The Charter of Rights Bill (1999)

The Bill in its original form, click HERE to view and download the PDF edition

The Senate re-appointed the Committee on July 14, 2000 with the omission of Senator Harding whose name was added to the membership on January 26, 2001. When the Committee was re-appointed on April 20, 2001, Senator Lightbourne was not named to its membership. The Bill, the subject matter of the deliberations of your Committee, had been tabled in Parliament on March 31, 1999. It was meant to achieve the underlying intent and objectives of recommendations made by a Constitutional Commission in its February 1994 Final Report and approved by a Joint Select Committee on Constitutional and Electoral Reform in its Report of May 1995. Your Committee held a total of twenty-four meetings, four during the 1999/2000 session of Parliament, four during the 2000/2001 session and sixteen during the current session of Parliament. The first meeting took place on November 11, 1999. At its fourth meeting, on December 8, 1999, your Committee, after presentations by Dr. The Honourable Lloyd Barnett, O.J. (who had been the chairman of the Constitutional Commission) and Dr. The Honourable Kenneth Rattray, O.J., Q.C., invited both of them to deliberate upon certain matters that were germane to our discussions:
• Derogations from the fundamental rights and freedoms;
• The reasons for and the philosophical bases of the recommendations that had been made by the Constitutional Commission;
• Issues concerning the burden of proof of alleged contraventions of the rights and freedoms;
• The fundamental question as to whether the traditional approach should be adopted, in the Bill, in which the Constitutional rights and freedoms were binding only on the State, or whether such rights and freedoms should be binding also on private individuals.
They were joined, in their deliberations by Mr. Dennis Daly, Q.C., and three attorneys-at-law from the public sector and they are referred to in this Report as the Advisory Group. The Advisory Group presented their recommendations and suggestions to the Committee on January 17, 2001, when its meetings were resumed. The length of time that the deliberations of the Advisory Group occupied, was, in the Committee’s view, clearly overshadowed by the incisiveness of the quality suggestions made by them. Your Committee also received written submissions from the following persons and organizations. Mrs. Linnette Vassel, Coalition for Community Participation in Governance –
Appendix 3 Professor H. Devonish, University of the West Indies – Appendix 4 Jamaica Forum and Lesbians All-Sexuals and Gays (J. Flag) – Appendix 5
Senator Floyd Morris – Appendix 6 Westmoreland Parish Council –Appendix 7 Ethiopia Africa Black International Congress Church of Salvation – Appendix 8 Jamaicans for Justice – Appendix 9 Oral presentations were made by Professor Devonish, Jamaicans for Justice, J. Flag, Senator Floyd Morris and representatives of the Jamaica Teachers Association and the Ministry of Education. The challenge to your Committee on the following issues required extensive research and deep consideration of the approaches adopted in other Constitutions:
• the formulation of the preambles to the Bill and to the Charter;
• broad, fundamental issues as to the format of the Charter and who should be bound by the rights and freedoms;
• the formulation of the protection against discrimination and the question whether that protection should be extended to discrimination on additional grounds;
• the formulation of various other rights and freedoms, including the rights of the child, the right to legal aid, the protection of property rights and the protection of the environment;
• issues concerning exceptions to the right to life and to the protection against inhuman or degrading punishment in relation to the death penalty;
• the question whether a right to trial by jury should be included in the Constitution;
• the substitution of a reference to periods of public emergency or of public disaster for the existing reference to periods of public emergency and the specification of the rights and freedoms which legislation can override in periods of public emergency or periods of public disaster;
• the Commission’s proposal concerning international human rights instruments to which Jamaica is a party.
These matters were subject to vigorous discussions and careful consideration by the members of your Committee and it is expected that the analyses and the recommendations made in the Committee’s Report will assist the members of both Houses of Parliament in their deliberations on the Bill and in its smooth passage both in the House of Representatives and in the Senate.

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Author: GLBTQ Jamaica Moderator

Activist and concerned gay man in Jamaica with over 19 years experience in advocacy and HIV/AIDS prevention work, LGBT DJ since 1996.

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