Moniz warns of ‘danger’ over proposed immigration changes

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  • Concerned: Shadow Attorney-General Trevor Moniz has reservations about the proposed changes to the priority of immigration law over the Human Rights Act

    Concerned: Shadow Attorney-General Trevor Moniz has reservations about the proposed changes to the priority of immigration law over the Human Rights Act

Proposed changes to give immigration law priority over human rights legislation is a “blunderbuss” approach, Shadow Attorney-General Trevor Moniz said yesterday.

Mr Moniz said: “It potentially has very broad consequences — it’s a danger to go into it.

“When you suspend the Human Rights Act, there are all sorts of people who could be affected. It’s not a closed list. It could affect all sorts of people in all sorts of situations.”

He was speaking after Walton Brown, the Minister of Home Affairs, said the proposed changes were designed to protect Bermudians and block court challenges over Bermuda status from non-Bermudians who can argue that immigration law has discriminated against them based on their country of origin.

Mr Moniz said the United Kingdom did exempt some immigration legislation from its human rights obligations, but that there were “no blanket exemptions”.

He added: “The way the minister is doing it is not the way to do it; he’s doing a blanket exemption, which could affect a lot of people.”

The Human Rights Commission last week called on Mr Brown to withdraw the amendments for more consultation.

Mr Moniz said: “I know there are other groups that have been looking at making statements. It’s very dangerous what he’s doing. It’s a blunderbuss approach and needs to be fine-tuned.”

Meanwhile in a YouTube video published online today, One Bermuda Alliance senator said the bill’s broad approach was “clumsy” and “poorly conceived”.

Mr Simons said: “It’s not clear to me what problem the minister is trying to solve that is not already addressed by the constitution.

“It’s also clear that the bill in its current form, if passed, would do immediate harm to people working and living in Bermuda.”

Mr Simons suggested that the bill be withdrawn and that meaningful consultation be done.

He added: “If we are going to move forward with immigration changes, lets get this right.”

Similar videos were posted featuring Susan Jackson, OBA MP, and Nick Kempe, OBA senator, calling for the amendments to be withdrawn,

The Government has published details of the proposed changes to both the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act and the Human Rights Act on the parliamentary website. Mr Brown tabled amendments in the House of Assembly on October 6 to alter the immigration act so it would be applied “notwithstanding” the Human Rights Act.

That would mean immigration regulations would be lawful even if they contradicted the Human Rights Act.

Mr Brown said that the proposed amendments did not weaken human rights legislation, but clarified what has been law and policy “for decades”.

Mark Pettingill, a former Attorney-General, said he did not believe the amendments would open the door to discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

He said: “Immigration is one of those areas that has to have a different kind of approach when it comes to human rights. You can’t have people just roll up on Elbow Beach and say they are Bermudians because they are here.

“I see this as something that brings us in line with other jurisdictions. I spoke to the minister about it on Friday, and he is not going to be putting something out there that is going to impact people based on sexual orientation.”

Mr Pettingill added that the amendment would not affect past court rulings that found same-sex couples should receive the same rights as heterosexual couples.

Mr Brown told MPs when he tabled the changes in the House of Assembly that human rights would still be protected and that the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights would still provide protection from discrimination.

The minister said: “We are not undermining human rights, we are strengthening the rights of Bermudians, while at the same time recognising that the human rights of people remain important.

“We have to recognise that Bermudians have fundamental rights in their country and these rights are in part protected by the Immigration and Protection Act.”

The Constitution, which is superior to all other laws, prohibits discrimination on several grounds.

These include discrimination based on race, political opinions, colour, creed and place of origin, although a section allows certain restrictions to be placed on persons who do not “belong to Bermuda”.

But the Constitution does not offer protection on the grounds of sexual orientation, family status or disability, which are covered by the Human Rights Act.

The European Convention on Human Rights, which covers Bermuda through the UK, prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sex, race, colour, language, religion, political opinions, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or “other status”.

Mr Brown’s Bill was criticised by the Human Rights Commission.

A spokeswoman for the HRA said: “Our view is that the HRA should be strengthened and protected, not weakened or minimalised.”

The organisation yesterday declined to comment on the amendments.

Mr Moniz said: “The danger with something like this is we have had a Minister who has trumpeted how much he will collaborate and consult with everyone. He said that when he came in.

“Now he drops this bombshell and gives no particular explanation why he’s doing it.”

• To see the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act and the Human Rights Act, click on the PDF under “Related Media”

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Published Oct 16, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated Oct 16, 2017 at 3:04 pm)

Moniz warns of ‘danger’ over proposed immigration changes

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