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Govt Senator defends PLP’s record on human rights

Government Senator LaVerne Furbert noted the United Bermuda Party didn’t protect homosexuals and older people from discrimination when it was in power as she defended her Government’s record on human rights.

Two Independent Senators and one from the One Bermuda Alliance had questioned why it’s taking so long for Government to add sexual orientation and age to the list of protected grounds under the Human Rights Act.

Sen Furbert replied: “It’s really interesting that whenever we are talking about Human Rights amendments, certain people continue to bring up the matter of age and sexual orientation.

“Certainly, it must have been so in 1981, when this Act was first put in place, that there were people that had different sexual orientation, there were aged people in our society, and physically and or mentally handicapped people in our community.

“For whatever reason, the Government of the day did not see it necessary to include those three elements in that Act.”

Sen Furbert was speaking as she closed the Senate debate on the Human Rights (Unreasonable Hardship) Amendment Act, which makes it more difficult for employers to refuse jobs to disabled people.

She continued: “And this PLP Government is a Government that listens, hence those amendments here today.”

OBA Senator Kathy Michelmore, who had raised the issue of age and sexual orientation being absent from the Human Rights Act, later told

The Royal Gazette: “Sen Furbert in her response chose not to address the comments made by Senators, other than to state that, when the Act was introduced in 1981, a previous Government chose not to include those grounds.

“This Government continues to avoid addressing the issue of incorporating age and sexual discrimination under the Human Rights Act.”

During the debate, Sen Michelmore had said the Act should give protection to all members of society.

Independent Senators Walwyn Hughes and Joan Dillas-Wright both echoed those concerns, with Sen Hughes saying: “We keep skirting around those issues for years and years, but it’s time those were addressed.”

Yesterday’s bill, which won full Senate approval, means employers are only allowed to refuse employment to people with physical, sensory, intellectual and mental disabilities if it would be too costly or disruptive to modify the working conditions.

Sen Hughes gave his support to that move, adding that the Senate itself should lead by example.

“What would we do if we had someone appointed with a wheelchair?” he asked.

“In our own home we have an example of inaccessibility quite frankly, which doesn’t set a very good standard.”

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Published August 04, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated August 04, 2011 at 9:49 am)

Govt Senator defends PLP’s record on human rights

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