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Covid-19 is no respecter of rights

Covid-19 is no respecter of rights

Monday 22 June 2020

Covid-19 is no respecter of rights


Rob Platts MBE has written an open letter outlining why he thinks the corona virus pandemic was a great example of discrimination.

His letter is published in full below:

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Pictured: The Civil Contingencies Authority has been widely praised for its handling of the pandemic. 

Covid-19 is no respecter of rights. In effect, it discriminates on the basis of age, disability and race and its presence has led to restrictions in everyone’s rights.

Thankfully, Guernsey has been well led by Deputies St Gavin Pier and Heidi Soulsby under the scientific guidance of the amazing Dr Nikki Brink.  I have been thinking of other examples of medics who applied their training with similar calm focus and logical thinking.  There are many, but I hope Dr Brink might be flattered that Florence Nightingale came first to mind: she hugely influenced healthcare in Britain in the 19th and 20th Century. Florence Nightingale was of course a nurse - It wasn’t until later in the 19th Century that British society entertained the idea of women becoming doctors.  How ridiculous such discriminatory notions seem now!

The team leading the States’ response to the virus has acknowledged that the measures taken to combat infection have had an impact on many of our fundamental rights and freedoms, including our freedom of movement, our right to work and earn a living, our right to enjoy family life, our right to education, and our freedom to enjoy peaceful assembly.

We are fortunate that those leading us through the pandemic have been mindful of, and vocal about, our rights.  But respect for and recognition of rights in Guernsey is thankfully not reliant just on good leadership:  our civil contingency legislation is strongly based on principles of proportionality and that law is governed by our Human Rights Law (which allows limited restrictions to certain rights and freedoms to prevent spread of infection).

Equality

Pictured: Mr Platts is a member of Equality Guernsey. 

The experience of lockdown has led some Islanders to reflect on the lives of people affected by disability and those who care for a relative or friend with disabilities.  Several have commented that they now have more of an appreciation of what it can be like to be isolated, segregated and excluded from society and everyday activities.

Guernsey’s system of government is, for the most part, a democracy.  I say, “for the most part”, because, while rights are a fundamental cornerstone of any true democracy, Guernsey does not yet have all the systems needed to promote, protect and monitor rights that any true modern democracy should, by international agreement, have.

Guernsey’s experiences of the pandemic, added to the significant increase in support for the Black Lives Matter movement, has brought renewed attention and focus to the whole issue of equality and rights, including the right to non-discrimination.  I note that, as I write, well over two thousand islanders have signed the recently launched petition in support of introducing discrimination legislation in Guernsey. I hope that many more will.

The States’ debate of the proposed discrimination legislation, delayed from April, looks likely to happen as soon as July.  It has taken more than 50 years to get proposals for race discrimination legislation to this stage.  So, with the current pan-continental focus on race discrimination, it is perhaps appropriate, if not exactly timely, that the first phase of the proposed legislation includes protection on grounds of race (as well as disability and carers of persons with disabilities).

black lives matter

Pictured: Thousands of people turned out for Guernsey's Black Lives Matters protest.

The revised proposals, even though they include substantial and disappointing compromises to the definition of disability not in line with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, are at least workable. Importantly, the revisions include a system of review which guarantees the possibility of improvements over time – improvements that I believe will be necessary to uphold our democratic principles and bring us closer to being able to realise the right for all persons not to be discriminated against on the ground of disability.

Throughout the pandemic, Deputy St Pier and the rest of the team have helped rekindle a terrific sense of community. The communication, and interaction of government with the community, has led to more trust in our government than there has been in a very long time – perhaps ever.  There really has been a real sense of “Guernsey Together”. 

The aim of #BuildingBackBetter has received wide support.  So, I hope that our government and our community will welcome and support the proposed legislation as an integral part of that process, recognising that Guernsey cannot ever really be “better” or “together” unless there are independent mechanisms to promote, protect and monitor all our rights, including our rights to equality of opportunity and the right to live our lives free of discrimination.

Rob Platts MBE

The above is the view of the author and not Bailiwick Express. If you wish to have your own article, readers letter or other material considered for publication please email editor@bailiwickexpress.com.

Pictured top: Rob Platts MBE.

 

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