Thank You From Outgoing Human Rights Chair

December 31, 2018

“On behalf of the outgoing Human Rights Commissioners who served from 2015-2018, I would like to express our thanks to the activists, human rights defenders and the Officers of the Human Rights Commission who have worked diligently for the protection of human rights during our appointment,” Bermuda Human Rights Commission Chairperson Tawana Tannock said.

Ms. Tannock said, “We have witnessed a growing awareness and appreciation for the rights issues facing Bermuda, evidenced by an unprecedented level of public and stakeholder involvement, inquiries and complaints to the Human Rights Commission and the growing body of human rights related legislative developments and legal precedents.

“Preferring passion to apathy, while we do not support positions that seek to deny the rights of others, we do appreciate opportunities for dialogue and public participation that serve to advance the discussion on the protection and balance of rights.

“Over the past six years of my appointment I have often heard blame on divisive rights issues being laid at the feet of the OBA or the PLP and their elected officials, however we should not absolve the voting public of their responsibility for policies proposed and sometimes implemented.

“If there is an ongoing system of inequality in our Bermuda in an area protected under the Human Rights Act 1981, we have an obligation to ensure that our elected officials are working to address it in a manner consistent with the advancement of human rights.

“Conversely, we should all share pride in the progress that Bermuda has made over the past six years, which far outpaces many Caribbean nations and other larger jurisdictions around the globe. There have been changes which many thought they would never see in their lifetime [and I dare say, perhaps hoped not to see].

“As 2018 ends in an increased awareness of the definition and acknowledgment of discrimination, we can be sure that the task that lies ahead regarding the protection and balancing of rights, while daunting is not insurmountable if we strive to ensure that our neighbor is afforded the same rights and protections due to us.

“In addition to my thanks and gratitude to the Commissioners who have served on the Commission for the past three years: Deputy Chairperson John Hindess, and Commissioners, Carla George, Ben Adamson, Carolyn Thomas, Jahan Cedenio, Dany Pen , Quinton Butterfield and Jonathan Young. I would like to give a special acknowledgement to the Commissioners who served with me for the past six years on the Human Rights Commission and are also completing their service, Jens Juul, Donna Daniels and Kim Simmons.

“Bermuda, thank you for your support and best wishes for 2019.”

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  1. Rocky5 says:

    Weak. Didn’t specifically call out our bigoted, backwards PLP GOVT for its attack on the rights of the Bermudian LGBT Community. Unfortunately their replacements will be far weaker and appointed simply for holding blind PLP LOYALTY!

  2. Tony Brannon says:

    Well said Tawana Tannock. You served Bermuda well at the HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION.

    No doubt one of the biggest battles since 2015 has been the journey for Same Sex Marriage.
    From the moment I read the story about a lesbian couple being denied the right to marry on a Bermudian registered cruise ship, we saw a process evolve that showed the best and worst of Bermuda. We saw the religious opposition to equality in marriage for same sex couples. We saw obscene, hypocritical political cowardice on this issue. We also saw “some” politicians evolve with time – sadly still not enough.
    The Petition, the town hall meetings, the creation of Preserve Marriage, the resignation of a pastor in disgrace, the non-binding “failed” referendum, The Wayne Furbert legislation, The Domestic Partnership Legislation, The Governors assent.

    The HEROS.
    When Mark Pettingill said to me, “WE CAN WIN THIS IN THE COURTS” we had naysayer lawyers tell us we could NEVER win. We had folks say to us Charles-Etta Simmons ain’t ever gonna rule in favor of Same-sex marriage….

    Well, Mark Pettingill, Rod Attride-Stirling, Ronald Myers and Katie Richards WON every court battle. They won Supreme Court case # 1 when the OBA was in power. They won Supreme Court case # 2 after Domestic Partnerships legislation was passed citing that the PLP Government had violated the Bermuda Constitution with this discriminatory legislation.
    The PLP government appealed to the COURT of APPEAL and hired an expensive UK Queens Counsel, and yet again the DREAM TEAM argued successfully in front of the Court of Appeal that resulted in the upholding of the Chief Justices ruling.
    Bermuda saw SAME SEX MARRIAGE finally legalized on November 23rd 2018 when Sir Scott Baker announced to a cheering court room that Same Sex Marriage was indeed a right protected by our Bermuda constitution.
    NO CREED shall impose its will over another !!
    All through the process, Bermuda attracted global press. Sir Richard Branson, Patricia Arquette, Ellen DeGeneres, Billie Jean King were just some of the celebrities that expressed outrage that Bermuda would “LEGISLATE AGAINST LOVE”.
    In baseball they say THREE STRIKES and YOUR OUT.
    Countless appeals to accept the Bermuda Courts decision were made from StoneWall to Human Rights Campaign, to a body of Human Rights Lawyers all fell on deaf ears as the Premier and the PLP Government continue to push this matter to the final legal arbiter, The Privy Council.

    There is no doubt, in my view, that the Bermuda lawyers have this right. They have won THREE times and will WIN at the Privy Council.

    This “Bermuda legal journey” will pave the way, if successful at the Privy Council, for many other countries to fall behind us. Same Sex Marriage will become legal in all other British Territories still dragging their heels on Equality and Human Rights.

    For me, Bermuda lawyer Tim Marshall summed it up best in a recent opinion piece:
    “It is ironic that a labour government, which prides itself on being progressive, is in truth selectively progressive.

    It views gays as a group that should be treated differently, denied access to the institution of marriage and hypocritically prayed for.

    The Government rigidly and without any consideration of the long history of discrimination that many Bermudians have experienced is content to inflict pain and suffering on gays and make them feel less than full members of our community because of an orientation that is just as permanent as the color of a person’s skin.

    The Government now intends to appeal to the Privy Council at taxpayers’ expense and, in an attempt to mask the brutal nature of its actions, it distracts and says that there are important constitutional issues to explore and to get right.

    As a Bermudian, I am disillusioned and embarrassed that the Government of Bermuda’s tent in 2018 is not big enough, compassionate enough and open-minded enough to embrace gays.

    Bermuda has such serious challenges from the overwhelming deficit to a struggling economy, to a crisis in education, to a declining population, and instead of focusing on those issues, the Government is determined to spend its time and limited financial resources on keeping people down.

    As a country, we really need to come together and lift people up”.

    Tony Brannon January 2nd, 2019