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Equality campaigners celebrate as States approve discrimination law

Equality campaigners celebrate as States approve discrimination law

Friday 30 September 2022

Equality campaigners celebrate as States approve discrimination law

Friday 30 September 2022


Campaigners for equality are celebrating this weekend after the States approved the island's first comprehensive anti-discrimination law.

Deputies voted unanimously in favour of the Prevention of Discrimination Ordinance coming into effect on 1 October 2023. From that date, it will be unlawful for employers, businesses, clubs and others to discriminate because of a person's race, disability, carer status, sexual orientation or religious or philosophical belief.

The President of the Committee for Employment & Social Security, Deputy Peter Roffey, who led the law through the States, said he would always know it as "Dave's law" after the late Dave Purdy, who spent 40 years campaigning for rights for the disabled after permanently injuring his spine while in Herm as a teenager. 

There were emotional scenes of celebration outside the States' chamber immediately after the law was approved as Deputy Roffey congratulated campaigners who had sat through three days of debate in the Assembly and in many cases worked for more than a decade to see this day.

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Pictured: Deputy Peter Roffey (left) dedicated the passage of the law through the States to the late Dave Purdy. 

The founder of the Guernsey Disability Alliance, Rob Platts MBE, told Express that it was "an absolutely historic day".

"I'm obviously very pleased that the discrimination law has been approved," said Mr Platts.

"We first went and met with the States in 2008. That is when we first asked for discrimination legislation. So this is the fourth States we've worked with to reach this stage.

"It's taken an awful long time, but we have to say that we've achieved that first aim: the ordinance has been approved and will come in this time next year."

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Pictured: Rob Platts MBE said it was "an absolutely historic day" but added that he and other rights campaigners had "a lot more to do". Credit: Guernsey Disability Alliance.

"But that is tempered with how much more there is to do," said Mr Platts. "We've got to wait one year for anything to come into play and the really disappointing thing is that we've got to wait another five years after that for anyone who needs a change in a physical feature of a building, but we had to agree to that to get it in the discrimination legislation at all.

"This is the beginning of the process. What we really need is to change attitudes and this is the beginning of the changing of attitudes. What we need now is for government to step up and raise awareness. We've got to do more on that. Things are changing slowly, but we've got a lot more to do."

Mr Platts thanked "some amazing civil servants" who he said he and his colleagues had worked with. "They have been very able and willing and really always wanting to do the right thing. I have to give huge applause to them," he said.

Pictured: Campaigners for equality gathered in a Town pub to celebrate after the vote was announced late on Friday afternoon.

Aindre Reece-Sheerin, who has campaigned for disability rights since moving to the island more than 15 years ago, admitted there had been times over the years when he was unsure Guernsey would ever have a comprehensive anti-discrimination law.

"I'm very emotional. My words to [colleagues] just now were that sometimes the end of the journey is worth the pain," said Mr Reece-Sheerin, who uses a wheelchair.

"I just feel very, very emotional. And very content. Deputy [Peter] Ferbrache said that Guernsey is a good society, and it is a great, great place to live. I have tried to live by my motto: disabled people not only can, we do. I think that's what employers need to see now."

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Pictured: Disability rights campaigner Aindre Reece-Sheerin said on Friday evening that he felt many difficult times experienced by campaigners over the years had proved worthwhile to see the anti-discrimination law approved. 

"One of the things I really used to rail against was the ghettoising terms used," said Mr Reece-Sheerin. "But Deputy [Heidi] Soulsby stood up and said 'it isn't them - it's us' - and for me that captured everything. That is the major breakthrough in the psyche and thinking of the island.

"I used to say to people that we don't live on the second rock on the left past Lihou next to the leper colony. We are integral to the entire community in the Bailiwick. That has been affirmed 100% today.

"In the end, every single politician acknowledged that anti-discrimination legislation was a must for the Bailiwick. They had one overriding principle and that was that Guernsey needed an ordinance to protect disabled people and I think that's a great, great day."

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Pictured: Karen Blanchford (left), who will shortly become Manager at GROW, and Shelaine Green, who runs Women In Public Life, were among equality campaigners celebrating outside the States' chamber at the end of this week's debate. They have both been integral to the success of the Guernsey Disability Alliance since it was founded in 2008. 

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