140 Complaints To Human Rights Commission

July 16, 2021 | 0 Comments

During the 2020 calendar year, the Human Rights Commission “received 140 complaints with the majority of complaints citing claims of discriminatory difference in treatment on the grounds of disability [31%], place of origin [16%], sex [14%], and race [8%],” Minister of Social Development and Seniors Tinee Furbert said.

Speaking in the House of Assembly today [July 16], the Minister explained that “of those complaints the majority cited claims of discrimination within the protected area of employment at [59%]. Claims of discriminatory workplace harassment amounted to [9%] of intakes. Of the total intakes received in 2020, 14 [10%] remain ongoing with the remaining 126 [90%] resolved.”

The Minister made these comments as she submitted the annual report of the Human Rights Commission for the year ending 31st December 2020, saying that the “Commission has a statutory remit to protect and promote human rights under the Human Rights Act, 1981.

“The Commission’s mandate is to both educate and promote the principles of non-discrimination and equality and to investigate and endeavour to settle allegations of discrimination,” Minister Furbert added.

The Minister’s full statement follows below:

Mr. Speaker,

I am pleased today to submit to this Honourable House the annual report of the Human Rights Commission for the year ending 31st December 2020.

Mr. Speaker,

The Commission has a statutory remit to protect and promote human rights under the Human Rights Act, 1981. The Commission’s mandate is to both educate and promote the principles of non-discrimination and equality and to investigate and endeavour to settle allegations of discrimination.

Mr. Speaker, The Human Rights Commission is required to:

  • Encourage an understanding of the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual guaranteed by the Constitution and the principle that all members of the community are of equal dignity, have equal rights and have an obligation to respect the dignity and rights of each other;
  • Promote an understanding of, acceptance of, and compliance with the Human Rights Act, 1981;
  • Conduct research and develop initiatives designed to eliminate discriminatory practices;
  • Encourage and coordinate activities which seek to forward the principle that every member of the community is of equal dignity and has equal rights; and
  • Promote the conciliation and settlement of any complaints or grievances arising out of acts of unlawful discrimination and, where in its opinion such good offices are inappropriate, institute prosecution for contraventions of the Act.

Mr. Speaker,

The Human Rights Commission provides assistance to those who believe they have experienced discrimination, or have any questions related to their rights and responsibilities under the Human Rights Act.

The Commission is both a public watchdog for human rights compliance, and a resource to foster and promote human rights principles by working with stakeholders across the island including government, community organisations, schools, businesses and individuals.

Mr. Speaker, The Commission works to further its objective of eradicating discrimination through the following means:

  • Helping to address any and all queries related to rights in Bermuda.
  • Assisting with complaints of discrimination under the Human Rights Act, 1981.
  • Providing dispute resolution services through mediation and conciliation to help settle complaints of discrimination.
  • Policy review and guidance with all stakeholders in support of human rights obligations.
  • Engaging in collaborative presentations, research and educational programming.
  • Consultations to support the evolution of legislation, just practices and policies in support of human rights compliance.
  • Educational presentations, workshops and training tailored to meet stakeholder need in support of their human rights education and compliance commitments.
  • Advice and consultation with Government on proposed legislative amendments to ensure consistency with international standards.
  • Administering of Human Rights Tribunals.
  • Providing guidance to government, organisations, businesses, and educational institutions on the development and implementation of a human rights-based approach to legislation, policies, programs and complaint handling mechanisms to ensure compliance with the Act and international human rights agreements.

Mr. Speaker, Included in the annual report you will note that during the 2020 calendar year:

  • The Commission received 140 complaints with the majority of complaints citing claims of discriminatory difference in treatment on the grounds of disability [31%], place of origin [16%], sex [14%], and race [8%]. Of those complaints the majority cited claims of discrimination within the protected area of employment at [59%]. Claims of discriminatory workplace harassment amounted to [9%] of intakes. Of the total intakes received in 2020, 14 [10%] remain ongoing with the remaining 126 [90%] resolved.
  • As 2020 unfolded against the trauma and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Bermuda faced the challenge of balancing public health measures against the safeguarding of civil liberties and human rights. The complex nature of the COVID-19 crisis reaffirmed the critical role of National Human Rights Institutions in promoting a human rights-based approach to managing the pandemic. Fundamental considerations around individual and collective rights emerged in response to the crisis, as Bermuda recognised we are only as safe and secure as our most vulnerable.
  • The themes of ‘Resilience and Reckoning’ became emblematic of a year defined by social justice and advocacy. The resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement following the murder of George Floyd in the United States saw over 7,000 Bermudians converge in solidarity to support this historic human rights movement.
  • The Commission partnered with Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda [CURB] to produce the Black History in Bermuda Timeline. Contemporary research by historians and academics continues to fill a massive void left by earlier works focused on select descriptions of Bermuda’s colonial history largely erasing the Black narrative. This evolving resource repository continues to benefit from the contribution of historians and knowledge- bearers.
  • The Commission joined Bermuda in mourning the passing of Dr. Eva Hodgson. Dr. Hodgson dedicated her life to elevating the national consciousness to address the scourge of racism. Her remarkable example and body of work will continue to inform Bermuda’s human rights education, and enlighten generations to come.
  • ‘An Equal World is an Enabled world’ was the International Women’s Day theme. The Commission joined stakeholders at a convening hosted by the Women’s Resource Centre to recalibrate collective commitments to accelerate gender parity to ensure a more equitable Bermuda. Data published by UN Women early in the COVID-19 outbreak revealed that gender-based violence, particularly domestic violence against women and girls, had intensified worldwide.
  • Due to COVID-19, Pride 2020 was a stark contrast to the jubilant celebration of 2019; however, it was no less significant. The 8 August convening marked the seventh anniversary of the amendment to include ‘sexual orientation’ in the Human Rights Act, 1981. The Executive Officer’s remarks emphasised that the addition of sexual orientation as a protected ground enhanced Bermuda’s human rights framework, and renewed our commitment to the fundamental rights and freedoms of all.

Mr. Speaker, in accordance with Section 30A of the Human Rights Act 1981, I am pleased to have laid before this Honourable House, the Human Rights Commission Annual report for the year ending 31st December 2020.

Thank you Mr. Speaker.

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