The Minister of Social Development and Seniors, the Hon. Tinee Furbert, JP, MP stated:
“Today on behalf of the Human Rights Commission, we are sharing the Annual Report of the Human Rights Commission for the year ending 31st December 2021.”
“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 endeavor to settle allegations of discrimination.”
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.
Minister Furbert added, “As the National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) for Bermuda, the Commission plays a crucial role in promoting and monitoring the effective implementation of international human rights standards at the national level. As required by the United Nations Paris Principles, NHRIs are required to protect and promote human rights through complaint handling, education, outreach, the media, publications, training and capacity building, as well as advising the Government.”
“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 inclusive of the Government, community organisations, schools, businesses and individuals.”
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 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 needs in support of their human rights education and compliance commitments.
▪ Advice and consultation with the Government on proposed legislative amendments to ensure consistency with international standards.
▪ Supporting the independence of the Selection and Appointment Committee and the Human Rights Tribunal.
▪ Providing guidance to the 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.
Minister Furbert concluded, “Included in the Annual Report you will note that during the 2021 calendar year:
▪ The Commission received one hundred and seventy-four (174) intakes, which accounts for both complaints and queries. A large portion of intakes filed during the reporting period identified the protected grounds relating to race, place of origin, colour, ethnic or national origins at thirty-five percent (35%). This was followed by the protected grounds of disability at twenty percent (20%) and sex, which accounted for twelve percent (12%) of intakes.
▪ Within the protected areas of discrimination, fifty-nine percent (59%) of the intakes received related to employment, which encompassed both alleged contraventions of section 6(1) of the Human Rights Act, 1981 and matters categorised as “employment-related.” This term would often entail individuals alleging that they were being treated unfairly in the workplace or seeking guidance with workplace matters, however, they did not attribute this need to a discriminatory practice. The protected area of sexual harassment accounted for nine percent (9%) of intakes with housing and harassment within the workplace accounting for eight percent (8%) respectively.
▪ Of the total intakes received in 2021, thirty-one percent (31%) remain ongoing as the remaining sixty-nine percent (69%) have been resolved.
▪ The impact of the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic continued throughout 2021, and of the intakes received by the Commission, approximately twenty-six percent (26%) were “COVID Related.” A global challenge throughout the pandemic has been balancing and upholding individual rights while trying to collectively protect the public. The Commission has continued to encourage those developing and implementing policies and procedures to adopt a human rights-based approach when doing so, specifically those built around the ever-changing landscape of the global pandemic. Individuals or groups of people who are already disadvantaged, excluded, and marginalised, may have the challenges faced in their ordinary lives exacerbated where practices, policies and procedures fail to account for individual circumstances and characteristics.
▪ The Human Rights Amendment Act 2021 established greater independence for the Human Rights Tribunal.
▪ The Commission joined the Minister of Labour’s Forum, which supported efforts aimed at eradicating bullying and sexual harassment within the workplace. The amendments to the Employment Act 2000 aligned closely with the Commission’s views on the duty of employers to create work environments free from sexual harassment and indiscriminate bullying to foster healthy, safe, and productive workplace environments.
▪ The Commission was pleased to join social justice advocate and founder of Imagine Bermuda, Glenn Fubler, on Human Rights Day, where the theme focused on ‘Equality’ and Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The commemoration was an opportunity to emphasise the shared responsibility we hold to reimagine and fortify efforts to tackle systemic inequalities, exclusion, and discrimination.
▪ Pride 2021 was centered around celebrating togetherness, visibility, and education with the theme “A Deeper Love.” A panel discussion addressed LGBTQ+ pride and allyship in Bermuda, and a beach day was held to provide a safe space for all to commune and celebrate the anniversary of Bermuda’s first PRIDE march.
LINK TO THE ANNUAL REPORT HERE: https://humanrights.bm/annual-report-2021/
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