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WATCH: Campaigners turn out in force to support discrimination laws

WATCH: Campaigners turn out in force to support discrimination laws

Thursday 16 July 2020

WATCH: Campaigners turn out in force to support discrimination laws

Dozens of people lined the steps of the Royal Court yesterday morning, encouraging deputies to support proposals for a law against discrimination as they made their way into the States Chamber.

States Members are due to debate the legislation put forward by Employment & Social Security in this week's meeting.

If approved, it would make it illegal for employers and service providers to discriminate against others on the basis of their race, disability or carer status.

The committee would then return to the States in the coming years with proposals to extend the legislation, to cover those who are discriminated against on the grounds of age, religious beliefs and sexual orientation. 

Many local organisations were represented on the court steps in support of the proposals, including the Guernsey Disability Alliance, Liberate and Guerns Against Discrimination.

"We need to protect the rights for my son and for other people with disabilities and all other people of protected status - they should all have the exact same rights as everyone else," said Simon Kent, who was attending. "I'm very hopeful that it that it will go well. We've got good representation here and I think they will listen."

Some supporters were even handing out cakes and coffees to deputies, and cheered them as they went by.

"It's obvious to make sure everybody has equal rights in Guernsey," added Joni Nettleship on behalf of Liberate. "The business community seems to be very worried about the impact any legislation might have on them, but they have to look at the broader picture. If we don't bring Guernsey up to modern standards, no one's going to be here so they aren't going to be able to recruit young people.

"There won't be businesses in Guernsey unless they make sure Guernsey is a place we want to live in and that young people are happy to live here."

Currently, the island only has one relevant law, protecting people in the workplace from discrimination based on their sex.


Pictured: If approved, this will be Guernsey's first discrimination law covering a number of areas.

"I think [these proposals] are a good start," said Mission Priest, Peter Graysmith, who was also stood on the steps. "I would say we've still got quite a lot of other people to think about, but this is a good start.

"I was walking down the High Street and got abused by somebody who thought it was clever to abuse somebody in a 'dog collar'. Under Guernsey law, they have not committed a crime.

"For me, it's a fundamental Christian principle that people are all equal and I think they need to be treated as such in our community. The notion that we are still debating this in 2020 says an awful lot about us."

Although the crowd on the steps were there in support of the discrimination legislation proposals, many were concerned about the phased approach to the law and the delays it could cause in getting things done.

"We're worried about it, but unfortunately we've had to water down the legislation already to get it through the States," explained supporter, Lauren McSwiggan. "Businesses have opposed it historically. P&R have done all they can to block this legislation, although they have now supported it. The phases are what they [ESS] have come up with to try and get anything through. So, I'd rather have some incomplete legislation through and wait for sexuality to be protected than nothing."

discrimination legislation phases

Pictured: If approved, the legislation will be rolled out in phases.

However, one amendment, laid by Deputies Charles Parkinson and Rhian Tooley, asks that the Assembly agree to bring forward protection for people who are discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or religious beliefs. If approved, these areas would be included in Phase One of the legislation - which will be implemented in 2022 - and the rest of the plans would be brought forward.

"I'm here because when I found out there was no actual laws protecting people, I was upset," said Ellie Evans, who joined the supporters on the steps. "I thought 'this needs to change' and so I decided to come here and show people there is support for a law to be in place."

A number of other amendments to the proposals have been laid, including one from Deputies Andrea Dudley-Owen and Peter Ferbrache, which has received particular opposition from local anti-discrimination organisations. If approved, Amendment Eight would instruct ESS to set up a working group and complete an impact analysis, but many are concerned that this would cause further delays.

"Discrimination is discrimination," said Darren Alderton, who was speaking out in support of the legislation. "It shouldn't matter where it is or what 'phase' it's in.

"If we can push covid out in however many days it was, we should be able to push this through after however many years we've been fighting for."

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