved chestnut mare “Princess Leo.”
While much of McLintock's journalism focused on court or political coverage, Lavoie said she always had an interest in science and medicine. Her book, “Anorexia's Fallen Angels,” told the story of a mother with no professional training who claimed to cure eating disorders with unconditional love at the Montreux Clinic in Victoria.
McLintock had a lasting impact on the BC Coroners Service after joining in 2004, chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said. She worked well with families of the dead and developed strong relationships with police and other emergency responders. But perhaps more significantly, she introduced the organization to the public eye.
“She really elevated the role of the coroner for the public, because prior to Barb's arrival, the work the coroners did really wasn't very understood,” she said.
Lapointe said she believes McLintock was so effective not only because she understood media, but because of her integrity.
“If you knew Barb, you knew she was honest - absolutely honest about everything,” Lapointe said. “She was very honest about what she could provide - and when she couldn't, she was very honest about why she couldn't.”
McLintock continued her habit of becoming involved in diverse activities while at the coroners service, working with groups like a traffic safety council and the Canadian Drowning Prevention Coalition, Lapointe said.
McLintock retired in 2017 but returned only 90 days later to work for the coroners service on a part-time basis.
Lapointe described McLintock as a natural storyteller who was “so well-read” that you could ask her about anything and she'd have some background knowledge. On a personal level, she said she came to rely on McLintock's good judgment and thoughtful advice.
“With people like Barb, you can rely on them for anything. It leaves a huge hole,” she said.
Condolences came in from across the province from those who knew McLintock.
“The world has lost a wonderful soul,” Premier John Horgan said in a tweet.
“Barb McLintock was a superior journalist and public servant. I will miss her blue ribbon photography at the Luxton Fall Fair. Condolences to her many friends.”