Hold MPs to account, says outgoing Tannock
The public must hold politicians to account to tackle inequality, outgoing Human Rights Commission chairwoman Tawana Tannock has said.
Ms Tannock said many people had blamed political parties for divisive human rights problems that have dominated headlines in recent years.
She insisted voters had a responsibility to ensure those in power tackled social problems such as discrimination.
Ms Tannock stepped down from the HRC on Monday after six years on the commission, with the last three as chairwoman. Same-sex marriage became legal, was banned again and then legalised once more during her time in office.
The Government will attempt to ban it again through an appeal to the Privy Council in London.
Legislation was passed to ban discrimination on the grounds of mental illness.
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.”
Ms Tannock added: “Over the past six years of my appointment, I have often heard blame on divisive rights issues being laid at the feet of the One Bermuda Alliance or the Progressive Labour Party 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.”
Ms Tannock said 2018 had ended with “an increased awareness of the definition and acknowledgement of discrimination”.
She added: “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 neighbour is afforded the same rights and protections due to us.”
She thanked activists, human rights defenders and HRC officials and highlighted the work of John Hindess, the deputy chairman and commissioners Carla George, Ben Adamson, Carolyn Thomas, Jahan Cedenio, Dany Pen, Quinton Butterfield, Jonathan Young, Jens Juul, Donna Daniels and Kim Simmons.
A new team of human rights commissioners is expected to be appointed by the end of the month.